Foursquare Missions International Missionaries Joel and Keturah Mayer in Tallinn, Estonia, hardly think of themselves as unconventional missionaries, but the way they pay the bills and do ministry is unique among their global colleagues.
That’s because Joel is co-vocational, a person who is equally called to ministry and business, distinct from a bi-vocational pastor, who earns a living working at a job that is separate from their ministry.
Co-vocational also means that Joel needs people around him to make everything work. Isolation and overworking because of too many responsibilities can be a problem for bi-vocational ministers, but Joel thinks co-vocational work brings community together. “It requires me to lean on others and therefore include them in what I do,” Joel says. “This is key for community and leadership development.”
One of Joel’s dreams from the beginning was to have more direct interaction with local people in Tallinn. Right now, he employs one local worker, and he hopes to employ others as he builds out his team.
The Mayers believe the business opportunity Joel leads will be a blessing for the families of Estonia, many of whom have a hard time staying together. In their son’s second-grade class, Joel and Keturah noticed that 20 of the 24 students have parents who do not live with them in the home. Many have had multiple stepfathers.
The man who works for Joel previously traveled 60 percent of the time, but now he works from home where he can also be a dad to his three kids. Prior to working for Joel, the man worked for a company that made most of its money through an adult business that was gradually drawing him in. The man’s wife believes the job working for Joel was a gift of God for the health of their family.
“The fact that I toil and grind to make a living like my neighbors gives a level of understanding that I know firsthand how normal people live. It makes a Spirit-filled kingdom life appear within the grasp of others.”
Joel hopes to provide a business environment that allows and challenges men to prioritize family. “We have daily checkup meetings about work and personal life,” Joel explains. “Every week, we have a company lunch where we put work aside and dig into the deeper things of life.”
The Mayers pastor a home church network that is reproducing itself as they serve with FMI in the Nordic/Baltic region of Europe. They recently hosted the second of three church-planting trainings in Tallinn, and because of Joel’s unique employment status, he had the freedom to help pull off the events.
Keturah is pastoral and administrative, so her care for people throughout the week keeps the family organized and moving forward. Joel teaches, leads and strategizes with team members at church.
Joel and Keturah also have the freedom to travel for ministry because Joel takes his business with him. His unique work situation made fundraising easier when the family prepared to deploy with FMI. His steady income simplified the visa process by providing proof for the Estonian government that the family would not rely on Estonia’s social welfare system to get by.
“If an IT guy with a normal job can do these things, so can my neighbors and friends,” he adds. Common challenges of Joel’s work make it easier for him to identify with Estonians who also work full-time jobs, raise a family and manage a busy life. Blending ministry with his everyday job is a win-win for Joel and Keturah as they model what daily life in Christ looks like at church and at work.
“The fact that I toil and grind to make a living like my neighbors gives a level of understanding that I know firsthand how normal people live,” he says. “It makes a Spirit-filled kingdom life appear within the grasp of others.”