‘Our life is there now!’ Five questions with Ian and Kristin Isely of Ivory Coast
When Ian and Kristin Isely brought their young daughter Sofia back to the U.S. for their furlough from their ministry in Ivory Coast, they were surprised at how she reacted to some of the everyday features of life here.
“She had never worn socks or touched carpeting,” said Kristin. “She thought the carpet was a bed. That’s an example of what a transition it is for a Third Culture Kid to return to her family’s culture.”
Ian and Kristin visited the CMF home office in Indianapolis before they returned to the field and shared a little about their many holistic ministries and why they are eager to get back “home” to Abengourou, Ivory Coast.
How did God lead you to Ivory Coast?
Kristin: I was always interested in missions, but I didn’t have much experience. I went on a mission trip to Ghana during high school and then to Milligan University, where I earned a nursing degree and met Ian.
Ian: I wasn’t originally interested in missions, but my Bible classes at Milligan led me in that direction. When Kristin and I started thinking seriously about it, we looked for a field that would fit both of our skills and interests — hers in health care and mine in theology and teaching. CMF has a well-regarded clinic in Abengourou that partners with many various ministries, such as HIV patients, maternity care, Community Health Evangelism, child sponsorship and training for pastors. That seemed like a good fit for us.
What ministries are you involved in on the field?
Ian: We have 16 churches in five regions of Ivory Coast. I concentrate on teaching and training pastoral leaders with theological studies and strategies for planting churches and also on the growth of our church association. I’m a resource for information.
For example, our pastors wanted to plant a church in an unreached town, and put together the money to fund the work, but there weren’t any volunteers to go do it. A West African man named Esaie (from a neighboring country) had been studying with a CMF missionary there, Brian Hauser, for some time, and recently graduated from our training program. We recommended him to our pastors. He was very willing to go and is a good fit for the job.
Kristin: I was drawn to the plight of the young women in our town who are not given a voice in their futures. So last year I started a program with three Ivorian women called Women Together to help these girls navigate the challenges they face. Our teaching topics include sexuality, interpersonal relationships, communication and decision-making skills, the human body, puberty, reproductive health, female genital mutilation and advocating for sexual health, rights and gender equality. The program was a great success in the first year!
What are the biggest challenges of your ministry?
Ian: Funding! Raising the money we need to live and do ministry on the field is always challenging.
Kristin: There is always a new hurdle to get over on the field. The constant pressure of new challenges is sometimes difficult.
What are the pluses and minuses of raising Sofia in Ivory Coast?
Ian: With both of us working in ministry we can schedule family time and arrange our lives to spend time with Sofi. We have people in our home a lot; Sofi has a little gang of friends her age from our church. It’s great to see her grow up in this third-culture community. She’s definitely more comfortable in Ivory Coast than here.
Kristin: The biggest negative is the distance from our families. When we come to visit, it’s difficult for her to get comfortable with people who are strangers to her. It’s jarring for both of our mothers and for us, too. But by the end of our visit, it’s fine.
What do you look forward to when you return to Ivory Coast?
Kristin: We have a mix of emotions as we look toward our return. It’s hard to say goodbye to our families, but I’m excited to jump back into my work with Women Together. We want to add another town to our ministry, so we have to figure out what that looks like.
Ian: I’m excited to get back to my preaching class for Ivorian leaders.
Kristin: The feeling of home is something we want. We’re ready for our routine and normalcy. Our life is there now, and our home is there. We’re excited to restart our ministries!