We’ve known Paul and Marcia for the last decade. They have volunteered with SEND North in numerous capacities over the years, most recently as hosts at the SEND North Anchorage guesthouse. And while I’ve met many people over the years with a heart for ministry and service, I’ve not met anyone with larger hearts than theirs. Their commitment to serving others exemplifies the life that I most want to live.
It is my privilege to share them with you, as I asked them to tell a little bit about their journey in missions and the advice they have for anyone starting out. I know you will glean much wisdom from their story, as I have over the years.
- What first interested you in mission work and how were you called to a life in missions?
Marcia: I was greatly influenced by stories of experiences from my two great aunts and uncle in Nigeria, an uncle and aunt in Iraq, and from the Mission Festivals at our home church where I heard about the work of Dora Boonstra and Ida Scudder in India, and Harvey Hoekstra, the Swart family and others in Africa. As a child’s wild imagination or God’s calling, I envisioned this as a part of my life, playing that I was a missionary nurse with my mobile clinic reaching out and serving the villages in Africa. At age 9, I declared I knew I would be a missionary and this was revealed to me by a Sunday School teacher years later.
I continued to hear God’s call and the pull into mission work as I sought my course of study and career plans as a young adult. Meeting Paul and sharing similar thoughts, ideas, plans, desires to serve wherever God would lead us made our desires possible as we pursued serving Him in mission as a couple.
Paul: I had a long-time interest in mission work. This increased when I was teaching in Kuwait and made friends with some missionary families. Their encouragement led me (us) to pursue mission work in Africa. I believe that God was preparing me through my desire for adventure by going to Kuwait and through that experience I was acclimated to a foreign culture.
- What were your first mission experiences?
Kuwait 1969-1973 – taught in the American School in Kuwait
Ethiopia 1975 – working in a hospital and teaching in a school in western Ethiopia
15 different volunteer experiences since 2004
- How have you known what to do, where to go, etc. for each new assignment?
We have known through God’s leading as He has opened doors and provided opportunities to work, love and serve. Also the training and skills that God has given us and that we studied, have helped to determine our assignments. He most likely will not lead someone to be a surgeon when he has a teaching degree!
- Briefly describe the assignment you’re currently working on and the parts you most enjoy.
We are the SEND North Guest House host and hostess. Our responsibilities include meeting, greeting and encouraging folks as they come to the guest house in need of rest and relaxation from their busy schedules. We are also responsible for the general upkeep of the house and grounds.
- What is the most challenging aspect of this assignment?
Perhaps winter for us sun lovers!
- How does your faith change/grow with each new experience?
In each new experience, we have a greater realization of how great and wonderful our God is and a greater appreciation of the privilege we have in glorifying Him.
- What advice might you give to someone looking into a mission opportunity, whether short or long-term?
Know yourself. You need to have a love for people and concern for their souls. Reaching people with the gospel must be primary.
Be willing to “serve”. There are so many physical and social needs that call to be addressed.
Be a person of prayer and Bible study, drawing daily strength in your personal walk with God.
Be adaptable. Life may be very difficult from a physical survival standpoint and lonely from a cultural perspective.
Before you accept a position, set goals; then fast forward your life to age 65 and imagine you are writing a biography. What achievements or goals did you accomplish for your personal fulfillment? Examples: I want to write a book, be an accomplished woodworker, learn to paint, make 30 quilts, foster 30 kids, kill 5 moose and 3 grizzly bears and other wild game, climb Denali, become a State Senator, or learn survival skills, etc.
What achievements did you accomplish for the organization, church, or society in which you worked? Examples: Start a men’s/women’s Bible study, develop a study book for the people, start 3 churches, upgrade a medical facility to a regional clinic, mentor 3 men to become pastors, become a member of the international mission board, become a medical doctor in reconstructive surgery, etc.
It is important for your own satisfaction to look back and see a change. To look back and say, “I didn’t accomplish anything of significance,” could be a very deflating and devastating memory.
Develop hobbies during your younger years.
God will use you and your talents and ambitions in ways that you know and the Holy Spirit imparts to you. God gave you skills and abilities to use and not to let lay idle.
Thank you, Paul and Marcia, for sharing your story and your wisdom!