“Yes, this is Art Dodzweit, can I help you?” Thus began for Ann and me our decades-long adventure among an intriguing breed of people called missionaries.
But it really started in a Church History class.
“Students”, Reverend Jensen, portly and congenial, rolled out our assignment in steady, methodical tones. “On each of your desks you see a list of names – church denominations, Missions agencies, Bible schools. You are to select one. Write a short letter to their office, requesting a copy of their by-laws. Then, do up a brief, type-written report.” His steady monotone went on. . . “who they are, when they incorporated, something of their vision. Turn it in by end of month, please.”
Taking in the long list of names – nearly all of them new to me – I planted my forefinger on an entry mid-way down. My mini research-project was underway.
David spotted me soon after and launched into a chat about our overseas plans. The conversation shifted to missionary-sending organizations.
“You know, Brother Jerry, it was a long time ago but my father used to teach at a place called Elim Bible Institute. It’s linked to a missions agency – Elim Missionary Assemblies. I think they do a lot of work in Africa. You might like to contact them.”
“Hmm, where’s that agency located?”, I asked.
“Well, Elim is up in New York.”
“Lima, New York?”
“That’s right”. He shot a questioning look my way.
“Well, I just sent a letter to those folks asking for a copy of their by-laws.” David and I could only laugh.
Soon a New York postmarked info packet made its way to our our Texas mailbox. I turned in my assignment. Ann and I kept wondering about the short interchange with David Mulford. I turned to my wife.
“Shall we call Elim?”
“Sure, let’s call Elim.”
My first-ever phone call to upstate New York led to a suggestion from Elim’s main office. I should connect with the agency’s pioneer missionary to East Africa. He happened to be in the U.S. just now, visiting California.
When Missionary Dodzweit answered, we chatted briefly. He urged that I speak directly with Elim Missionary Assembly’s president. My second call to New York set in motion a journey we would not forget. I was put through to the president, son of Elim’s founder, Ivan Spencer.
“Yes, this is Carlton Spencer.”
“Sir, I’m calling from San Antonio, Texas. My wife and I hope to serve in Africa.”
Why interesting?, I wondered – not mindful another coincidence might be brewing.
Elim’s leader went on.
“I’ll be in your city in a few days. . . In fact, I’m set to speak at your school.”
Yes, I thought. How interesting.
©2017 Jerry Lout