Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year, New Beginnings, New Life

I need Christ. I need the grace of God. And having received it, I want to express my gratitude to Him in everything I do. I want to share out that same grace - and LOVE - of which I have been the undeserving recipient. And so - I am a missionary.
A little background on how I got my start in missions -
I first really became aware of the concept of foreign missions when I was in college during my first year, and at a friend's recommendation I attended a Wycliffe Bible Translators' dinner. I was excited about what I learned, and I thought that I, too, would like to "GO" and make disciples. When Ansel (my first husband) and I began our courtship via correspondence, we discussed the possibilities of being missionaries together. In one letter I even did a little cartoony sketch of us among an African tribe.
This desire to go on missions never abated in ME, although I think it did in Ansel. Whenever there were visiting missionaries at the church, sharing about their experiences, I longed to do likewise. But while I could not go physically, I participated through special offerings, and occasionally wrote letters to those missionaries our church supported. This was especially so when our church sent a medical missionary to Iquitos, Peru.
I had begun to study Spanish at the time, so when I wrote to our missionary, I also practiced my Spanish by writing to the congregation in general. I began to get replies from some of the natives - Pastor Hugo Samelvino and Marleni Saurin especially. We became friends through our correspondence, and the longing to "GO" increased. For a few years when our tax return was pretty good, I would ask Ansel about the possibility of going to Peru, and he'd scrunch up his face and say no each time. But finally one year, when I got this reply once again and decided a missionary trip would just have to wait until I was a widow, my oldest daughter Abi interceded for me to her father, and he relented.

Our younger daughter Cass had just come out confinement imposed on her by a body cast and physical therapy and she wanted to come with me. So it was in 1997 that we went together, guests at the mission where our church's missionary had been stationed, although she was no longer there. I already had good friends there in Hugo and Marleni and a couple of other brethren who had written. And now that I was there in person, with Marleni's guidance, I made more friends. I met a lot of people, including Levi Utia. Some I remembered, some I did not. Jose Choquehuanca, a youth who came to the English lessons I gave while there, I remembered and we corresponded. He told me about how he lost his mother when he was 5, and the hardships he faced growing up under the influence of witchcraft. He became the first of my many spiritual "sons." Levi told me later that when the English lessons were offered after church, he opted rather to go play futbol with other guys. So I did not remember him, having little contact with him.
Once, Pastor Hugo was preaching about spiritual gifts, and focused on the gift of helps. I was jotting notes in Spanglish, when suddenly he said that I had that gift. Eventually it made sense to me. Prayer and intercession, encouragement - these ARE helps. And these are what the Lord has used through me on subsequent missions.
We were there for three weeks. During that time, Pastor Hugo or Marleni would take me to visit different members of the church, and I'd be invited to pray for them. And I was also invited to speak at the Ladies' Society anniversary dinner. It was my first speaking engagement in Spanish, and I had to write everything out in English first, then translate it, and then read from what I'd written. I've come a long way from those days!
Well, I tearfully left Peru, but with a prophetic promise that I would be coming back in the Lord's time. Meanwhile, I maintained correspondence - with even more people than before (but Levi was not one of them!). Eventually, Hugo no longer pastored at that mission, so I wrote to him at an alternate address. In 2003, we got our first computer : our son Ben had gotten a scholarship for one college course while he was in high school, and the homework was given online at a website. So, having this thing in the house, I decided to enter the Twenty-First Century, and Ben set me up with an e-mail address. I wrote to Pastor Hugo, giving it to him, because I was aware there were public computers there. He told me he was getting married that year, much to my delight. And oh, how I longed to be able to attend the wedding. And God in His goodness allowed and enabled me! But I'll get to THAT at another time.

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