Members of the Glafcke family (clockwise from upper left – Gloria, Daniel, Josephine and Gwendolyn) out for a walk in their neighborhood. The umbrella serves as protection against frequent, sudden rain and strong sun. (Submitted photo)
While they are members of St. James Parish in Menomonee Falls, Matt and Katie Glafcke and their six children have spent more time in other dioceses around the country and the world than at home.
Both traveled on mission trips as teens, and they met and fell in love during their senior year. It only seemed natural they would continue their love of serving the poor and sharing the love of Jesus in their married life.
Under the umbrella organization Family Missions Company, the Glafckes have traveled to New Zealand and Haiti, and served communities in the United States. The Abbeville, Louisiana-based missions company trains Catholic families and singles to proclaim Jesus and his Gospel to the poor. During COVID, because the mission trips abroad were canceled, the Glafckes led several short-term mission trips at the center.
A recent trip to an undisclosed community in Asia hostile to foreign missionaries required a bit of creativity when it came to approaching others about the faith. The clandestine location protects the long-term missionary family from being discovered by the government.
“We traveled to this country basically on a pastoral visit to another missionary family who has been here for two years,” said Matt Glafcke. “We are here on a three-month visitor visa, which could be extended if we show an express purpose for being here.”
Serving in a closed country is a bit challenging in that they cannot tell anyone they are a missionary because if word gets out, they would be required to leave the country immediately. This includes not wearing religious jewelry or clothing, and reminding their children not to say anything that would give away their purpose in the country.
In addition to Matt and Katie, the family includes Josephine, 16; Coryn, 14; Mallory, 10; Gloria, 8; Daniel, 4; and 2-year-old Gwendolyn Regina. The children enjoyed spending time nearly every day with the missionary family as the children are all approximately the same age.
The Glafckes stayed in a small rental house for about a month, then moved to two upper floors in a large guest house in the city, where the other missionary family owned a small café on the first floor.
“Initially, we came to visit the family and provide them respite,” said Matt Glafcke. “We also helped to lead a mission trip here for a month in July.”
The Glafckes provided music and prayers, and witnessed to those who came on the mission trip and explained what it was like to live as a full-time missionary.
“A lot of them had never seen anything like this before — a whole family on mission together full time,” said Katie Glafcke. “It was so new to them.”
The Glafcke family plans to remain in the Asian country for another couple of years as undercover missionaries. They came into the country through a Trekkers visa; Matt Glafcke signed up for masters’ classes later under a student visa. Now that he has finished school, they have a business visa, which gives good cover for the café.
While the country allows Christians to evangelize, they must be residents of that country, or it will be considered proselytizing and frowned upon. Most of the residents are Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim, with less than 1 percent Christian. While there are few Catholics, the Glafckes and the other missionary family attend one of the very few Catholic churches in the country.
“The church was built in 1994, so it is very fresh,” said Matt Glafcke. “I don’t even think the bishop is a full bishop over there because he doesn’t have enough followers to be called a bishop, but he still serves the area.”
When the Glafckes first arrived at the airport, two taxi vans picked them up with the missionaries who greeted them at the airport. Katie Glafcke remembers that while driving through the congested traffic, their driver kept asking their friend if they were Christian.
“Finally, because he was so persistent, our friend asked him if he knew what a Christian was or who Jesus was,” Katie Glafcke said. “He said he had never heard the name of Jesus before.”
Matt Glafcke added that the driver continued that he knew what a Christian was, but never knew the name Jesus. This is one reason it’s difficult to evangelize the community.
“It takes a really long time,” he said. “(You) must be in a safe space to do it. You must have a long vision and get to know people. One of the ways around it is if you support a Christian in the area so they can evangelize and bring people to Christ.”
Matt Glafcke explained that their friends will often support these local Christians financially and with prayers, even sending some to a school of theology to learn more about the faith.
“Another way that’s also interesting are the Pakistani Christians who live here who have gone through real persecution to be here,” he said. “They came here as refugees and found themselves in the Catholic Church and attend the English Mass. Our friends have supported businesses for them, and helped pay for medical expenses, their children’s education and even medical bills for a new baby. The evangelization comes in many different forms.”
One of the safer ways of evangelizing the citizens in the area is during a clandestine visit to the parish, where it is unlikely anyone would be listening to the exchange.
“It is a small parish; we sit on these mats and kneel on the floor during the consecration,” said Matt Glafcke. “So there are very few who come there during the day. It seems to be a safe space to talk about the faith.”
The Glafckes plan to continue serving as missionaries as long as God allows, and are fully supported through donations or receive stipends when Matt Glafcke teaches a class.
To learn more about Family Mission Company or to donate, visit familymissionscompany.com.