Stories Behind Missions Grants | The Nelsons

Derek Nelson, a member at our Powdersville campus, serves with his wife, Lauren, and two children in Cape Verde with Global Year. The Nelson family received funding from Grace Church to support their personal ministry through the Missions Grants program. To learn more about the Missions Grants program or to apply for support in your personal ministry, please visit


Tell us about your background.

Lauren and I met in college and celebrated our ten-year anniversary this year. We have two children, Rosie (6) and Violet (3). We have been members at Grace Church Powdersville since 2009, serving in children and student ministry as well as leading a community group for four years. Before moving to Cape Verde, I worked in Sales and Management and Lauren was in marketing.

What led you to work or serve with Global Year?

It is difficult to sum up how you end up on another continent, far from “home” and family in a few sentences, but it really began with a challenge from a sermon we heard at Grace. Lauren was pregnant with our first child, and Bill spoke that morning about the reason his family existed. As we were going into a new season as a “family,” we began to ask ourselves, why does our family exist and how can we leverage our gifts and resources to best serve our King and his Kingdom? Our time at Grace was spent doing many different types of ministry, but we experienced the most life change when we were leading youth and then adult community groups. Before we were married, we both had dreams to use our ministry degrees in a foreign context and we were still open to that idea. So we just started a conversation as a family, and with our church leaders, transforming those specific gifts and dreams into steps of obedience. Those conversations and steps led to a two-year journey of becoming a part of the ministry of Global Year in Cape Verde, Africa.

What is Global Year?

Global Year sends students on a gap year, usually before the first year of college, to live and work in areas of the world that are either unreached or have very little access to the gospel. The students live with host families or missionaries for nine months, learn the language of the community, and become an active member of a church. The students undergo an intensive discipleship program and learn to make disciples no matter where they live.

Can you tell me about one of the individuals you are working with?

We have a student, Michelle, who came with a very religious background but had never really made her faith her own. She was put in charge, along with another student, of a small Bible study where the mother, Laneira, was a new believer and her boyfriend, David, had no interest but agreed to host the study in their home. Through that study, Michelle began to see God work in this family. Laneira was growing in her faith in amazing ways and decided to be baptized. David accepted Christ, and God began a work in his heart that led him to become an active father and leave a life of promiscuity in order to marry Laneira. Their home, once full of chaos, became filled with the peace of God. Because of their faith, their children made the decision to follow Christ. Michelle’s faith grew in leaps and bounds during this time because, for the first time, she saw the God of the universe reaching into this home and completely changing an entire family. Michelle is now discipling other students and her faith is obvious to anyone who meets her. She is overflowing with the love of Christ because she actually believes and has an intimate relationship with the God she only knew in theory before. Committing to making disciples produced a work in her that made her faith active and fruitful.

As a result of serving in this capacity, what have you learned about your faith?

It is often a lot of seemingly insignificant interactions and tiny steps of obedience that grow your faith in big ways. If someone had told us ten years ago when we first came to Grace we would eventually be living in Africa, we probably would have stopped attending. God knows us and is so patient and gracious. He gave us a million tiny opportunities to say yes to him and learn to trust his plan is better than ours. Each of those decisions stretched our faith at the time, and often felt big and scary, like joining a community group for the first time. And then being vulnerable in that group. And then becoming an active member who serves the body, not just consumes. When we look back, it was not a big step of faith to come to Africa, it was actually tons of little ones that God proved faithful in time and time again. We learned through those and are still learning to trust him and to just do the next thing in front of us.

What does it mean to have the support of Grace Church?

When we think of “home,” we almost always think of Grace Church. We think of our first community group leaders, J.R. and Libby Thomas, and how they sacrificed their time and home so we could grow in our faith. We think of all the friends who pray for us and check in on us, even if it’s just to rub in the Clemson-Carolina score. We think of people who have sacrificed resources for us to be a part of what God is doing here in Cape Verde. We’re amazed at how God uses his bride, the church, to show us his faithfulness and prove we can trust him. Because of our brothers and sisters at Grace Church, we truly feel “sent” and equipped to work in Cape Verde and we can be a part of building his church here. Especially on the hard days, we remember the goodness of God through his church. It is an honor and blessing to have support from Grace Church, from Christ’s bride.


For more information regarding Global Year, visit