Benson and Cathy Vaughan serve as missionaries to Ecuador. They recently sat with us to tell us about their ministry and all the exciting things God is doing through them in South America.
COGWM: What is your background before missions?
Benson was a public school teacher in Maryland public schools, and Cathy was a medical technologist before we decided to move to Cleveland, Tennessee to pursue degrees from the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (PTS) in order to enter full-time ministry.
COGWM: How did you become involved in missions?
We both knew God was calling us into ministry, but we did not understand what that meant for our lives. Since education was important for both of us, we decided to pursue advanced degrees from PTS, and it was during our educational journey that we fell in love with international students. It soon became clear that God was calling us into missions in our final semester of school. We moved to Germany for the first 15 years of our ministry to teach at European Theological Seminary. For our second phase of ministry, we moved to Ecuador to teach at the Seminary of South America (SEMISUD) in 2016.
COGWM: Tell us about your ministry.
Our first and foremost duty is to teach, train, and develop young women and men in an educational setting, who will one day return to their home countries and spread the gospel of Jesus. However, it is not possible to do “just one thing” on the mission field, so we also preach in local churches and minister in educational seminars. Benson’s passion is music and he will often minister through music and he conducts praise and worship conferences both in local churches and internationally (last year in Togo, West Africa via video). We are also involved in humanitarian aid, particularly helping with the financial needs of the students who come to our school from most of the countries of South America. Cathy taught English at an after school program in Ecuador called Kids Club, and probably learned more Spanish than the students learned English.
COGWM: What unique challenge does your ministry context present?
One challenge for us as missionaries is that we need to continually return to the USA, usually about once a year, to keep in touch with our supporters. These churches and individuals are our family, and it would not be possible to remain on the mission field without them. It can be rather challenging to return home, visit approximately six different states, squeeze in brief visits with our families, and still maintain a presence back on the mission field. This can be quite challenging on our bodies with all of the travel.
On our recent visit to the USA, Benson actually contracted bronchitis, possibly due from going in and out of various places with differing temperatures of the air conditioning. In Ecuador, we do not have air conditioning or heat, because the temperature is so moderate, going from 55 degrees to about 70 degrees during the day, and back down to 55 degrees at night. Leaving that ideal climate and traveling to the US is always difficult for us health-wise. We have joked that we feel most comfortable when we are in the air, either coming or going from one continent to another. Thus far, we have been privileged to minister in over 35 countries on five continents. Another challenge, of course, is the language—we learned German while there, although it was rudimentary, but now we are faced with learning Spanish, so we are constantly getting confused with our vocabulary.
COGWM: Tell us a favorite story of something that has happened in your ministry.
Benson: In our first year at the Seminary of South America (SEMISUD), I was assigned to teach a class on Pentecostalism. I had just recently completed my Ph.D. and a part of my dissertation had to do with the history of the Church of God, so this was a perfect course for me. I felt impressed that I should fast one day for my students during the first week of my five-week class, and Cathy agreed to fast with me. During the second week, we fasted two days, during the third week, three days, etc. Although this was an academic course, I saw God move in powerful ways. One day as I was teaching about healing, one of my students became very ill. We immediately stopped and prayed for her, and God immediately healed her. I gave a written exam on Thursday of the last week, and told the class that our final class would take place in the small chapel the next day. During that final class, the anointing of the Holy Spirit began to move during our worship time. Five young women and men were called into ministry, and five young women and men were baptized in the Holy Spirit. To God be the glory!
Cathy: I had an evangelism class at SEMISUD and for their final project, I divided them into two groups to organize an evangelistic outreach. They had never participated in anything like this before and many were apprehensive and very nervous. One group chose to do their ministry in a children’s hospital since one of the students had frequently visited there while getting a kidney transplant. The team ministered to those kids and put smiles on their faces as they shared the gospel of Jesus Christ. The second team decided to do street ministry. They gathered at a busy intersection and spelled out several slogans like “Jesus loves you!” and “God is love!” using huge boxes while the traffic was stopped at the red light. A few other students were busy handing out tracts and directions to a local church. The students were able to pray for many people on the street during this event and now they have encouraged their youth groups in their churches to do the same. It only takes one spark to light the fire of evangelism.
COGWM: What are some of the greatest needs where you serve?
Although there are many academic and spiritual needs, perhaps one of the greatest needs among our students and most people we meet has to do with finances. There are great financial needs for the students, many of whom come from poor countries throughout South America. Many of our students need help with scholarships to be able to stay at SEMISUD, and once they are there, many need financial assistance just to survive. We help as much as possible (we presently assist with one scholarship to help a student remain at SEMISUD), and when we are made aware of a special need (i.e., hospital bills, doctor’s visits, purchase of medicine, money for food, etc.), we always try to help as much as possible. Sadly, there are always more needs than our limited money can supply. We would love to invite others to adopt a SEMISUD student and help them complete their education.
COGWM: Is there anything else you want people to know about you or your ministry?
We love young people and want them to succeed in their educational and life journeys, and then to return to their home countries (or wherever the Lord may send them) to minister the gospel. We cannot do this work alone; it is through the faithful prayer and financial support of our ministry partners that we are able to continue this vital work for the Kingdom of God. Only in eternity will we fully understand the importance of training and sending these precious young people throughout South America to minister the gospel.
To learn more about the Vaughans’ ministry and to partner with them, visit their profile page.