Christ in me, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)
When you hear the word “missionary,” what do you think of? American Christians going to the ends of the earth to preach the Gospel? While that’s an important aspect of missions work, the missionaries Central Presbyterian Church supports are involved in a greater variety of missions projects: Larry and Stephanie Kraft in England do critical research to support missions; Chris and Kaye Smoes are with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Cameroon; and Barbara Rowe is the director of international personnel for Christ for the City International (CFCI) in Omaha, Neb.
Barbara has missions in her blood. She grew up in India with missionary parents, and her father, Paul Hiebert, was a well-known missiologist, whom Barbara cites as her most important influence. She went out as a missionary as a young adult, before moving to Baltimore where she worked as a registered dietitian at Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital and became a member of Central. What spurred her to return to the mission field was a prayerful reassessment of what she was doing with her life after her husband died in 2009. When looking for an agency to work with, she sought one that was primarily Christ-centered and had respect for and support of the local church in each country where they work. She found this in CFCI, an organization in which 90% of the missionaries are not North American and the country directors are national Christians.
Barbara thought back to her previous missionary experience in 1990, working with refugees towards the end of the civil war in El Salvador, and in 2012 was led to return. The country, however, was strikingly different as it was being controlled by gangs. As she prayed, God made it clear that she was to work with youth. The Faro Project brings the light of Christ to gang-controlled San Salvadoran neighborhoods, like a lighthouse (which is what faro means in Spanish), helping local churches develop Christian youth centers. These safe havens offer youth computer skills, English classes, Bible studies, art, sports, retreats and much more.
A new project emerged when Central’s Jack Weber and a group of the Anointed Ex-Offenders visited on a short-term mission trip and Barbara felt led to start a ministry to gang members in the prison system called The Master’s Workshop. This ministry worked to bring gang members into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and then disciple them through Bible teaching.
Anyone who has heard Barbara speak knows of her harrowing experiences in San Salvador, such as when she went to the home of a gang leader to ask his permission to build a home in the neighborhood for a poor woman, or when she rescued her car from gang members beating it with a baseball bat. God certainly protected her in those situations, but Barbara can also see Him at work in the little moments when He shows up in her daily life.
In 2020, Barbara assumed her challenging new position, serving on CFCI’s core leadership team and recruiting and training new missionaries. She does this in many creative ways—through the website, missions fairs at local churches, visits to Christian universities, and conferences. Under her leadership, CFCI has been registered with an organization that acts as a liaison between missions organizations and those who feel called to the mission field.
Now that she’s back in the U.S., Barbara continues to work with teens, whom she loves for their energy and questions. She has started a youth group in her home, inspired by what she learned from Bill Pitts when she volunteered with Central’s student ministries. She also sees discipling other adults as an obligation for those who have grown in years and wisdom. And even her passion for quilting is an opportunity to share the Gospel, as she places a Bible verse between the quilt’s layers before she closes it up.
Barbara and her daughter Bria joined Central in 2003 for two reasons: because of its vibrant youth group and its long and deep commitment to missions. She is grateful for the church’s significant financial and prayer support she has received over the years. And Central is blessed to be able to support Barbara—and the many other missionaries serving around the world.
or by sending a check to CFCI, 5855 N. 90th Street, Omaha, NE 68134