Benefiting from years of experience serving missionaries in Russia, Dave and April Wheeler continue to train new or returning missionaries in both Russian culture and language.
Real Life Ministries is very excited to be involved in the ministry of Dave and April Wheeler. Dave and April have an infectious passion for serving the church of Jesus Christ throughout the world.
Many of us here at Real Life Ministries knew Dave in college at Washington State University, where we studied engineering together. We also served side-by-side in campus ministries and Bible studies.
After college, Dave went to work as a mechanical engineer for the Bremerton Naval Shipyard. Then the Lord began to call him into missions work. His first short term mission landed him in Cote D’Ivoire, Africa. It wasn’t long before he was pursuing full time mission work in Russia. While in his second year in Russia, he met his wife to be, April. April was involved at the time in church planting east of Moscow.
Together they continued to work in the mission field directly. At one point Dave became the assistant director of a Russian business in the City of Pyatigorsk, sharing Jesus through work, Bible studies, and English language classes.
They moved back to the States in 2004 due to the demands of having 4 children in 3 ½ yrs. Making their home in Columbia, South Carolina, they continued to serve the Lord and His church by working with Russian Language Ministries (RLM).
Through RLM, they trained missionaries prior to departure to their mission field in both the language and culture of their chosen mission field and continued to provide support to missionaries and their families once they were in the field. In 2015, Russian Language Ministries relocated to Spokane, Washington.
Believing that they were called to remain in South Carolina, the Wheelers worked remotely for RLM until the end of 2016. They are currently seeking the Lord’s direction for the next step in their walk of faith. In reflecting back on their course through life, Dave and April are excited about their many experiences in serving the Lord.
However, their hearts continue to be strongly drawn towards missionary care and support in central Asian countries. Through their work with Russian Language Ministries, they have developed relationships with many missionaries in Russia and five of the seven ‘Stans (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan), all formerly part of the USSR. They are also drawn towards the native people groups represented in these countries.
Their long term goal is to work both from the States and on location in these countries encouraging and supporting local pastors and missionaries, both in their personal spiritual lives and in the work that they are doing.
The path to achieving this goal travels through additional counseling education here in the States for Dave while simultaneously working a secular job or obtaining sufficient external missionary funds to support his family. The additional education will allow him to pursue pastor care positions with many missionary organizations already serving in central Asia.
Within 5 years, around the time their third child finishes high school, they would like to be in a position to actively pursue more direct ministry to the people of Central Asia and to the other believers who have been called there to serve full-time, ensuring the spiritual and emotional health of these missionaries and their families.
In Taiwan, John and Mei Lien Stephenson desire to share Christ’s love with others through their cultural exchange and school placement programs. John & Mei Lien exhibit a strong desire for not only bringing individuals to Christ but also for discipling them into truly transformed beings.
John hails from White Salmon, Washington, and came to know Jesus as a high school sophomore on a bicycle trip with a friend. Mei Lien was born and raised in a small farming town in Cholan, Taiwan, but moved to Taipei after college.
However, the real time of transformation for both of them began while living in Shanghai, China, where they both began studying with the late Walter Henrichsen. Walt’s ministry emphasized training the layperson in the church, believing that discipleship was not inherent in the Christian life, but that it could be taught.
For more than a decade, John and Mei Lien completed Bible study and training with Walt and other brother and sisters in the region. Through this, they learned through Scripture that a true Christian is always an Evangelist and is always Edifying the church, which was known as the E2 principle in their fellowship group. This principle became the ethos of their lives.
While working in Shanghai they began to hold Bible studies for their employees and Mei Lien became very active in studies with other women whose husbands were working throughout China, allowing them both to gain confidence in presenting the gospel to others.
Through these studies and their searching and wrestling with the truth of the Bible, they were convinced that the only thing of intrinsic value on earth, as measured by God, was other humans.
This realization, which came at a time of great personal struggle while also living through the rise of modern China, cemented their dedication to invest in people in order to gain the ultimate return for eternity.
They felt God was directing them to move to Taiwan, Mei Lien’s homeland. In addition to being a cheaper place to live than China, missionaries seemed to be flocking to China while forgetting Taiwan, a more difficult place to preach. In 2011 they began their ministry in Taiwan.
Through prayer and the support of other missionaries, they began to pursue the idea of creating summer camps and educational programs in Taiwan, knowing that this would lead to opportunities to share the gospel with the two groups that they felt they had the best gifting to reach – children and youth for John and wives and mothers for Mei Lien.
They settled in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and established E2, where John teaches Bible studies for high school and college students, and Mei Lien holds Bible studies with women, both individually and in small groups. They also run values camps for youth that teach biblical principles.
Together, they aim to first bring people to Christ and then disciple them into strong, scripturally-centered Christians that can then go out and reproduce their faith in others.
It is their hope and prayer that, through E2, those they train will also receive support to enter the mission fields in Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines.