Gospel Fellowship Association Missions
By Dr. Mark Batory

From Stick to Feathers


One morning about ten years ago and at the conclusion of a staff prayer meeting here at the GFA office, Dr. John Dreisbach (then 84) asked me to stay after to ask me a question. In his usual humble voice, he asked, “Have I become obsolete? I am feeling worthless now that I can no longer go back to Africa. I am not built for Greenville but for the deserts of Africa and for the people I love who live there.” Wow, how would you answer such an important question from a senior statesman missionary who after such a full life of ministry feels obsolete?

The Lord helped me that morning to provide an answer to satisfy this labor-worn saint. “Dr. Dreisbach,” I said, “For over forty years you and your wife were the razor-sharp tip of an arrow piercing some of the darkest parts of Africa with the light of the Gospel. You started medical clinics to evangelize the sick; you spent trip after trip traveling the Sahara Desert to reach nomadic tribesmen for Christ. God gave you strength to contend with many government and religious oppositions and obstacles. Now, in the wake of your life-long gospel ministry are multitudes who heard and received the loving Savior you proclaimed.”


Our conversation then naturally changed, and I said, “But now, Dr. D., you need to understand that you are no longer the tip of the arrow—you are its feathers. It is important to note that feathers on an arrow are never obsolete; they provide stability and direction for the tip. Therefore, Dr. D., you are not obsolete but a vital part of the ongoing gospel ministry through all our GFA missionaries!” I told him, “The challenge is when a young missionary as an arrow tip tries to hit its target without the guidance of its feathers. But just as problematic is when the feathers (we in our senior years) still try to be the tip of the arrow. Dr. D., embrace the role of feathers on the arrow. Stay connected with the many missionary arrows being shot out around the world with the Gospel. Write letters to encourage, be available to counsel young missionaries, and uphold them through your prayers.”

Dr. Dreisbach really liked my answer. Then with a big grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye he asked me, “Okay, if the missionaries are the tips and I am the feathers, Brother Mark, what are you?” My quick response was, “I guess I am just the stick that holds it all together.” For Dr. D.’s remaining years he dedicated much time to writing, counseling, and encouraging the new generation of arrow tips.


March 30, 2022 commemorates Paula’s and my forty-fifth anniversary with GFA, thirty-one of which I have served as its Executive Director. On February 24, 2022, I announced to the GFA Executive Committee my intention to transition from the “stick” of the arrow to become a set of its “feathers.”

Paula and I still remember vividly what it was like to be the tip of the arrow. The Lord used us to see many come to Christ and plant two churches which He built and caused to flourish and multiply until today. It is a joy now to see several of our ministry couples whom we were able to mentor and who now have either planted churches or pastored others.


I was thirty-five when the board asked me to accept the position I now hold. It has been my overwhelming privilege for over three decades as the Executive Director to be the “stick of the arrow” and give myself to serve the entire GFA family with tens of thousands of pieces of correspondence, thousands of meetings, hundreds of conferences, etc. Paula always supported me even when I traveled half-way around the world for several weeks at a time with little communication with home. Remember, those early years were before cell phone, e-mail, Zoom, etc. Paula made a wonderful First Lady of GFA, able to represent with appropriate elegance the Lord and our gospel cause whether in a private dinner invitation with a ranking Chinese Communist Party leader in Shanghai or drinking “Ho-Bo” coffee in a thatched roof home in an Indian village of Mexico.


Our very best memories, however, will aways be of the hundreds of visits enjoyed with the missionaries. We received wonderful hospitality as we stayed in their homes. The warm and fun conversations around meal tables and the heavier late-night sessions of those who “just needed to talk and be encouraged” always drew our hearts together in love and appreciation. I cannot fail to mention the special privilege we had of being adopted by the MKs as Uncle Mark and Aunt Paula! I always seemed to get along with the kids—maybe it is because I seem to do best with those of similar mental capacity!


Leading GFA takes a lot of energy of which mine has begun to wane. It is now time for me to transition to the role as feathers on the arrow of a new generation and lend my shoulders for them to stand upon to take the Gospel even further than I could. Paula and I plan to continue keeping our shoulders behind GFA by representing it in churches, recruiting prospective missionaries, and possibly helping Hispanic churches.

I do not know when I have been more excited about what is happening here at GFA, but there are many new challenges to be navigated that will require much energy, wisdom, and Spirit-filled leadership. Pray for the GFA Board as they prayerfully seek a new “stick” to hold the gospel arrow together here at GFA.