Tom and Carol McLennan
Let’s have a cup of tea with Tom and Carol McLennan. Theirs is a story of stepping out in faith later in life and seeing God do tremendous, eternal things through them on two continents.
Entrust: When and how did you first learn about Entrust?
Tom: When serving in my third church as a minister of Christian education, I had the privilege of going to Russia three times from 1992 to 1994, with Co-Mission [a cooperative effort between several ministries in post-communist USSR.] It stirred my heart to want to return someday.
In 2001, Carol and I decided to move from church ministry into international ministry. We initiated our search through the Finishers Project. My hope was to find an agency that would provide an opportunity for going to Russia.
We attended a 2-day Finisher’s Forum in Lancaster, Penn. While there, we visited the Entrust booth and I was intrigued when I found that they were recruiting staff. In fact, we spoke with Christine Schwarz whose husband Chuck was Entrust’s Russia field director.
At that point we dropped all the other ministries we had considered and focused only on Entrust.
Entrust: When did you begin to serve with Entrust?
Tom: Things progressed quickly after we applied. In November 2001, we went on a 2-week vision trip to Moscow. Chuck Schwarz and Entrust’s Andy Seidel were concluding the training of a cohort of men from across Russia. We observed the sessions and I was asked to facilitate a session on small groups, with no materials.
Chuck and Andy were impressed. Our application was accepted.
I concluded my church ministry on Dec. 31, 2001. The tradition at that church was to celebrate a personal communion service for families in the church until midnight. Chuck and Christine Schwarz were at that communion service and welcomed us to Entrust and the Russia team immediately after the service in the first minutes of 2002. We were now beginning our journey into cross-cultural ministry and I was 54 years old!
Entrust: What were your roles, titles and responsibilities over the years?
Tom: We were Entrust field staff in Russia. We were in language school on a culture/study visa and served in a wide variety of ministries in our city and around our region, such as:
facilitating a weekly inductive Bible study for (primarily) English-speaking African university students
regular visits to two Christian rehab centers to meet with and encourage the leaders and lead Bible studies with residents
Carol using her nursing skills to serve drug addicts and alcoholics living on the street and where needed at the rehab centers
Carol volunteering in the large city hospital where she developed some strong relationships with both staff and patients
Carol taking part in various women’s training events and providing input in developing a church-based ministry designed for invalids
serving as managing editor of the Entrust course Discovering the Treasures of God’s Word
providing training at the church we attended
designing and facilitating an interactive Russian Bible memorization workshop
travel with Chuck Schwarz to participate in pastoral training groups around Russia.
We learned from Russian friends that our “willingness to get our hands dirty” and our active involvement in social ministry gave us significant credibility in the eyes of the Russian people.
In 2009, we began serving at the Entrust office in Colorado Springs.
My first role there was director of training. The vision at that time was to develop five core training courses, which never materialized for a variety of reasons. When CEO David Goodman came to Entrust, my title was modified to director of training resources. I traveled as a facilitator-trainer around the U.S. and back to Russia four times; I developed additional training resources including the initial STEP* orientation and redesigned our new staff orientation materials with a modified facilitation approach. I also joined the Entrust Southeast Asia team where I participated in nine trips and assisted in developing and facilitating contextualization training. In 2017, I transitioned to semi-retirement when Carol and I moved from Colorado Springs to Indiana.
Carol: In Colorado Springs, I served as the hospitality hostess, helping with setup, decor, meal coordination and cleanup when Entrust hosted events at the office. Since that was only occasional, it morphed into additional responsibilities: arranging for facility cleaning (by office staff), general light facility maintenance, grounds upkeep, plus office assistant when needed.
Entrust: What are some favorite memories of your Entrust years?
Tom: On my return trips to Russia, I was encouraged by evidence of the fruit of our ministry years there. Two of the Russian men with whom I worked are now serving with international ministry agencies. Their Russian citizenship provides opportunities to serve where no westerner can travel. The rehab centers are now utilizing the Alcoholics for Christ biblically-based 12-step materials we helped get translated. We have so many friends in Russia who are always eager to have us return.
Carol: I am very adventurous and did a lot of travel without Tom. In Russia, even before we had cell phones, I ventured out with and without language helpers in order to help others. I also traveled from Russia to some Entrust women’s conferences in other countries by myself. Each trip holds memories of spontaneous connections with strangers, God’s blessings, his protection and opportunities to serve others.
Entrust: What else would you like us to know?
Tom: As we look back, we see how the Lord prepared us through our life experiences. I served in the U.S. Army for three years. Afterward, I went to seminary on the G.I Bill. Then I spent 26 years as an ordained pastor of Christian education in four churches. Carol completed her nursing degree while I was in the army, and she served in a variety of roles over the subsequent years.
When we got to Russia in 2002 to begin language school, and over the next several years, we saw how the Lord had used all our prior experiences to prepare us for effective ministry in Russia. And the journey continued, because the Lord used our years in Russia to prepare us for further service through the Entrust home office and beyond.
*Serving to Equip People, Entrust’s short-term and internship initiative