Michelle Atwell was a brand-new Christian when she attended InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s global missions conference Urbana and dedicated her life to fulfilling the Great Commission. “I didn’t know how the Lord would use that in my life,” Atwell said. “But I made a commitment that I would do whatever he would ask me to do to bring glory to his name among the nations.”

Last year, Atwell became the first female US director of SEND International, a ministry that equips Christians for cross-cultural ministry. As part of her job, she travels around the world and works with SEND’s missionaries, SEND’s ministry team, and regional leaders.

Atwell recently spoke with Christianity Today about the role Russia played in sparking her love for evangelism, why there’s a disparity between the number of women serving as overseas missionaries compared to domestic church planters, and how unreached people groups are arriving in America as refugees.

Where does your passion for church planting come from?

Approximately six months after Urbana, I spent a summer in Samara (a city in southwestern Russia), with InterVarsity doing lifestyle evangelism among Russian students. I lived among Russian students, and with a Russian family on weekends, and picked up some Russian. Through this experience, I developed a heart for what it meant to live overseas and what it meant to evangelize and disciple people.

When I returned home, I thought, I’m going to be a missionary in Russia. But God had other plans. I was a relatively new believer at that time, and I was the only Christian in my family. It would have been very difficult for me to make such a switch like that. So the Lord had me involved in ...

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