How We Got Here

Andrew’s Story


Andrew, the son of Chris and Brenda Nelson, grew up in Nebraska.  He began swimming at the age of 7 and kept swimming for the next fifteen years.  At the age of 16, Andrew felt a very specific call to do ministry, but had no idea what that would look like.  Ministry can look like a lot of different things; worship artists, non-profit organizations, pastors, missionaries, etc.  It was this call to ministry, coupled with a desire to continue swimming that led Andrew to attend Oklahoma Baptist University from 2011-2015.  While at OBU, Andrew quickly discovered a call to do missions.  OBU itself is not an extremely diverse university, yet Andrew was exposed to a wide diversity through interaction with his swim team; the team was composed of people from everywhere around the world.  Further, OBU has a strong emphasis to do missions; there are many short term mission trips and a strong missions faculty.  Finally, the main professor at the time of his schooling, Dr. Bruce Carlton, made a profound impact on Andrew, with his experience as a church planter in Cambodia and Hong Kong.  This experience motivated Andrew to serve God in a similar capacity, but moreover, it was truly Dr. Carlton’s character and actively gracious lifestyle that encouraged Andrew to pursue missions. During Welcome Week of his sophomore year, Andrew met Sydnie.  They instantly became friends, bonding over a passion for missions.  Their friendship was strengthened over a mission trip to Ufa, Russia in the spring of Andrew’s sophomore year.

Andrew and Dr. Bruce Carlton

The trip was geared toward church planting and the team, which was led by Dr. Carlton, conducted a church planting seminar in Ufa, and got to interview and learn from several missionaries on the field.  It was on this trip that Andrew realized how much of a barrier language is; the team was constantly making use of and relying on a translator to communicate for them.  Even after discovering his call to become a missionary, Andrew was still uncertain of how that would manifest; there are many different kinds and types of mission work: church planters, evangelists, Bible translators, pastors, etc.  During his junior year at OBU, Andrew took his first Greek course and fell in love with the language almost instantly.  The language came fairly naturally, and Andrew’s prior study of German and Spanish aided him in his study of Greek.  Andrew also took an Intro to Linguistics course during his junior year and found an appreciation for linguistics and languages in general. Thinking back on his trip to Ufa, Andrew began to develop a passion for successful communication.  This passion eventually led Andrew to make contact with Wycliffe Bible Translators and to attend several Wycliffe dessert night events in Dallas where he met his recruiter, Bob Kuiken.


Meanwhile Andrew began dating Sydnie during his junior year of college.  During his senior year of college, Andrew continued with his consideration of Wycliffe. As he neared the end of college, Andrew chose to continue on with his studies to receive a MA in Linguistics and Bible Languages at Biola University in preparation to work with Wycliffe.  Andrew and Sydnie grew closer and fell in love and during the summer after his graduation, right before going to Biola, Andrew surprised Sydnie and proposed! And she said yes!!!  Andrew is currently in his first year of graduate studies at Biola and is preparing for his married life with Sydnie.

Sydnie’s Story


Sydnie, the daughter of Bruce and Shawn Gabbard, grew up in Bentonville, Arkansas. Sydnie grew up hearing about God and learning about who Christ is. At the age of seven, she surrendered her life to follow the Lord and the next several years of her life were spent learning about how to walk daily with Christ. When she was 18, she went on a short term mission trip to Nicaragua and felt a very specific call to ministry cross culturally.

After graduating from high school from Edmond North in Edmond, Oklahoma, Sydnie became a student at Oklahoma Baptist University. While her parents moved cross country to San Francisco, California, Sydnie felt God was calling her to Shawnee and she is so glad He did! While being a student at the university, Sydnie became an Anthropology and Cross Cultural Ministry double major and has since learned so much about the calling God has placed on her life and her passion for people-women’s ministry in particular.

WMU Picture
Sydnie with some of the women that have influenced her or have been on her halls or staffs over the years at OBU.

The Lord also used her second short term mission trip to Russia to show Sydnie the process of church planting and grow her heart even more for people from all over the world. During her time at OBU, Sydnie was heavily involved in Residential Life and women’s ministry. It was in these on campus positions and experiences that her passion for ministry, relationships, and discipleship was affirmed and she realized God had been preparing her heart her whole life for full time

Sydnie will graduate from OBU in May of 2016 and the couple will then get married in Oklahoma on June 25th. After their wedding, Sydnie will move to California to begin married life with Andrew and start graduate school in the fall. Sydnie will pursue a Masters in Anthropology, in hopes of becoming an anthropologist, working with women, babies, and children. Sydnie has also heavily considered becoming a doula, as she works with midwives and expectant mothers cross culturally wherever God calls Andrew and Sydnie next.IMG_6019.jpg