2140 Crystal Beach Road, Winter Haven, FL 33880

(863) 293-0689 info@faithbaptistwh.org

Pioneer Missionaries: My Heroes (by Jonita Barram)

On July 3rd, 2011 at 6pm, our church will present “A Tribute to America’s Heroes.”  This special program will honor some specific individuals from our church and community who are truly heroic.  To get us thinking about the heroes in our lives several of our blog authors are writing about their heroes.

Hero = “a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities”; “one that shows great courage”; “an object of extreme admiration and devotion”
  

Stephen Simpson asked those of us who write for this blog to consider writing about our heroes, particularly those we have actually met or known.

I have not met any of my heroes, but I am looking forward to meeting them in Heaven, throwing my arms around them, and telling them how much I appreciate the testimony of their lives.

These heroes are the men and women of three to four generations ago who blazed the trails of Regular Baptist overseas church planting.

Generation T (for Trailblazing)
I work for the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. One of its ministries is Gospel Literature Services, headed by Chris Hindal. He is also the GARBC’s representative with the International Partnership of Fundamental Baptist Ministries (IPFBM). Every year more church associations join to partner with Christians the world over who share the same beliefs and practices.

Who planted the churches that are now associating locally and partnering internationally? For the most part, it was my heroes.

I Met Them in the Pages of a Book
When I was a teenager, my dad encouraged me to read We Two Alone, the story of Ruth Hege and Irene Ferrel, Baptist Mid-Missions missionaries in the Congo. The two were attacked by Marxist guerrillas in 1964, and Irene was killed. One of the book’s reviewers wrote: 

We Two Alone does not simply retell their personal struggle; it supplies fresh insight into the faith and dedication, the purpose and difficulties, of men and women who serve God under the most demanding conditions on earth today. The commitment to take the Christian Gospel to those in darkness is shown in the day-to-day life of the two women suddenly thrust into the spotlight after years of unheralded devoted service.”

It is interesting that the reviewer mentioned “the most demanding conditions on earth today,” because when Miss Hege and Miss Ferrel were on the field, the conditions truly were demanding.


That’s why “old-time” missionaries are my heroes. They lived and served thousands of miles from home—often hundreds of miles from civilization—without benefit of paved roads and reliable transportation, before the medical advances missionaries today know, before the communication technology we enjoy, and before most of the modern conveniences we take for granted. Some were under supported, and few had the good retirement plans that missions agencies today require.



In my early days at the GARBC home office, I worked on a book titled Not by Might, Nor by Power. It was written by Joyce Metzler Baker, granddaughter of the couple whose story it told: Paul and Etiennette Metzler.

Paul and Etiennette Metzler

I could barely believe all the trauma the Metzlers experienced. Instead of sparing this couple, God allowed them to suffer severe trials. Yet the Metzlers stuck it out, ministering in the heart of Africa for nearly 50 years! Their trials included—but certainly weren’t limited to—sickness, back injury and pain, death of three of their babies, separation from their older children, dangerous travel by sea during WWII, and the daily struggles of poor living conditions. Wow!


These are only four of the missionaries whose biographies I have read or whose stories I have heard. There are countless others, and they all are my heroes!



When the writer of Hebrews penned what is now chapter 12, verses 1 and 2, he mentioned the “great cloud of witnesses” whose lives served as role models and encouragement to him and his audience.  

For me, my heroes—those missionaries of a past era—are a great cloud of witnesses of God’s faithfulness and of the truly important things in life.


“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1, 2, NKJV).