Grounded in Faith

My Mom was a committed Christian who prayed and taught us to pray. My dad wasn't as committed as her, he was brought up in a different church, the old Mennonite church, and he didn't go to church except for weddings and funerals.  But I know my mother prayed for all of us.

As small children, I don’t remember religion playing such a big role in our lives, because my Dad wasn’t so keen on it...

...but my mother always made sure that we got to vacation Bible school in the summer.  There was a school about four miles away that had a Bible school every summer, and we would go to that and it became the foundation for my beliefs.

Mom’s Prayers

I don't really remember Mom telling us Bible stories or anything, but she would sing, and she taught us to say a bedtime and a mealtime prayer.  Sometimes she would have some friends come in and they would sing the old hymns that she loved. She had a notebook and she wrote all these songs down by hand, and it was precious to us that she had done that.

She played a huge role in my life even though she died when I was relatively young.  There's a song that says mother's prayers have followed me, and I feel strongly that my mother played a huge role in shaping my life and my destiny.

I became a committed Christian when I was 12 years old, and I knew even then that I wanted to serve God and that I wanted to do whatever the Lord wanted me to do. For me always the ultimate was to be a missionary.  The rest of the family didn't feel that call, but for me it was always a drive or a push.

A Missionary’s Mission

People sometimes ask me what a missionary does. Maybe I now would be a good time tell you a bit about that, because some people have the wrong idea of what a missionary does. People often think that missionaries go and preach to people and try to get them away from their own religion.

Well, that’s just not the case, not in my church. So I want to tell you my perspective on what it means to be a missionary, because I think it’s important to make it clear.

A missionary’s job, at least the kind I am, doesn’t involve trying to change people, or trying to get them to change their religion, not at all. Each person must find his or her own right path with the guidance of God.

So how do people become missionaries? First of all, I think you have to have a calling, and you have to want to share your faith.  I’m thankful for what God has done for me. He saved me from sin and death and hell and gave me a new life.  I can live at a level where I am pleasing to God.  I receive his blessings and I'm thankful for that.

I want to share my gratitude with others, to show them that this is what God has done for me. Whether or not they choose the same path as me is completely up to them. Nobody's going to force another person to change his or her belief. But I can show them, through my actions and the way I live my life that this is what God has done for me, and I would wish the same for them. It’s not about forcing people to do anything.

Help Comes First

My first obligation is to God, then to the church and then to the mission itself.  People have different callings. Someone might be a pastor in a church and he preaches and that's what he does every day; others are teachers and work in schools.

My calling was to work in a hospital in a foreign country – the Trucial States, which later became the United Arab Emirates. I still work here and I still love what I do. And I love the people here; they are like my family now.
We work as hard as we can to help people physically and emotionally. If and when we have opportunity to share our faith, we might say God did this for me, you are in a difficult place, God can also help you.  It’s that type of sharing relationship.  It's being in that place where a person needs you and being able to share that faith with them.

The main aims of being a missionary are first to help people who need it, who have less than you do, or who need assistance in some way, and second, to live an open life, to be an open book, an example to others.

In the way I live, I show that I have accepted Christ as my saviour, this is the path I have chosen and it’s a path that’s open to everyone, if they choose it. And that’s where it ends. There is no force, we don’t try to convert anyone, everyone is free to choose his or her faith. It’s up to the individual.

Deep Respect

So really, for me, it’s more about caring for people, about providing a humanitarian service. It’s not about religion. I have deep respect for the Arab people, the religion of Islam, the faith of Muslim people and their wonderful traditions.

I didn’t know it when I first came to this land that is now called the UAE, for example, that I would it to be such a welcoming place. The Islamic culture is rich and beautiful, and the hospitality of the people here is second to none – it’s deeply ingrained in their culture and the way they live. They are open and friendly and so helpful to newcomers.

When we first arrived here in the early 1960s, the people here treated us like their family. As the years went by, they became like my own brothers and sisters. I love them with all my heart.

Answering the Call

Anyway, at the time, I felt God was speaking to me personally through His Word, the Bible.  And I responded to Him in a positive way. 

I found my word from God in His words to Abraham when He said,  "Get thee out of thy country and from thy father’s house unto a land that I will show thee…" And I replied, "I am ready to go wherever you will lead me, and I am ready to obey you and serve you."

And when I heard of the Arabian Gulf, I realized that this was the land that God was waiting to show me!   I was so excited and I knew THIS WAS IT!!!

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Gertrude's story