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Scenes from a sending church

The missionaries? They’re the ones in yellow, a member of the Austin Avenue church said with a laugh.

By Erik Tryggestad
The Christian Chronicle

February 1, 2006


The small fellowshiphall was packed Jan. 7 with people in bright yellow T-shirts bearing the words“Corazones Transformados una Ciudad Renovada.” That’s Spanish for “TransformingHearts, Renewing a City.
Among the crowd ofsupporters were five couples headed for Cochabamba,a city of 500,000 people in Bolivia,a landlocked country in South America.
During theirsix-month stay in Brownwoodthe couples were active in young couples class and visited several otherclasses as well, church member Eric Dick said. As church members were gettingto know the couples, they also were teaching their children about Bolivia andcontributing heavily to the church’s mission fund.
“I think it’s animportant focus,” Dick said. “It makes me proud to be involved.”
One couple — Gary andLaura Bull — lived in Brownwood a full two yearsbefore leaving for Bolivia.Both were students at Harding University, Searcy, Ark., and they married in 2000.Both planned to work as vocational missionaries. Gary Bull has a degree inbusiness and Laura has worked in speech pathology.
“We had an interestin South America and asked God to lead us to acity,” Gary Bull said.
Laura Bull’s parents,John and Charlene Wallace, attended the send-off. John Wallace said that the Austin Avenuechurch nurtured the missionaries and their families, providing regular reportsand updates as the team trained for its assignment.
“(This was) a veryprayer-led, thoughtful process,” he said, “not only for our kids, but in termsof reaching out to the families.”
Though Bolivia is a new mission point for Butch andPatricia Sandoval, they are no strangers to South America.
Born in New Mexico, Butch Sandoval grew up in Argentina,where his father worked for the U.S. Air Force. He met Patricia, a nativeArgentinean, and the two married before moving to Bosque Farms, N.M.
Sandoval, who had“become real antagonistic” toward religion, planned to spend the rest of hisworking life as a design technician for a civil engineering firm.
That changed whencampaigners from Coloradoknocked on his door one night in 1984. He began studying the Bible with them at6:30 p.m. and was baptized at 2 a.m. “There’s no arguing with the Scriptures,”he said.
Patricia also wasbaptized, and the young couple soon felt called to mission work. Butch Sandovalcompleted a three-year program at Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver and thecouple worked for three years in Santiago, Chile.
The Sandovals spentfive years in Mendoza, Argentina, and six years in Vina del Mar, Chile,where the Austin Avenuechurch began supporting their work.
Butch Sandovaldescribed their new mission point as “more indigenous,” and, in terms oftechnology, about 20 years behind the other cities where he’s served. Cochabamba’s populationis divided between Spanish speakers and descendents of the Inca Indians whospeak an indigenous language called Quechua (pronounced “KETCH-u-ah”). Teammembers plan to study the native language to assist in their work.
Austin Avenue’s close relationship with its missionaries is nothing new,said Bob Waldron, who served as the congregation’s missionary to Guatemala inthe early 1970s.
“They were afantastic church,” said Waldron, now executive director of Missions ResourceNetwork, Bedford, Texas.
Waldron served as aninterim pulpit minister for the church before leaving for Guatemala withhis wife, Gina. The church had a special send-off service for the couple, andgave them several notes of encouragement written by church members.
Bob Waldron said hereferred to those notes whenever he felt discouraged. The couple also receivedencouraging letters while on the field. One church member told the missionariesthat, “Not a service goes by that your name is not mentioned in prayer.”
“They have beendedicated to world missions since the time they started supporting us in 1972,”Waldron said. “They have continued their missions support and enthusiasm — andit’s just grown.”

Filed under: International

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