“Yes, Lord, I’ll go anywhere you send us, as long as it’s not to Mexico or to Ethiopia”. (from The Call, part 2)
Why such an aversion to those countries? Mexico I’ll explain in the succeeding paragraphs. As for Ethiopia, I thought I should include more than one country in my antipathy, so that God wouldn’t think I was being too picky. That choice of Ethiopia, grabbed conveniently out of nowhere, was supposed to help lead God down a path of other choices for us. I know- I’m weird. And God still loves me and chooses to use me.
As for Mexico, I knew if we ended up there, we’d end up working with the Old Colony Germans, and frankly neither my hubby nor I wanted to. Why?
My husband, as a bible school student, had spent a summer interning with a missionary there and said he’d never go back to that area. As a young bride and the church secretary, I would read the missionary newsletters and would weep over the difficulty and trials of the missionaries there: persecution, sickness, constant attacks (like rocks thrown through windows among other things), etc.
Later, as we were in transition from youth ministry to a lead pastorate, we received a call from an official with the Assemblies of God who asked if we’d consider going to work with the Old Colony Germans, as the other missionaries had to leave rather unexpectedly and he felt we were the ones to fill the need.
“No way!” The very thought was frightening! Frankly, we weren’t quite ready for such an appointment. God had more work to do in us before we’d be prepared for such a re-routing of our lives. Five years of pastoral ministry was our petit boot camp.
Now, possibly, you can understand my unwillingness to go to Mexico.
See Jonah. See Jonah run.
We continued with the requirements of missionary application: numerous references, Bible tests, psychology tests, health questionnaires, and interviews. When we arrived to candidate orientation, all others had name badges with the country of their calling. Ours had our name and the word “Open” beneath it. (We had a few candidates ask where “Open” was. We wondered how they snuck past all the testing.)
Following the sessions on Friday, we met with the Foreign Missions Committee who suggested we spend the weekend seeking God and come back on Monday to meet with each of the Regional Directors. We spent the weekend in fasting and prayer and returned Monday for our appointments with the men who directed missions in each area of the world. Asia needed an international pastor in a large city; would we consider it? Africa had needs great and small; what were our giftings? They could really use us in the country of Georgia.
Remember the letter I mentioned in The Call, part 2? We met with the Europe Director and he asked us matter-of-factly why we hadn’t considered his area, seeing our backgrounds and language abilities. After we picked our jaws up off the floor, we looked at each other, then at him, and said, “Because your office sent us a letter stating you are not currently receiving missionaries to Europe“. After he picked his jaw up off the floor and popped his eyes back in where they belong, he replied, “I would never send such a letter!” Then this kind, gentlemanly man excused himself for a moment and rushed out of his office. A few minutes later, he came back in and informed us he checked with all secretaries working in his department, and no one had sent such a letter!
It couldn’t be clearer. God sent that letter. Even as I type I can still see us standing in our narrow kitchen there on Jackson St., an elegant fruit border gracing the walls, with Mike behind me reading ‘that letter’ over my shoulder…complete with official letterhead and this man’s signature. I wish now we would have kept it; unfortunately it was thrown away in shocked resignation.
Then came our last stop- the Latin America Office. After a warm smile and handshakes, John Bueno, with his typical friendly way, looked at us and said those fateful words: “Have you ever considered ministering to the Old Colony Germans in Mexico? I see you (Mike) have spent a brief time there and we could really use someone to continue as the need is great.”
With those words, regardless of what I thought of that place or how hard I had tried to not be called there, in that moment it was as if a spark ignited in my heart. Suddenly, it wasn’t the difficulty or the oppression that came to mind, but a picture of hope stirred in interest, and dare I say, of excitement. My husband would later share how he too was abruptly burdened by the Holy Spirit for that people and place and realized God was setting us apart for such a task.
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:2,3