By Kelly Carr
When I first supported Chile Mission founded by Jack and Janine Swanson, I didn’t even know their names. Several years ago at the International Conference on Missions, I was told by a friend that I needed to stop by the “marble people” booth. When I did, I saw a cute nativity set made of marbles—I purchased one for myself and one as a gift for my parents. I knew these were handcrafted by someone in Chile and the funds raised went to support mission work there, but that’s as far as I got. Recently I had the chance to correspond with Jack and Janine to find out more about their mission and the work supported by the marble art.
Heeding the Call
Jack and Janine Swanson sensed God calling them into missionary service in the 1970s when they were newlyweds. Around 15 years later they found out about an opportunity to serve in South America.
After five additional years of preparation and training, in 1993 the Swansons went to Santiago, Chile, with their four children to live and work as missionaries. Their ministry there has grown to encompass:
• church development
• a home for abandoned children
• a live-in drug rehabilitation center for men
• an English club
• plans to build a Christian camp to reach unchurched children along coastal Chile, five hours south of Santiago
Creating a Partnership
In 1997, Jack and Janine met artisans Willy and Karina Ibar, who create figurines from marbles. They began a partnership to expand the Ibars’ market and sell their 100 percent handcrafted items in the U.S.
At that same time, Jack and Janine were focused on building homes to house the ministry to abandoned children. They wanted a place for kids to live with house parents and learn what it’s like to live in a family and eventually find permanent adoptive homes for the children.
Jack said, “It seemed a perfect fit for [Willy and Karina’s] Chilean handmade artisan products to help fund a Chilean children’s work on into the future.”
To this day, Willy and Karina work from their home to create every marble figure by hand.
Waiting on Answers
One of the most important facets to the Chile Mission is prayer. “It is virtually impossible to overemphasize the fundamental importance in mission work—both on the part of the sender and the sendee—of humble and expectant prayer,” said Jack.
They saw positive answer to prayer when they changed the format of their congregation to a house church and also when they sought land where they hope to build a Christian camp. “We can see God at work in blessing steps going forward,” Jack said.
However, they sense a “not yet” response to prayer in the area of the home for abandoned children. They are in the process of making it into a foundation, and there are legal processes that have been slow going. They are still waiting, but the Swansons trust that God will work in his timing.
Through the years the Swansons remain passionate for mission work. “There are so many that have gone before us—so many that have given their lives for the gospel. How can we possibly measure up? We feel so insignificant by comparison, yet something good and compelling remains. . . . We wouldn’t take back that original decision for anything.”