What do you know about Greater Europe Mission (GEM)…like, really know? Do you know why Europe is its focus? Do you know who began GEM or how it began? Many of us know about GEM in its current state; we know it is a mission organization that is passionate about spreading the Gospel across Europe and making disciples who go on to make disciples. For the sake of honouring its history and understanding its commission, let’s dive back to GEM’s origin and discover how it became the organization it is today.
In 1944, a 26-year-old US Navy Chaplain was sent to southern France to bring spiritual hope to men in battle. Knowing the importance of ministering to men within the heat of battle, he became the first chaplain to willingly set foot in the normally off-limit combat zones. However, this role was cut short when he rode over a land mine as he was motorcycling along a beach to reach the troops. Miraculously, he survived and went on to spend the next few months recovering in a French field hospital where he got to know some of the Frenchmen in the area.
Originally sent to provide spiritual assistance to his fellow Americans, Bob Evans instead realized that it was the local people in France that needed him more.
His short time spent in France was enlightening, and God impressed upon Evans a desire and a love for Europe and its people. He returned to America and went on to have a successful evangelistic ministry alongside the likes of Torrey Johnson and Billy Graham through the newly-established Youth for Christ, but he couldn’t shake his zeal for Europe.
The large-scale evangelism work he had done alongside his colleagues had roused the public into wanting to see more of these rallies where thousands of people would come to Christ. Evans realized that if this were to happen, the European church would need to be prepared to receive these new believers; but with only a small percentage of Europeans being reached, who would train them? With the encouragement and support from his friends and family, Evans, along with his wife, Jeanette, and daughter, Alyce, boarded a ship to France to start their own, new ministry.
In 1949, Evans began pouring his energy into the ongoing training of European believers, starting with the opening of a Bible school in Chotou, France, called the European Bible Institute, which was dedicated to training lay leaders in the fundamentals of the Bible. Soon opportunities opened for missionary work in many other European countries, giving rise to the establishment of Greater Europe Mission in 1952. Filled with qualified North Americans to help—not manage—the theologically inclined Europeans, these schools were the ideal place for Europeans to train for disciple-making.
In the 30 years Evans served as its director, GEM established 22 Bible Institutes across Europe—many of which are still in operation today.
Although it’s been about 75 years since Bob Evans established Greater Europe Mission, the organization flourishes on. With over 340 missionaries currently serving across Europe and North America, and partnerships with scores of ministries across Europe: from Bible-seminaries to 1000-year-old churches, from Christian camps to coffee shops, the peoples of Europe are being impacted with the authentic and relevant Word of the Gospel.
Is God calling you to be a part of this legacy? There is still so much need for the Gospel to be shared across Europe and for European believers to be encouraged and trained in the ways of disciple-making. Contact us today to find out how you can get involved!