Back David and Laura Moench join staff as Missionaries-in-Residence
October 12th, 2011
In recent months, we've welcomed several newcomers to our church staff. Added to that particular group are David and Laura Moench, joining us as missionaries-in-residence. But they aren't really newcomers as this isn't their first go-round on our staff.
Nashville-born David and Texas-born-and-bred Laura both attended Baylor where they first met. After college, and just before David's last semester at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, they married. For years, they worked with Youth Centrifuge Camp and felt God's call to go into full-time youth ministry. That's when they met members of Brentwood Baptist in 1983 at a camp in Glorieta, New Mexico.
"During that time, they were without a youth minister and asked us to consider," David said. "There were only five ministers on staff, including Pastor Bill Wilson. So we got to do youth, recreation, and college ministry, and if this tells you anything, Aaron Bryant was just a kid who went to church here."
For six years, the Moenches ministered to 100-200 students who attended the still young-yet-growing church. They even witnessed the entire junior high and high school career of some students because of their tenure.
"There was still a small-town feel in Brentwood," David said. "Franklin has a much longer history and more stability, but Cool Springs wasn't even there. We lived out on Wilson Pike and some of the parents wouldn't let their kids drive out to see us because of the country roads."
The couple were the first to take Brentwood Baptist students on mission trips, first to Chicago then later to New Orleans and the Appalachians. David said, "It was the pattern to go on a youth choir trip, so we really felt strongly that they needed to be exposed to missions."
David didn't have a background in missions, but it was engrained in Laura's DNA. She said, "My dad was a doctor and would go on month-long medical missions before anyone even did that. I'd always seen that pattern growing up, and we had missionaries in our home. There are six kids in my family and three of us have gone out with the International Mission Board (IMB)."
In January 1986, David and Laura went on their own personal mission journey to visit Laura's sister and brother-in-law, who lived in Botswana at the time. They stayed for three weeks, doing university student ministry. That was the catalyst that spurred a response to one daunting question: "Does God want us to go and serve overseas?"
They prayed and journaled, but God said, "No." The context was wrong, but not the calling. New conversations about God's call for their family stirred when they attended a Lifeway-sponsored national Youth Ministers' Conference that featured a strong missions emphasis in the spring of 1988.
"We knew if we left Brentwood Baptist, they'd have no problem finding someone to replace us," David said. "God started saying to us, 'You've taken kids on mission trips, but is that all you're going to do? Or are you willing to plant your lives where there are no youth ministers and work with youth?'"
After a solid year of seeking God's direction, the IMB presented them with three positions: two in Africa and one in Scotland. They saw a perfect fit for their family in Scotland. After rustling through red tape, dodging a few roadblocks, and jumping through hoops, the process finally took off in a full-fledged sprint in August 1989.
"By the second week of September, we were in Richmond for screening" Laura said. "A few days after Christmas in 1989, everything was gone—our cars, house, everything. Even our house selling was an amazing story in the process. We packed up our children, headed to Richmond for six weeks of missionary orientation training, and were on the field by March."
Stationed in Dundee, Scotland, they worked with local "youth," which was considered to be between ages 12 and 30—including a well-known gang called the "Hilltown Huns"—and alongside five Baptist churches in a city of 160,000 people. They developed joint ministries for the city, including one called "Five Alive," which featured retreats, drama, outreach, mission trips, and camps.
They didn't cut all ties with Brentwood Baptist when they left. Although Bill Wilson resigned as pastor shortly after they left, they later met the new pastor who took his place, Mike Glenn, in the fall of 1992, when he went on a Brentwood Baptist mission journey to Scotland to work with youth sports camps and children's clubs. That was one of many mission journeys in a five-year partnership between the Moenches and Brentwood Baptist.
The Moenches said the "homogeneous" Scots were warm and friendly once they built relationships, but the majority of the population was heavily influenced by the national Church of Scotland (similar to Catholicism). A small evangelical wing, known for being grounded in the Protestant Reformation and practicing expository preaching, had a small impact as well.
"The national church peaked in the 1920s. Church attendance began to decline and fall off in the 70s. It stopped being a moral and social influence in the culture. People who said they were a member of the Church of Scotland 20 years ago wouldn't even bother to say that today. Now, there are multi-generations of youth not attending. Yet it's not uncommon for non-believers to teach Christianity in schools and speak openly about what they believe," Laura said.
After five years there, their career started to change. They were called to supply strategic leadership for the United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries and moved to Glasgow for the next five years of their ministry.
As their careers continued to develop, they finally settled in Kandern, Germany. For the last 10 years, they've been training and orienting newly arriving cross-cultural workers as well as continuing their personal ministry to local Germans.
There, Christianity is a cultural decision. One might have a Catholic or Protestant background, but it aligns with a state church, one you pay taxes to so the minister can receive recompense and the body can still do some social good for the people.
"If people in Germany opt out of paying church taxes, they may not receive the same privileges as someone who does—like marriage and burial in the church. The state can tax them and then have a say in what the church does," David said. "Our forefathers didn't believe in that. They believed in the separation of church and state."
Less than two percent of the German population are born-again believers in Jesus Christ. Laura said, "In Germany and western Europe, there's an attitude of apathy toward religion and God. It's an attitude of: 'That's fine if it's OK with you, but it's not OK for me' or 'That's truth for you, but it doesn't impact me.' There's not a verbal agreement on what's truth and what's not."
For now, these U.S.-U.K.-dual-citizens are back in the States, splitting their time between Richmond, Virginia and Brentwood, Tennessee. Now that they've completed their time in Richmond, they'll spend the remainder of their time serving on our staff and living in the Brentwood Baptist Missions Ministry condo until June 2012.
"Our main emphasis is to counsel and mentor members who are interested in full-time missions," David said. "We've already met with five couples to help them figure out what God's telling them and what those next steps look like. We'll also be in contact with the missionaries sent out through Brentwood Baptist and how we can best serve them."
Their family is spread out all over the world. The Moenches have four daughters: Molly, 25, who lives in France with her husband; Mandy, 24, who lives in Texas with her husband; Meredith, 21, who attends Wheaton College in Chicago, Illinois; and Mallory, 19, who attends Gordon College, just north of Boston, Massachusetts.
"If you would've told us 21 years ago that we'd have a daughter married to a Frenchman and living in France, that might have paralyzed us," Laura said. "But, in fact, that's exactly where we need to be. God's changed us along the way. He's changed our perspective and worldview, which includes just about everything."
David said, "Home isn't bricks and mortar. That's not everyone's life. If that were the case, no one would take the gospel anywhere. There are times when we ask: What if we'd stayed? What would our priorities look like? Where would our daughters be? Who would we be as people? Because we were obedient to Him, God transformed us."
How you can pray for David and Laura Moench:
Pray that God would work out the plans for the next leg of their missionary journey. Ask God to give them a sense of His direction, where they need to land, and what type of ministry He wants them to be a part of.
E-mail David and Laura if you're interested in learning more about full-time missions or any of our mission journeys.
Story by Kaylan Christopher, Staff Writer & Editor