Terri and Greg Novini, missionaries to India, know one thing about God. He is full of surprises.
“Always be open for the surprises of God,” Terri said. “You may think you know God’s plan. You may have it all planned out and planning is not a bad thing. But when God starts moving, you just need to sit back and enjoy the journey. I’ve had several surprises along the way. Greg was definitely one of the best.”
The two met in 2003 in a church in Midland, Michigan, where Terri, a 40-year-old single, never-married missionary to India, was the speaker. Greg, a 43-year-old, never-married Canadian soon going to teach English as a Second Language with Alpha and Omega in Seoul, South Korea, was on his way home from time with American friends. He stopped in for the meeting at the church he’d never been to before.
The odds of two individuals, one from Excelsior Springs, MO, soon headed back to India, and one from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, soon headed to South Korea, meeting seem astronomical. But Terri and Greg take it in stride as God’s plan for their lives.
From the first time Greg saw Terri he was “smitten”. He went back to her table to talk to her about Asia.
Terri, however, was not thinking of finding a husband. “When I went to India, I thought I would be single forever,” she said. “But I am always open to helping people who want information about overseas work. So we exchanged phone numbers.”
Greg added, “When I met Terri, it was different from any other woman I had ever met,” he said. “I don’t know how to explain it. Listening to her speak I immediately knew we had the same values. I think in the back of my mind I always thought I’d meet the right woman some day. When I heard her I knew I had to get to know her better.”
Terri said she honestly had no idea what was taking place. “I didn’t know God was sparking anything. But Greg kept calling and calling and we began to build a friendship.”
“As we talked I began to see that he had the same values about family, politics, faith, service and ministry as I did. At some point along the way, we both realized this was developing into something more than just a casual friendship.”
Greg explained, “We had the same values but, even more we both really believed them and lived them out.”
Greg and Terri did not let the fact that they would be several countries apart deter them from continuing to write, send emails and call.
Terri returned to India to work with women helping to launch several ministries there. She continued to lead women to step up and be commissioned by their church leadership to be used in new ways pivotal to the history of Assembly of God work in that country.
“There are some staggering statistics regarding what is happening to women in India,” she said. “There are over one million prostitutes between the ages of 10-17. There are 3,000 baby girls murdered every day. (These are not abortions). There are 25,000 bride burnings each year.
“In India, I helped to establish Women in Focus Evangelism (WIFE) Ministries working with Indian leadership to host the first ever All-India AG conference for women, published a magazine for women and assisted the Indian church produce a television show for women. The work is helping change some of the ways the church in India views the contribution of women.”
Greg went to Seoul, South Korea, where he was an ESL instructor in a private school. A prayerful Christian, Greg had grown up Catholic and had been experiencing more and more of the power of God. He was baptized in water on Prayer Mountain at Yoido Full Gospel Church, Pastor David Yonggi Cho’s church in Seoul. An AG church, it is known as the largest church in the world.
While he was there, Pastor Cho asked Greg to teach ESL to his International Children’s Choir on a volunteer basis. Greg also assisted in small “cell” groups as part of the English congregation. This happens to be the model the church in India follows for their small groups.
As they continued to converse, their relationship began changing. “God was stirring something in our hearts,” Terri said. “Other men I had known previously, especially when I was younger, either didn’t have the commitment I had to ministry or if they did, I wasn’t romantically inclined towards them.”
Greg had gone to officer candidate school in high school and became a regular officer in 1979. He went to college, was in the military, ran for federal office and owned a sound equipment installation business. He had a few relationships but said, “I did not get the feeling that I wanted to marry anyone. They were very nice and I was nice to them. I just feel like God kept me for Terri.”
As God cemented their relationship, Terri had conversations with Assembly of God World Missions (AGWM) leadership asking for permission to invite Greg to visit the work in India especially to see the need for ESL. Because of the culture of India that believes in arranged marriages, they advised against him coming for a visit.
Following the leadership’s advise, Greg did not come to India. Instead Terri went to South Korea in January of 2006 where she spoke at the Yoido Church.
“I knew Terri was the one,” Greg said. “I knew it in prayer. We got very close in our conversations. After she visited me in Korea and I saw her with my friends there, I was convinced. “
“We had agreed not to have a formal engagement until we had met each other’s parents and talked with those under whose authority we had submitted but, we knew we were moving in that direction.”
When Terri returned to India something unforgettable happened. She went to Pastor David and Getzial Mohan’s house one day to get her computer fixed. Also at their home that day was Rev. Bernard Ankoma Blessing who is known as a prophet.
Terri admits she was skeptical of prophecies at the time. However, Blessing prophesied over her. In the middle of the prophecy Rev. Ankoma said, “I see a gentleman joining you in ministry working by your side.”
This was a shock, especially to Mrs. Mohan who had traveled extensively with Terri even visiting her family and friends in the United States. She didn’t know of any “gentleman”. Pastor Mohan is the All-India AG General Superintendent in the country in which Terri works.
“What they weren’t aware of was I had plane tickets to fly to ask AGWM leaders to for permission to get married. Our relationship had grown to that point,” Terri said. “Then, we were going to meet our families and discover what we wanted from there.”
After obtaining her denominational leaders’ blessings, Terri met Rev. and Mrs. Mohan for lunch and asked if they remembered the prophecy. “Did anything surprise you about that prophecy,” she asked. Pastor Mohan answered, “Yes! The gentleman by your side.” She told him that she wanted to go home and get married. She asked for his blessing.
He said, “Sister, God already told about it. How could I not give my blessing?”
They made the trip home and after meeting both sets of parents, Greg took time to ask her father’s permission to marry his daughter. Then he took Terri into a room away from the rest of the family, pulled the ring out, got down on one knee and proposed.
The two were married on June 3, 2006 with many family, friends and ministry partners present. In a special video message from the Mohans, Rev. Mohan said, “Today you got that gentleman. God will use both of you in a tremendous way in ministry. Come back to India and bless us.”
Terri and Greg had indeed decided to return to India. However, to become an Assemblies of God missionary, necessitated much work on Greg’s part. This included going through the long arduous process of immigration, garnering AGWM approval, taking three years of classes with the Southern Missouri AG School of Ministry, obtaining ABCTE certification, getting a license to preach and going through pre-ordination interviews.
In January 2011, they went back to India. There Greg utilized his ESL training to teach children in the Bangalore International School. To help students at the private school reach out to some of India’s poorer children, Greg instituted the Youth for Youth Club where students go into orphanages, read, color and play with the children.
He also led an after-school ESL outreach program teaching Thai and South Korean children. Eight children have earned their beginner’s certificates. He is planning more outreach ESL classes in village areas for adults and children.
Recently he was the first keynote graduation speaker for Selah College of Theology in Pollachi. After the message he prayed individually for many of those in attendance.
“Greg has been worth the wait,” Terri said. “We fit hand in glove. His laughter helps give joy in the journey. God had a job for me to do as a single young woman. Now as the work among women in India has grown, I need to speak as a married woman in that culture.
“Ministering under the covering of my husband is the chapter God has in my life right now. This speaks volumes in the culture of India more than I could as a single woman.”
Terri explained that looking back she can see how God was working in her life. “I don’t think Greg and I as younger individuals would have been a good match. God brought us together at the right time.”
For Terri it was never a matter of feeling she needed to get married. “I was a happy single woman and I am a happy married woman,” she said.
She encourages Christian young people to enjoy their singleness and freedom to be full out in ministry. “Appreciate that chapter in your life,” she said. “Don’t look at the other side of the fence. Know who you are. Know your values and the purpose that pounds like a drumbeat in your life. When you meet that special person you will know if they fit with you because you know your own purpose. Life begins with God and ends with God. Honor God with all chapters of the journey.”
Today, Greg and Terri are discovering how to merge ministries. “We live on the grounds of Gateway Community College, a brand new college in India,” she said. “It is emerging as a women’s college. Teaching life skills to women at risk seems to be in the future. Women in India need computer, job and English skills; math knowledge to be able to work in the market place; healthy cooking, first aid skills and basic knowledge. This will help them to step out of the tyranny of poverty and abuse as we share Jesus with the women of that country.”
In regard to some of the poor choices those steeped in both Indian and American culture make, Terri says she feels God wraps His grace around those willing to make a decision to turn back to Him.
“God’s will seems to be fluid, not concrete,” she said. “It’s something that moves along with us in the journey. He wraps His arms of grace around us in the middle of our poor choices leading us back to Himself. It’s the beauty of His grace at work!”
Terri and Greg can definitely see the picture unfolding as to how they will work together in India. “We can’t always see what the end will be. However, we know God promises He will lead us. It might be a surprise to us. But if we are trusting Him, we will be right in the middle of His plan.”