By Michael T. McCarty, Sr., Executive Director

Every story has a pre-story.  In our case, God began joining the lives of a group of Jesus followers together in the 1960s, who by the ‘70s were already working overseas as well as in North America doing a variety of mission-type activities.  At the same time, there was a growing sense of call to strategic international missions among many of our colleagues and friends in the US.  While some already oversees workers were being facilitated through other missions organizations, by 1985 Paul Petrie began to realize that perhaps we could accomplish these services more easily and less expensively if we created our own agency.

“I had served on the Boards of several mission organizations” Paul recalls, “and had field experience in Africa and the Pacific Rim since 1967, and so was familiar with the concepts, policies, strategies and management of some mission organizations.  I then decided to visit the directors of several agencies, speak with their staff, and read their founding and operational documents.  By autumn 1985 a group of us sensed it was time to create our own organization and in October of that year, International Outreach Ministries (IOM) was formed.”

The first IOM Missionary Commissioning Service was held on August 16, 1986. Charles Simpson spoke and 42 men & women were commissioned to international service.  By the following Wednesday all 42 of us were in their respective field of service.  God had scattered sons of the Kingdom to many nations of the world.  It was a remarkable time.

The earliest IOM missionaries, commissioned to go to countries in Europe, Africa, and Latin America, engaged in a variety of missionary endeavors and activities. Their common focus was the revelation of Father’s reconciling love through Jesus and the proclamation and extension of His Kingdom.  Then and now, IOM was more than an organization; it is a network of relationships that God has joined together. As a company of servants, we have been sent out to make Him known across the earth.  That was our purpose then and it remains our purpose now.

In 1990, Paul Petrie and his family moved to Belgium, leaving the responsibility for administrating IOM to Charles Simpson, who asked Gary Henley to become the new Director.  Though Gary had been a church planter in both the cities of Chicago and Dallas, he had a growing concern for the gospel to be taken to un-sown fields and unreached peoples globally and IOM became the vehicle to address that concern.  Looking back, we see the Father’s sovereign care for IOM missionaries was demonstrated by Gary’s excellent leadership of IOM for almost 20 years.

The original service concept of IOM was that individual churches would send missionaries whose pastoral care would come primarily from those churches, while the administration of the funds and strategy of the work would be facilitated through IOM. This initial approach ultimately proved only partly effective. Today, IOM receives and handles several million dollars of missionary support funds annually from donors across North America.  However, time proved that the pastoral reach of sending churches often needed to be supplemented with one-on-one, on-the-field encouragement from an IOM support team.  Gary and several friends, some of whom later became IOM Board members, began to travel to encourage, strengthen and strategize with IOM Associates on the field.  With this in mind, Ronald Gray joined IOM in the mid-1990’s, and has since mobilized hundreds of short-term teams to evangelize, to encourage, and to carry out a number of significant construction projects in conjunction with and support of long-term IOM Associate Missionaries.

After 9/11, it became acutely obvious to some that Muslims comprised one of the largest and neediest unreached groups in the world. In partnership with associates in the USA and in the Muslim world, an IOM team helped develop an Arabic language internet outreach to Muslims.  Today, IOM’s “e-Bridge” project continues to take the gospel to hundreds of thousands of Muslims who would not otherwise have access to it. In 2008, Gary and his wife moved to Morocco to work with the multinational team pioneering this effort.

To help facilitate the Henley’s relocation and new assignment in Morocco, Michael McCarty took over the primary administrative responsibility for IOM and has since become the ministry’s Executive Director. Under his oversight, IOM has experienced exciting new growth and increased its administrative effectiveness. Additional fields such as North Korea, China, and Cambodia are now being served by IOM Associate Missionaries. Among other things, many of these new workers are now confronting the wickedness of sexual exploitation and human trafficking, as well as meeting many other needs in Asia.  In fact, today there are 158 IOM missionaries serving in 22 countries.

Similar to IOM’s first Associates, the activities of the newest IOM missionaries vary: from working in the modern-day abolition movement to finding new and creative ways to deliver the gospel to historically “closed” nations, from helping train future pastoral, business and political leaders, to humanitarian efforts like drilling water wells and feeding children.  Then and now, the common thread is a passion to let the world know God’s redemptive, reconciling love.

The rest, as they say, is history! IOM’s history! The books that could be written about what is taking place through this group of friends serving together and being served by IOM, would be extensive. The overall influence of the organization has been remarkable.  However, it’s not the organization – that is just the clothing, something needed and useful, but not the essence of what we are.  IOM is ultimately the people whom He has put together, their relationships and stories, their sacrifice and service that have changed the lives of individuals and nations.