International Ministries

Coats to leave mission service with International Ministries

April 29, 2008 Journal
Dear Supporters, Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is time to let you know about an important major decision we are making. We are resigning from American Baptist International Ministries, effective April 30. Let me immediately say we are not resigning because there is a major conflict or spat between ourselves and International Ministries, or between any persons and ourselves, or a conflict about doctrinal issues, or disagreement about our ministry. The situation leading to our resignation is based on a personal family concern regarding our children. International Ministries and ourselves have tried to come to a mutual decision about what should be done about this situation but we simply have not been able to.

Many months ago, International Ministries asked us to seek professional assistance for our family. International Ministries paid the costs to make this professional consultation possible. Those with whom we met made some strong recommendations to International Ministries. After months of discussions with us on the matter, International Ministries has concluded that it would be best for our family to depart from Cambodia and relocate to a place where our children could access regular long-term counseling in a safer environment. International Ministries is not willing to continue supporting us as missionaries unless we leave Cambodia, at least until our children have finished high school and this concern has been resolved. These discussions with International Ministries have been honest and congenial. They have not been antagonistic. International Ministries has been serious about finding a common solution, and has been generous and supportive in finding a way to help our family, and at the same time retain us as missionaries.

Nevertheless, we have come to a different conclusion about what direction to take. Like International Ministries, Debbie and I have been praying and thinking through this situation for some time now, and we believe God has been showing us he wants us to stay in Cambodia. Some may ask why we have come to a different conclusion if we are all praying. I don't know the answer to that. The Lord knows. We certainly did not plan or expect to be leaving International Ministries at this time. We have some grieving that we are separating from International Ministries. Both Debbie and I have long-term relations with International Ministries. My parents were International Ministries missionaries. Debbie's father was an ABC pastor, and both her parents have long been supportive of International Ministries mission work.

We realize that some of you may question our decision. Yet we believe God has been clearly directing us to stay in Cambodia at this time, and since we believe God wants us to stay, we also believe that God will take care of our family and help us to work through these concerns. Please feel free to contact us if you would like more clarity how we came to our decision.

Now what? We plan to stay in Cambodia and continue the work we have been doing. We are increasingly thinking that God may be leading us to a change in our ministry, but probably a gradual change. We think that likely our work may eventually shift more away from clinical health work to more discipleship and teaching. We started a small pilot children's program a few months ago and it will need some extra attention for some time. We expect to be here independently on our own for the time being. We will look into other potential Christian agencies to work under, and also consider the possibility of incorporating and putting together a Board of Directors so there will be some accountability and structure for us. In any case, we think it unwise to be completely on our own. We will continue to depend on churches and individuals supporting us, even more so than before.

What does this mean for you all, who have been supporting us in so many ways? First, we want to thank all of you for all the support you have shown and provided us in the past. We are very appreciative and grateful and humbled by all you've done, both for us, and for the work here. Second of all, we want you to know that we understand that many of you may decide it is not best for you to continue supporting us. We recognize many of you are committed to supporting ABC missionaries through their mission arm, International Ministries. International Ministries is a good mission agency and has a long history of mission work with much good fruit. International Ministries has many good missionaries and provides accountability, support, supervision, and structure for their missionaries. Our own experience with International Ministries has been good (we do not depart from International Ministries without sadness and regret). We can fully understand that many of you will wish to shift your support to other missionaries and continue to work through International Ministries. There are good reasons for doing so and we do not wish to discourage you from doing so. We also recognize there are possible pitfalls of our working too independently.

We also realize some of you may be concerned as to our decision to stay in Cambodia when the counselors with whom we met and International Ministries think it best that we should leave Cambodia. That is a legitimate concern. If you wish to understand better how we came to our decision, again, feel free to contact us. In any case, we recognize that many of you will need to rethink your past support for us and many of you will probably find it better to withdraw your support of us. We understand that this is a reasonable decision for many of you and we want to thank you for all your wonderful support in the past. We will miss not only your support and prayers, but the relationship we have had with you. May God continue to bless you, your families, your church, and your ministries.

For those of you who might be interested in continuing to hear from us or support us in any way, we of course would be delighted and very grateful. You should of course be aware that you will no longer be able to receive newsletters and journals through International Ministries about us. You should also be aware that after April 30, International Ministries will no longer be able to receive or transmit gifts or funds that are specifically designated for our work here in Cambodia or for our personal support. If you wish to continue to hear from us, or want further information, please contact us by email at:

If you do not have easy access to email, you may, for the time being, write us at:

John and Debbie Coats

Box 862

Phnom Penh


We ask for your prayers as we travel this new road. Frankly, we are not entirely sure what the future holds for us. For whatever reason, both Debbie and I tend to think there are some rough times ahead. While we believe God has been behind these new developments and is leading us in a new direction, we do not understand why or why leaving IM was part of the equation. Neither are we clear how we will find enough support to stay here, or continue the work. Yet we believe that God wants us to stay here and assume he will provide. Of course, that is no guarantee that things will be easy and resources plentiful.

Thank you very much again to each and every one of you who have supported us in the past. We have felt humbled again and again by the many and generous ways you have done so. Many of you have prayed for us, many have encouraged us, many have given very generously, and a few have even visited us. For these, we are very grateful and very appreciative. May God bless each of you abundantly with grace, and continue to increase your faith, love, joy, and desire to be obedient to Him and to walk humbly with our good Lord and Savior.

By God's Grace,

John and Debbie Coats


PS. from John and Debbie - April 22, 2008

Dear Friends,

We have become aware that some folks are confused about our decision to resign. Some folks are asking what is going on in our family that led to our resignation. Some folks are wondering if there are other hidden reasons for our resignation, or if IM was really concerned with other issues. The reason we are resigning has to do with concerns about our children. There are no other hidden issues, nor is there any hidden conflict between IM and ourselves. I however realize of course that we have not explained our family situation and our decision particularly clearly and therefore many are left confused or left wondering about these questions. We did not explain at greater length because we felt it inappropriate to do so in an open public letter on a public website when the situation is somewhat sensitive and private for our children. However, for those of you who would like to have more clarity, especially those of you who have been praying for us or supporting us in various ways in the past, I want to again invite you to email or write us and we will be happy to elaborate a bit more.

Our email address is:

John and Debbie Coats
Box 862
Phnom Penh, CAMBODIA

Sincerely willing to hear from you,

John and Debbie Coats