GREENFIELD — Kevin Zirkle remembers the 1973 trip to Japan that would impact the next four decades.
Having felt a call to ministry after his junior year at Purdue University, Kevin and wife, Becky, traveled to Tokyo after graduation, spent six weeks ministering to university students. They felt God was leading them to return as missionaries, so they did, in 1977, after graduation from Asbury Seminary.
In June, the Zirkles settled in Anderson after 39 years of ministry in Japan. During those years, Kevin led campus Bible studies and preached in churches. Both he and Becky taught in a Bible college, and Becky later worked at a Christian international school. They will continue to serve as regional directors for Marion-based World Gospel Mission, as they have for the past 13 years.
Later this month, they will tell about that journey in Greenfield as part of the annual Mission Celebration at Trinity Park United Methodist Church.
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Each year, members of the church can volunteer to give to mission work in the United States and around the rest of the world. But before they make that commitment to the year’s missions, they hear updates from a few missionaries highlighting the work that giving makes possible.
Ronna Hughes said the Zirkles are a great choice for the celebration. Hughes is a secretary at Wesley Free Methodist Church in Anderson, where the Zirkles are members and became the first missionaries sent out from the church.
“They’re wonderful people,” said Hughes, who has known the Zirkles for 28 years. “He’s a very interesting speaker, and I think you just can’t go wrong with them.”
Also in the Mission Celebration lineup are Jon and Lindsay Birkey. The Birkeys minister to American Indians in Arizona through World Gospel Mission and were part of a previous Mission Celebration a few years ago as newlyweds, recalls Nancy Grimes, mission chairperson at Trinity Park.
Eric Pangburn of Greenfield, the Hancock County area representative for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, also will be part of the celebration, spending time with youth at a pizza party at 6 p.m. Sept. 25.
Even the music of the celebration has a mission connection. Brothers Aaron and Jonathan Ashlock of the group Water In2 Wine grew up on the mission field as their parents ministered in Brazil.
They will sing in services at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 and at 9 and 11:15 a.m. Sept. 25. Kevin Zirkle will deliver the sermon in those services.
“At Trinity Park, I plan to share about our last four years in Japan, what we saw God do in that time,” he wrote in an email sent while journeying to Japan and Singapor. “But I will also share a broader view of missions by telling what God is doing in the other areas where we have responsibilities as Regional Directors for WGM.
“I want people to leave the conference feeling they know more of what God is doing in the world and for people to know how they can be involved in ministry at home and around the world.”
Mission Celebration 2016
All events take place at Trinity Park United Methodist Church, 207 W. Park Ave. Baby-sitting is provided for all services.
6 p.m. — Taste of Greenfield, featuring special dishes from Greenfield-area restaurants, in the Ministry Center
7 p.m. — service in the Ministry Center with the Rev. Kevin Zirkle, former missionary to Japan and regional director for World Gospel Mission, speaking and Water In2 Wine singing
7 p.m. — JAM (Jesus and Me) and Junior Worship in Room 11, featuring Jon and Lindsay Birkey, who work in children’s and youth ministries on the American Indian field
9 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. — service with the Rev. Kevin Zirkle speaking and Water In2 Wine singing
9 a.m. — Junior Worship in Room 11 with Jon and Lindsay Birkey
10:15 a.m. — Sunday School
11:15 a.m. — JAM and Junior Worship in Room 11 with Jon and Lindsay Birkey
after 11:15 a.m. service — catered dinner in the Ministry Center with everything provided
6 to 8 p.m. — junior high and high school pizza party with Eric Pangburn in the Ministry Center