Becoming Missionaries One Step at a Time: The Nales’ Story
“I knew after the first time I had been there, that's where I was supposed to be forever,” Jane Nales, a Parkway missionary to Romania, said.
Jane had been going on mission trips to Romania with Parkway since 2008, but her husband, Mike, hadn’t started joining her until 2012.
“So for four years I prayed for him to be called,” she said. “That was a very long four years.”
Now, Mike and Jane both serve as full time, independent missionaries in Romania.
While Jane was convinced right away that their family should serve on mission to Romania, God worked in Mike’s heart a different way. There were four key events that God used to give Mike’s heart peace about the great adventure he had planned for the Nales family.
1. God kept providing for Jane to keep going.
It was 2008 and Jane signed up for her first mission trip to Romania. She sent out support letters, but the team’s deadline to buy plane tickets was approaching, and she still needed $1,500. Jane said she had faith God would provide somehow, but Mike saw the situation differently.
“We didn't know how we were going to get the money to pay for her trip,” he said.
When the deadline reached Jane still in need of the money, she suggested funding the rest of her trip with the couple’s personal savings.
Her argument: “I need it in order to go.”
Mike’s counterargument: “If I gave you $1,500, we wouldn’t have enough money to make the bills.”
After “a little discussion in the lobby of the church,” Mike wrote the check for Jane, nearly emptying their savings account.
That was a Wednesday night, so Jane happily took the check and walked into choir practice. Mike left the church and got the kids home and ready for bed. That night, Mike’s step brother, whom he hadn’t talked with in about 35 years, called with good news. The step brother had won a large settlement from a lawsuit and remembered how kind Mike’s dad had been to him years before. So he wanted to offer thanks by sharing some of the settlement with Mike — $1,500 to be exact.
“Ever since then, [Jane] had gone on these mission projects and God always provided the funds,” Mike said. “I never questioned it after that.”
While Mike felt better about Jane continuing to go on mission trips to Romania, he wasn’t convinced yet that he should get involved too.
“That's her thing — not my thing,” he would say.
2. God used Parkway to push encourage Mike to try a mission trip.
Each year Parkway organized another mission trip to Romania, Jane was there to sign up right away. In 2011, Mac Hutton, the discipleship pastor, noticed Jane’s enthusiastic dedication to missions in Romania, and he asked Mike how he felt about it. Was Mike developing an interest too?
“That's not my interest,” Mike said. “I’m perfectly fine working, supporting her, and doing what I'm doing.”
The following year, Jane introduced a new idea to Mike. Maybe this year, instead of their usual family vacation to Disney World or somewhere like that, the whole family of five could take a trip to Romania “just as a vacation,” she said. They talked about it for a while, and he would certainly consider it but didn’t exactly say yes.
Jane also mentioned the idea to Derek Futrell. When Mike and Jane attended the interest meeting, “just to learn about missions,” Mike said Derek stood up and announced to the group that the whole Nales family was going on the mission trip. The room applauded, but Mike and Jane were shocked.
“I was kind of stuck and a little frustrated,” Mike said.
But they went ahead with the plan and became the first Parkway family to go on an overseas mission trip.
The trip turned out to be a great experience. One day, a Roma woman came to the house begging for food. The missionaries whom the Nales family was partnering with said Mike should try sharing the gospel with her. They tried themselves before, but the woman never responded well.
Mike told her about the gospel, and she accepted Christ right there. The missionaries even went back to visit her to make sure she truly understood, which she did. Mike said although he had led people to Christ before, seeing it in another culture was unlike anything else he’d experienced.
“I felt [at] home — I felt like I was where I belonged,” he said.
And after the Nales family left Romania, God wouldn’t let Mike forget the place he felt he belonged.
3. God invaded Mike’s dreams and broke his heart for Romanians.
“When I got home, I started seeing visions at night,” he said.
These visions were faces —one after another —of Roma people. Mike kept it to himself, but he was waking up at 2:30 or 3 a.m. every night from the dreams. This went on for about a year, and Mike said he started to believe something was wrong with him. When he would see an ad to support a needy kid, he would just cry.
“I never cry, and I'm crying over pictures of these kids,” he said.
To try and stop the dreams, Mike pursued other ways to serve and obey God like volunteering with Parkway’s feeding ministry and children’s ministry. But the visions still came. One night while serving as a chaperone at Camp Willow Run, Mike finally broke down and surrendered to God in the way he knew God was calling him.
“I prayed, ‘God, just use me however you want. I'll be a full time missionary. I'm willing to give up everything I have for you,’” Mike said.
That night, the visions stopped.
“I never dreamed of the faces again,” he said.
Jane said she felt relieved and excited at Mike’s decision. Now that both Mike and Jane were surrendered to be full time missionaries, they waited for God to show them what to do next.
4. God arranged the Mike’s job circumstances to offer him and Jane the choice of a lifetime.
God provided for Mike and Jane to continue going on short term mission trips; they even led a few. But as far as pursuing full time missionary work, they had trouble figuring out which mission agency to go with and what to do about Mike’s job. He couldn’t exactly quit. How would they pay bills during their months of missionary training? As a project manager, Mike didn’t see a calculable plan for the family’s missionary calling to work out.
Until he received another phone call that spring in 2014, reminding him that God always provides. Mike’s department at work was being dissolved, and the affected employees would have the opportunity to apply for other jobs in the company or accept a layoff package.
Mike was offered other jobs, but he couldn’t forget the package offer, even though he didn’t know exactly how much it was.
“We're never going to have another opportunity like this,” he told Jane. “I think this is God telling us what he wants us to do.”
The Nales decided to take the package offer, which they later learned would cover a whole year of Mike’s salary and benefits. They were now free to start missionary training, sell their possessions, and move towards full time missions work in Romania.
God’s precise provision was clear confirmation for Mike and Jane. They decided to go as missionaries directly from Parkway in the spring of 2015 because they wanted that direct contact with their U.S. home church. And they wanted to be able to more freely follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in their ministry without worrying about sticking to an organization’s strategy.
As the Nales family took one step after another in obedience, God proved his faithfulness. He was faithful to hear Jane’s prayers for her husband, and he was faithful to calm Mike’s logistical concerns.
Pray for Mike and Jane Nales
Although they’ve been on the field for a while now and have learned a lot, there are things Mike and Jane still struggle with. For Mike, it’s knowing what’s most important to do each day. The need around them is great, and sometimes they come across difficult ministry decisions about how and whom to help.
“Everything I do in life has to be accounted for, calculated, planned,” he said. “And as a missionary, you know, you don't do that. It's very fluid. And so it was a little bit of a learning curve for me.”
For Jane, it’s worship. The church in Romania simply worships differently than how Jane worshiped at Parkway. Sometimes the Romanian church sings translated Western songs, but it’s still different and difficult for her.
“Even singing them in another language — it's still not the same. I can't explain it other than it's just not the same,” Jane said.
Support Mike and Jane Nales
The Nales family are sent and supported directly by Parkway Baptist Church. You can express your support of their faithful obedience by giving once or monthly to the Acts 1:8 Missions Offering.
Written by Emily Hall,
A member of Parkway Baptist Church