Looking Back with Larry and Melinda Henderson
Larry and Melinda Henderson took the reins of the FEIC leadership in 2012 when founders Terry and Ruthanne Hoggard stepped aside to launch the Global International Church Network.
Last October, during FEIC Summit 2023, Larry and Melinda passed the FEIC leadership baton to David and Karmi Buckley.
To mark the change in leadership and celebrate the progress of the last decade, Jeff Slaughter asked Larry and Melinda to reflect on their ten years of leading FEIC.
Could you start by sharing some of your origin story: where you guys are from, your call to missions, and how that led to your connection to FEIC?
We both grew up in Christian homes and met at a youth camp in Alabama when we were 12. Over the years, we continued to see each other at camp and eventually attended Southeastern University together. After we graduated, we married on December 21, 1990. I (Melinda) felt called to missions as a teenager during an Alabama youth convention. I (Larry) felt a call to missions during a missions trip to Aruba.
We served in local churches in Mississippi and Alabama for ten years and then began our missionary journey by helping plant Spanish-speaking churches with the national church in Spain. Then, we were asked to plant an international English-speaking church in The Canary Islands.
After serving in The Canary Islands for 10 years, we were called to pastor Vienna Christian Center in Austria. Soon after, FEIC founder Terry Hoggard decided to launch the Global International Church Network (GICN) and asked us to lead FEIC.
We never really saw FEIC as something that was different from what we were doing – we saw it as an overflow of what we were already doing.
Why do you feel that international churches are a critical strategy in reaching Europe?
For many years, Europe has been a destination to which millions of people from all over the world move. International churches are a ministry model that helps us reach these people who are: internationals, global citizens, diaspora. For this reason, we feel that it’s an extremely important model in the European context.
How would you characterize the differences of international church ministry in Europe compared to other regions of the world?
As mentioned before, the world has come – and is coming – to Europe. We have so many global citizens who are in Europe. For example, 54% of the population in Vienna are not from Vienna. And 63% of those in Basel, Switzerland are not from Switzerland. In Europe, we have a unique context to reach the nations.
Another distinction is that the national church in Europe has asked us to help reach those who they can’t – namely internationals. So, when we plant international churches, we are partnering with the national church.
How would you describe the growth of FEIC over the last 10 years?
I think it’s important to recognize that when FEIC began, others had already paid a price to launch international churches in cities such as Rome, Brussels, and Vienna. And as leaders such as Terry Hoggard networked with others in Europe, the strategies of international church ministry began to take shape.
By the time we began to lead FEIC, the trajectory was moving fast, and we saw the network more than double from somewhere around 35 churches to as many as 85 – and growing – today.
But that growth took place for several reasons.
• Momentum had already been established.
• We had moved into a season of strategic church planting.
• And the networking that Terry initiated and encouraged had spread. We saw that it wasn’t just FEIC leadership spreading the word about the network, but that pastors of member churches made connections with those who were planting international churches.
What are the benefits of joining the FEIC Network?
The greatest benefit of belonging to the network is relational connections. Everyone needs friendship, community and to be part of something that’s greater than what they are doing. FEIC offers all of that plus a covering: spiritually, relationally and accountability.
What did you enjoy most about leading network over the past ten years?
I would have to say that hands down we enjoyed the relationships more than anything.
FEIC is a relational network, so to build friendships with like-minded pastors and leaders of international churches throughout Europe was priceless. I love the way we added value to each other as well as the opportunities we had to help equip and resource each other with sermon tools as well as resources for worship, youth, and children’s ministries. We were able to help lift churches up and see them grow.
What do David and Karmi Buckley bring to FEIC as the new leaders of the network?
“The Buckleys have been active in FEIC since they founded Riverside Church Budapest in 2014,” said Larry. “They bring with them 25 years of experience working in the European context as well as a passion for international church ministry. We are thrilled to have them leading the network.”
Today, Larry serves as the Europe Regional Director of the Assemblies of God World Missions. Melinda is founder of The Inspire Project, a global movement to reach women of all ages.