Janice and Kelly Seely were recently appointed as Belmont’s Fall 2018 Missionaries in Residence, a program that was introduced in fall 2011 and aims to connect both students and faculty to information on how they can get involved in global missions. Together, the Seelys have traveled to more than 25 countries for mission work. Janice has served as a teacher for more than 10 years and holds a master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, while Kelly holds a master’s degree in divinity and is currently a PhD candidate in Greek and New Testament. They also have two daughters, Phoebe and Helena.
As part of her testimony, Janice is quick to describe the challenges she faced at home and with her faith throughout childhood. “By God’s grace, I was accepted to study at Christ’s College in Taipei,” she said. “This was the first time I met Christians.”
She noticed something very different about them while on campus, specifically an older couple who often walked through campus holding hands. She asked the woman, “How did you find a man who will hold your hand and love you, even though you are both so old?” Her answer was surprising. “Janice, you find a man who loves Jesus. He will know how to love you, too.”
Afterwards, she became curious about what Jesus had to do with love after having learned so little about him growing up. She became more interested in Christianity through opportunities to sing worship songs in chapel, hear about the Christian faith and see how Christians loved one another.
One evening, she heard a group of students discussing how Jesus cares for people like no one else, as he is the only one who offers true hope. “That evening, God changed the course of my life and finally brought me hope, peace, forgiveness and a new freedom to love others,” she said. “I really did experience him as the only way.”
She left Taiwan to earn a master’s degree at Murray State University where she met her husband, Kelly, who inspired her interest in cross-cultural mission work.
At 17-years-old, Kelly visited Tanzania with his dad and loved the people, his experiences and serving along believers. He knew he was open to serving the whole world. During his freshman year at Murray State, he volunteered in Germany and lived with a host family for a semester who was starting a church in a town where very few people attended church. “This was exciting,” he said. “I knew from this point on that I wanted to start a new church someday, too.”
After moving to Memphis, Janice began feeling similar desires to live cross-culturally, ones that she now knows were God’s calling on life. “I just had a desire to be where God wanted me to be and serve there,” she said. “It’s not always easy to live cross-culturally, but it’s a rich experience, worth it and fulfilling to serve God, knowing I am serving where he wants me,” she said.
Through a long process, they were led to Frankfurt, Germany, Europe’s most culturally diverse city. They have served there for over four years with the International Mission Board and are part of the City to City Church Planting Network connected to American theologian Tim Keller. There, the Seelys have started churches that provide community, family, meaning, purpose, direction, forgiveness and redemption. They’ve also started the Center for Church Planting, with others from Frankfurt, as a small movement of churches focused on starting churches in urban centers of Germany.
Additionally, they were part of a core team that started Nordstern Church in Frankfurt, and a year ago, the family moved to work in a new neighborhood to start a church with a dual focus on engaging German-speakers and refugees throughout the city. “In 2016, 1 million refugees came to Germany,” she said. “Many of them are lonely and seeking true friendships and family. We believe the gospel of Jesus has the power to bring people together from different backgrounds regardless of language or culture. It brings real peace.”
Kelly currently serves as Director of the M.A. Theology program with an emphasis in Planting and Revitalizing Churches at a local German seminary. Janice serves as an instructor of Second Language Acquisition with a local German seminary where she helps churches use German and English courses for their congregations.
While at Belmont, the Seelys hope to be a resource to students, faculty, staff and the University Ministries office, to connect with international students and those interested in studying abroad or mission work and to connect with students learning German. “We hope to encourage those we meet to see their future or current professions as important and impactful. Belmont is an amazing school to be a part of during this time. We are thankful for the opportunity.”