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Hope and help

Henry County couple visit
Southeast Asia on mission trip

Greggs work, travel for
Team Expansion, a world aid agency

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

PENDLETON, Ky. (January 2009) – In an age where technology puts everything at our fingertips, it sometimes fails to open our eyes to the cultural lifestyle felt in third world countries. Tina and John Palmer Gregg recently encountered such experiences firsthand on an emotional journey to Southeast Asia.

Tina and John almer Gregg

Photo provided

Tina and John Palmer Gregg travel
the world spreading Team
Expansion’s vision of hope.

The couple works for Team Expansion, a Louisville-based organization that partners with local churches to send and sustain teams of interdependent missionaries to plant indigenous churches among unreached peoples worldwide.
“It was a pretty varied experience from the hustle and bustle of such a large international city like Bangkok, to the poverty and isolation in Cambodia and Laos,” said Gregg, a photojournalist and documentarian for Team Expansion.
“So often, people think of people from other cultures as different, or unlike us,” said Gregg, 31. He said that while all people struggle through the same basic difficulties in life, it is their situations that differ and their responses to the difficulties that set them apart.
A popular phrase that he saw repeatedly displayed among the countries the couple visited was “Same Same, but Different.” This was a good way to sum up the experience, he said. “People are the same everywhere, but different.”
The couple, who live in Pendleton, Ky, traveled to Southeast Asia for several reasons, the main one being that Southeast Asia was the theme of Team Expansion’s booth during the National Missionary Convention in Tulsa, Okla., in 2008. “I thought the information I gathered would be helpful to help explain the current situation in those countries.”
Team Expansion was founded in 1978 as a prayer movement by college students on the campus of what was then known as Kentucky Christian University. “We’re trying to bring help and hope to the world’s neediest peoples,” said Team Expansion President Doug Lucas.
On any given day, depending upon the context, one might find Team Expansion workers setting up a fresh water supply in Iraq, training leaders in Tanzania, East Africa, launching a home for battered and abused women in Peru, or staging a satellite internet communications system in post-war Kosova, said Lucas.
Gregg’s position with Team Expansion consists of traveling to different fields to help raise awareness of the organization’s role in that part of the world. He also seeks to communicate Team Expansion’s vision to supporting churches and individuals in the states, and garner interest in the work of the on-field workers and the organization as a whole.

John Palmer Gregg Photo

Photos provided

John Palmer Gregg took these photos
while traveling in Southeast Asia.

John Palmer Gregg Photo

“John has this unique gift of figuring out just the right camera perspective to show life in a way that helps us understand people more than we would have with our own eyes,” said Lucas. “He’s kind of an ‘Ansel Adams’ for human needs contexts.”
Gregg traveled to Kosovo and Peru last year to document the humanitarian aid and church work taking place in these countries. “Each trip impacts me differently; however, they all share at least one thing in common,” he said. The trips leave him with a feeling of encouragement “that it is possible that concerted effort from the world can bring aid and hope to everyone,” but also a sense of sadness that this effort is not being accomplished.
“His pictures communicate life, vision, need, compassion and service,” Lucas said. They “let sponsors see tangible ways that their donations are making a difference.”
Gregg earned an Associate Degree in Biblical Theology from Johnson Bible College in Knoxville, Tenn., before graduating from East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn., with a degree in journalism. He moved to Carrollton, Ky., and took a job as a reporter at The Carrollton News-Democrat.
A few years later, he became a photojournalist for the Madison Courier in Madison, Ind. While in Madison, the couple attended the North Madison Christian Church.
They moved for a time to Staunton, Va., while Gregg was employed there by The News Leader. But the couple felt “compelled that we needed to do something in world missions and humanitarian aid,” Gregg said. After exploring various missionary organizations to see if they could use people with the Greggs’ skills, the couple discovered Team Expansion and decided it was a perfect fit for their talents.
All workers have to raise funds for the organization equal to the costs of their trips, said Lucas. They rely heavily on friends and sponsors for support.
While on such mission trips, Tina uses her skills and background in the area of counseling to administer what is called “member care” to field workers. “Life can be very difficult for families who give up everything here in the states to live in often much worse conditions,” she said.
Tina spends time with mission families to determine their emotional well-being and deciding what type of support they need from Team Expansion. Her job duties vary from working with children that may have trouble adjusting to a new home and culture of a foreign country, to providing a listening ear to individuals who need someone from their home culture to speak to.
“Tina is a gifted counselor,” said Lucas.
“Mission work to me is being able to bring hope to people and to help them any way that I can,” she said. She has a passion for helping others and is driven to aid missionaries and humanitarian aid workers to stay healthy and well-adjusted as they conduct field work.
Tina sang with an international Christian touring group in 2001. The group traveled all over the United States and spent time in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands. She called it a great experience that helped prepare her for the extensive travel she now does.
Of her work with Team Expansion, Tina said, “I learn different things each place we go. I think the biggest thing is learning about other cultures and learning how hard life can be for those in third world countries. My eyes are always opened during these experiences and I think they teach me to have more compassion on others.” In addition, these experiences have deepened her appreciation of her own life and home even more.
Gregg said his main goal is to bring awareness to other countries. “I believe that giving the hope of salvation through Christ is the greatest think anyone can do for these people. My hope is that my work helps in some way bring them that message.”

• For more information on Team Expansion, visit: www.teamexpansion.org.

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