Recently, I interviewed Kim Thompson, Paraclete Mission Group’s Human Resources Lead. Kim ministers to Paraclete’s associates behind the scenes. Often, acknowledgment of her work comes only when problems arise and she steps in to save the day. Otherwise, she remains invisible, enabling Paraclete Associates to minister more effectively.
Her ministry style replicates what she received in her early years—coming alongside those in need, encouraging, mentoring, training, and serving. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you meet Jesus?
My parents raised me in church. But when I was five, I sang in the Christmas program. During practice, I didn’t really understand all the words in the carols. So, I asked my dad, “Who is this Jesus, and why are we thinking about him?” He explained what they meant and led me to the Lord. He’s gone on to be with the Lord, so now I really love Christmas carols.
How did you know you were called to ministry?
Growing up, I did all the camps, VBS, AWANA, and all that. Then, at about the age of 16, I really felt God’s calling to the ministry full-time. No one in my family had ever done that, let alone going to college or seminary. It was something God did because I saw the Lord put great people in my life. I watched a lot of mature Christian women, like my AWANA leaders. I watched these women I admired serve in their community, their family, and their church. I’m an extroverted introvert and prefer to be behind the scenes more than in front. But when I have to be, I can be. I sat at their feet and watched them just do the work of the gospel. That influenced me greatly. I thought I could serve in that kind of ministry. I don’t have to be upfront. I’d rather be behind the scenes, nurturing women.
Tell me about your ministry training.
At the time, no college or university offered anything about women’s ministries. It was not a thing in the late 70s and early 80s. But one of the women mentoring me from my group of mentors was from Washington State. She said you’ve got to go to Multnomah. At that time it was just a Bible college, not a university or seminary yet. My parents did not have the means to send me to school, and I knew that I was going to have to work, probably multiple jobs, and study. So, I started with barely one year of funding. I went for my first semester, and during that time, they offered a two-year certificate. There was no four-year degree yet. But while I was there, they introduced a four-year term, and you could go to a junior college to get your science and other credits.
So, I graduated with a Bible major and a women’s ministry minor. Pam Reed, who’s with the Lord now, created this women’s ministry minor. It was really cutting-edge in the early 80s. Later, I went on to Western Seminary.
How did you get started in ministry?
When I was 16, I began my ministry by gathering a few women in my church to start a monthly breakfast club. Then, after graduation, large churches wouldn’t hire a 20 or 30-year-old to lead their women’s groups. It was always senior ladies who led these groups. So in seminary, I joined a Christian education major with a women’s ministry minor.
While studying and working for the seminary, The Lord said, “I want you to go.” I was already making short-term ministry trips to places such as Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Russia, and Finland. But He said to me I don’t want you to sit back on the sidelines. I still needed to do Greek, Hebrew, and a couple of history classes, and I probably should have, but I didn’t. I said I’ll go work wherever you send me.
During that time, an invitation came to go to the country of Latvia as a single. Once I got there and had to get residency, I learned that I would not have qualified for residence as a missionary if I had finished my degree. So it was totally a God thing. I kick myself now that I didn’t finish, but God had a different plan, so I’m not too worried about it. All the doors were opened to me, and none were closed because I didn’t have that degree.
Tell me about meeting your husband.
I went to the mission field single. Bruce and I were already friends from our home church, my sending church. We weren’t writing or in a relationship, just casual friends. We went out for pie and coffee one time and hit it off. I was interested in this guy, but he watched me go overseas. On his side, he said, “I really kicked myself that I didn’t move faster. I let a good girl getaway.”
In that first year, my dad came down with a kidney disorder. I thought I might lose him, so I said, “I’m sorry to break the mission rules, but I’m flying home to see my dad.” I spent a month at home here in Washington. On one of those Sundays, the pastor asked me to stand up during offering time and say hello to the congregation because I’d been doing women’s ministries there, teaching Bible studies, and attending seminary before I left. And they had sent me out. There was supposed to be someone who was supposed to introduce me, but they got a flat tire and didn’t arrive. When they started taking the offering. I just popped up on the stage. Bruce was in the audience. He says that when he saw me, his heart jumped. He knew he was with the wrong girl. So he quickly broke up with the girl he was seeing, and we started writing. In a matter of months, I came home and we got engaged. We were married in September of 2000. We realized God had a plan to make us a team. He joined the mission I was with, and we returned to the field married.
You originally went to the field as a single but returned married. What did your ministry look like after that?
I became a missionary with Greater Europe Mission in 1998. He joined me in 2001, and we lived in a rural community in Latvia. However, we couldn’t meet their support requirement, so we joined Interlink Ministry, headquartered in Ohio. They’re a pass-through agency that processes funds but offers no other services. We were with them till December 2012.
But then we came home because of a piece of paper, a required document we couldn’t get. God closed that door because he wanted us home that year. In 2013, Bruce’s mom died, and my dad got critically ill. He died in January 2014. So in that first calendar year home, we both lost a parent. But that year, we joined Construction Workers Christian Fellowship here in Washington State. And we worked with them until 2018 or 19. We traveled around in our RV and did construction projects for missions and churches. We could minister behind the scenes. Bruce did the construction. I did a lot of cooking and cleaning and all those kinds of things. But I had a serious ankle injuries injury in 2015, so we had to get out of the RV. That led us to buy our house in Washington in 2016. I started working for an organization called Roma Bible Union, working with Roma gypsy peoples of Europe. I was their US director until the beginning of 2020. They were floundering and decided to close their US office.
I was friends with Glen and Shelly, so I said, “Hey, you wouldn’t be hiring any associates, would you?” I joined Paraclete Mission Group on April first, 2020. Of course, we didn’t know what was going to happen in the world with COVID. Everything changed in terms of how Paraclete did their recruiting and hiring. Until 2020 Glen and Shelly did all the hiring themselves. But they realized that with Glen as CEO, it was more work than they could carry themselves.
I joined as an associate, intending to continue mentoring here in Washington. But I also continued working with Roma mentoring their young, 20-something pastors. These were young leaders just starting their ministries that needed encouragement, a sounding board, and that kind of thing. I kept doing that until recently when Glen said. “You know, we really need help with HR.” Paraclete didn’t have that position yet, so he asked if I would step in and create something. I started with the already set up systems and then made it my own. So, I’ve been leading HR since then.
How did you meet Glen and Shelly Volkhardt (PMG CEO)?
Shelly’s father was head of the missions department at Multnomah. One of my first classes, maybe even the first, was Introduction to Missions. So I met Norm in the class, but as part of that intro class, he also introduced his wife, Muriel, Shelly’s mom. She grew up in China, and then they served together in Taiwan. I was really interested and wondered, “Who are these people? They’re quite dynamic.” I wanted to hear their story, so set up an appointment with Muriel, who also served as a counselor. She asked me what I wanted counseling about, but I said, “I just want to have a cup of tea and get to know you.” That’s how our friendship started. Over the following years, I joined the many women Norm and Muriel mentored and became one of their girls.
After I graduated, I traveled with them to China. They were taking a student team of almost all women and needed another woman’s sponsor. So they asked, “Oh, please, please, would you come? We know we can entrust our girls to you.” So, I traveled with Muriel and the team and served as a prayer partner while she was doing speaking engagements, much like Shelly does now.
Norm and Muriel performed at our wedding. They knew Bruce because his grandparents were founding members of one of their sending churches and probably financially supported them. They were also speakers at Hume Lake Camp and Conference Center in California, where Bruce was doing youth ministry. So, when I told them there was “this guy” and who it was, they said, “Yeah, yeah, he comes from a good family.” So I got the Norm and Muriel stamp of approval. Later, after Glen and Shelly adopted their 2 sons, I babysat for them when they came home on furlough and got to know them even better.
Describe your work.
People come to Paraclete in various ways, through the website, through phone calls, or emails. I’m the one who is their first contact with the mission. We’re unique among missions because we’re not actively recruiting. Ninety percent of the people that come to us are already missionaries. They come to Paraclete looking for a retool. Either they plan to do something new, or their previous organization is changing. They’re in transition. I act as a doorkeeper, have the initial conversation, and answer their questions. I try to determine if they will flourish in Paraclete. Most of our people come to us via referral from someone else in ministry or from someone within Paraclete. I start a conversation with them and walk them through everything from the first contact through the hiring process and onboarding. I do the initial interviews, reference calling, and all the other HR functions, like payroll and time off requests. But most of my function is the hiring process and then supporting the HR needs of our associates.
I like working from home. And I get to meet all kinds of people. I get to hire them. I talk to them as references, pastors, teachers, and our associates’ friends. And I like being on the admin team, helping with the administration of the mission.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
While in Latvia, my big thing was ministry training and mentoring. The program I started remains. And that’s been a common theme—service and mentoring. Hospitality is a key part of our ministry life. My husband is a service person, too. So, we serve others together. He likes to smoke meat, and I love all the home-making stuff like baking, canning, and gardening.