The Rev. Gabe Swing and his wife, Jan, began talking about becoming full-time overseas missionaries even before their first date.
The couple, who live in Davidson, met on a mission trip to Piedras Negras, Mexico, where their group was building a house for a young family that survives by scavenging in a garbage dump.
On the last day, Gabe and Jan chatted and daydreamed about what life would like on the mission field.
They married in 2000, and Gabe received his Master of Divinity degree.
He has worked in student ministry in several area churches, including Lake Forest Church in Huntersville and Hickory Grove Baptist, when he was a student at UNCCharlotte. Now he is youth minster at Bethel Presbyterian in Cornelius. Jan is a nurse.
Gabe said their children are at the right ages for the family to move to Long Island, Bahamas, where Gabe will oversee ministry at a high school and they work with the Bahamas Youth Network.
The Swings plan to leave in November. In the meantime, friends and neighbors are rallying around them with emotional and financial support and friendship. Most overseas U.S. missionaries are supported by people from home who pledge money and pray for them while they are gone.
"The people we are going to be serving (in the Bahamas) can't afford to hire (a pastor) yet," Swing said. "For us, it's been really encouraging to talk to people (here) about what we're doing. People get really excited about it."
Friends are hosting dinners at their houses so the Swings can share their story, helping raise money for what the Swings plan as a three-year stay in the Bahamas.
Angie and Chris Simmons live several doors down from the Swings in The Woods at Lake Davidson neighborhood. The two couples met when the Swings moved there in 2004; their young daughters, Anna and Grace, are best friends. Recently, the Swings invited the Simmonses to be part of a core team helping launch their life on the foreign mission field.
"We're so excited for them, even though it means they leave us," Angie Simmons said. "Our job is to help get them there."
Angie said the Simmonses will be helping the Swings financially and plan to visit them in the Bahamas on a mission trip of their own.
Their 12-year-old son, Peter, plans to teach baseball to children in the Bahamas, who have few sports programs of their own.
"He's pretty excited about it," Angie said. "Having a 12-year-old think about missions is pretty good."
Anna and Grace already have started Skyping to practice the Internet phone system they will use to communicate when Grace moves. The girls even will be able to play online video games together when they are in different countries.
Gabe said technology and the ease of communicating with home reduces the sense of isolation on the mission field.
"It helps to know people are praying for you and keeping updated on what's going on," he said.
He said he hopes U.S. mission groups will make short-term visits to work with the local children.
"The area we are going to be in doesn't have anything for these children," Gabe said. "We'd love to have groups come over and lead swim camps or baseball camps or art camps."