When the Mission Field Comes to You
By Van Walton

I remember the hush that came over the lively Latin congregation where my family worshiped when I was a child. Heads collectively turned toward the back of the sanctuary. I’ll never forget the first time I saw him.

Bruce stood head and shoulders above the rest. Not only did he stand taller, but his blond hair, light skin and blue eyes drew attention. All eyes followed him as he walked down the aisle and sat in our midst one eventful Sunday morning.

Why did everyone stare in awe? Simple. Bruce did not look like anyone in the crowd of short, dark-skinned, brunette, brown-eyed Colombians.

My eyes joined the many others who curiously watched him while we stood to worship, sat to hear God’s Word, and bowed our heads to pray.

Almost before the final “Amen,” my parents moved toward him in an effort to welcome the stranger among us. Over lunch my little family of four – Mother, Daddy and two little girls, befriended a missionary extraordinaire.

Although we were not a missionary family, we found ourselves constantly involved in mission work during the years we lived in South America. My parents’ gift of hospitality filled our house with amazing people who had given up everything to bring the Good News of Jesus’ love to all – even “savage” tribesmen deep in the Amazon jungles.

Bruce’s work didn’t confine him to the Andean rain forest. He came often to the capital city where we lived. While in town he stayed with us. One evening over supper, my dad, with a sly twinkle in his eyes, casually mentioned, “Bruce is flying in tomorrow.”

He followed with another announcement: “He’s bringing a prince with him.”

“A prince? Which one?”

I asked these questions as if I actually knew a prince! But soon enough I did, as Bruce arrived and introduced us to his friend – the prince of a remote tribe who had never experienced civilization before.

Introducing us to a prince wasn’t the only escapade we shared with Bruce. He always arrived bearing adventure, mainly in the form of hair-raising and amazing stories. His tales rivaled everything I had heard in my short childhood, but most importantly they laid a foundation for my life.

The “pinkeye” story remains my favorite. After a certain mountainous tribe accepted Bruce, he realized most of the inhabitants in the village suffered with conjunctivitis. Although Bruce had medicine to cure the problem, he also understood that the local witch doctor was leery. So Bruce devised a unique plan to gain his trust.

He wiped his finger across an infected eye and then contaminated his own eyes. Within days Bruce contracted conjunctivitis. He gave a vial of erythromycin to the medicine man and instructed him to place the salve on his eye. Soon Bruce was cured. He then encouraged his newfound friend to wipe salve on the eyes of all the infected tribesmen. The witch doctor became a hero to his people and Bruce gained the confidence of the most important man in the village. Now a credible visitor, he could begin the long process of teaching the Good News.

This unusual story illustrated the process by which a disciple of Christ might open the eyes and hearts of those who had never heard about Jesus. Bruce didn’t realize his tale opened my eyes and my heart also.

Years later, we returned to the United States and resumed the life of a typical American family. I always believed I would return to South America and to the mission field. Time passed. Education, marriage, career and children became my focus. From time to time my background came in handy. I translated or helped various immigrant families in need. Still I wondered, When will I return to the land of my birth? When will I go out into the world? What I eventually realized was the world had come to me.

One day I was shoe shopping when I realized the saleslady was Latina. Amazingly, she was Colombian. We had a lot in common and we laughed about our similarities. Before long I realized my new friend was not the only Latina in town. Everywhere I went I ran into beautiful women with whom I could speak Spanish.

Over time a deep sense of urgency began to spring up within me to reach out to my Latina sisters. I wondered if they had access to Bible studies, retreats, special women’s events, resources, and daily devotionals like I did. I knew how my friends and I survived daily trials, and I wanted that for the beautiful women I had met and those I had yet to meet.

I began to pray, “God give me a platform to reach Spanish-speaking women with your truths. Show me how to give them what You have given me.”

Shortly after saying that prayer, a friend told me a local church had developed an ESL program. She asked if I was interested in teaching English as a second language. I said “yes,” and marveled how God answered my prayer by providing a group of Spanish-speaking ladies just blocks from my house. The twice-a-week meetings offered an hour of English, a 25-minute get-to-know-you coffee, and a 30-minute Bible study.

My next adventure took me to the local pregnancy care center offering obstetric care in Spanish, as well as in English. There Angela, another Colombian friend, and I developed a parenting class based on Christian principles. We met weekly to discuss “coming to America” along with child rearing. Often we veered off course for a few weeks to talk about marriage, matters of faith, and cultural differences. We celebrated American holidays so these new neighbors would understand and appreciate the historical heritage and Christian foundations of the United States.

Still, I longed for my Latina sisters everywhere to have access to the same Christian resources that kept me grounded.

And then the Proverbs 31 Ministries team took a leap of faith.

“Van, would you like to start up and direct a Spanish arm of our ministry?”

I marvel at God’s ways. Decades ago He opened my eyes through the “pinkeye story.” Now God was using communication gaps and unwanted pregnancies to open more eyes and hearts. He was using me and I didn’t have to travel halfway around the world.

The rest has been a journey of joy!

Van Walton is a Spanish and Bible teacher, author of “From the Pound to the Palace” children’s book, and speaker. She was born in Venezuela, South America where her daddy introduced her to the Amazon jungles and her mother exposed her to the Andean legends of the early pre-Colombian civilizations. Van’s greatest accomplishment and joy has been standing beside her husband of 38 years as together they watched their two sons grow into the men God created them to be. Van is a member of the Proverbs 31 Speaker Team.

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Blogger Beseder said...

What an amazing wonderful story of how God prepared you and put His love in your heart to share-- and opened doors for you at just the right time-- to reveal Himself and bless Latinas and their families and the rest of the world. :)

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