There was a time that the Sohm and Cox families called somewhere much farther away than Waconia and Chaska, respectively, home. Both families have dedicated years to Christian missionary work. It’s a passion that has led them around the world and granted them incomparable experiences.
The Sohm Family—Thailand
Mike Sohm was twenty and in college when he went on his first mission trip, a 6-week experience on the Thai-Laos border providing emergency relief to refugees. That same summer, his now-wife Nancy Sohm visited seven Soviet bloc countries, delivering Bibles and Christian literature to underground churches.
“My own faith was so motivating for me to engage people from different cultures, that's what started me,” Mike says. “At one point that summer there was a sense where God called me.”
After that summer, the Sohms knew that missionary work lay in their future. After Mike graduated seminary and briefly served as a pastor, the Sohms and their son traveled to Thailand in 1984 where they spent the next seven years and welcomed two more sons. While there, Mike explains, their primary calling was to spread the teachings of Jesus. The most authentic way to do this, he discovered, was building relationships with the people around him—whether or not they were interested in Bible study.
“People become interested in your faith through your life,” Mike says. “How they observe your marriage, your friendships with other people. They get interested in you: why are you here? What motivated you to come here? Why is your life different?”
The Sohms found that having children opened the doors to building those relationships. As the three boys made friends with the children around them, the Sohms Thai neighbors opened up.
“If you communicate to people of other cultures that you trust them with your children, all of a sudden the barriers to communication come down,” Mike says.
In turn, the Sohm boys internalized a curiosity for and comfort with different cultures and developed a thirst to continue working overseas, traveling to Indonesia and Kenya.Today, Mike continues his work internationally as president of Compassion and Mercy Associates where he oversees humanitarian projects around the world.
The Cox Family—Madagascar
The Coxes lived in Madagascar for six years, and it’s where they spent a memorable Christmas: dancing and playing music with locals in a nearly pitch-black church, one of the only structures to survive a fire that had desecrated 98 percent of the village. A branch stuck in the ground and covered with flowers and candles served as their Christmas tree. It was, unsurprisingly, their most memorable Christmas to date.
Like the Sohm family, Doug and Monica Cox found a passion performing goodwill work overseas early on, he doing missionary work in Australia and Egypt and she teaching in Tunisia and Hong Kong. So when Doug was offered the opportunity to consult the Lutheran church on Christian-Muslim relations in Madagascar in 2000, it didn’t take them long to accept.
After a year in France to learn French and the birth of their second son, they were on their way.There, Doug did basic Christian outreach and education at medical centers, Christian churches, and mosques, oftentimes in the countryside. Unassigned upon arrival, Monica sold embroidery and craftwork made by local women looking to liberate themselves from prostitution.
When the Coxes reflect on their time in Madagascar, where they lived from 2002 to 2008, they recall the several joys: connecting with the people around them as a family, learning more about their faith and weekends in the rainforest. They also remember the challenges: witnessing extreme poverty, dealing with their son’s several bouts of Malaria and general culture shock.
In the end, however, it was all worth it, especially considering the affect it had on their boys: developing a heart for impoverished people and a desire to do good abroad.
“To other families who would ever consider it, I would say you won’t regret it,” Monica says. “There will be moments when you think, ‘What in the world were we thinking?’ But it was a wonderful gift to our children and to us.”