Sunday, June 3, 2012
Ryan and Sarah Foster serve as missionaries in Asunción, Paraguay, where Ryan is the project officer for Extreme Paraguay and co-pastor of the Fernando de la Mora Church of the Nazarene, and Sarah is the financial coordinator for Extreme Paraguay. Also, they both are currently involved in leading a group of six young adult missionaries as they plant home groups around Asunción in an effort to grow the local church.
Before moving to Paraguay six months ago, the couple served in Pilar, Argentina, in 2007 with Extreme Nazarene Ministries. Sarah was the short-term volunteer coordinator and Ryan was in charge of the electrical construction on the Bruno Radi Convention Center.
In 2008, they moved to Arequipa, Peru, and continued working on the Extreme Nazarene administration team with Sarah becoming the long-term volunteer coordinator and Ryan serving as the IT officer.
In 2010, they moved again to Pucallpa, Peru, and served as the cluster support family for a group of eight young church-planting missionaries. While there, their group was able to plant 10 new churches in several small communities in that part of the Amazon jungle.
They have two children: Isaiah, 7, and Landon, 5.
Engage: How did you first recognize God’s call to be involved in missions?
Sarah: In 2005 Ryan’s job sent our family from our home in Idaho to southern Alabama for 10 months. While there, we were able to work in a small, struggling Nazarene church. We both began to consider the possibility of doing mission work in our home country. After we returned to Idaho, God continued to work in our hearts and we became increasingly dissatisfied with “just working to make money and buy more stuff." Neither of us had ever experienced a call to missions prior to this time and it surprised us! When a volunteer from Extreme Nazarene Ministries came to speak at our church, we knew this was what God was calling us to do. We have taken each assignment since then with the idea that it may be our last. However, it is beginning to look as if God wants us in South America for quite a bit longer! And as long as we are in the center of His will, that’s where we’ll be.
Engage: What is your favorite aspect of what you do in your present assignment?
Sarah: I enjoy seeing young missionaries in their first assignment and knowing that this is the beginning of the amazing things God will do in their lives. I also love working closely with my husband. We share so much more than when we each had our own individual jobs in the States.
Ryan: I work a lot of hours, but it rarely feels like a burden. It is so wonderful to have a job that requires me to do exactly what God had called me to do and does not even feel like work. However, I would have to say that the one thing I enjoy most is seeing people mature in the faith. It’s also exciting for both of us to see churches being planted and raised. We have truly been blessed to go into some of the darker, unchurched areas in South America. In the jungle in Peru we were able to pray over a demon-possessed man and here in Asunción we have already seen several life-saving miracles in the short amount of time we’ve lived in this city.
Engage: What are some of the challenges that you face in carrying out your work?
Sarah: The biggest challenges we face come in the form of spiritual attacks. From sleeplessness to nightmares to illness to disagreements in the team, the enemy has been trying to find any and all ways into this work to destroy what is being done. We have never felt such intense pressure as we do in Paraguay. BUT, we know that we are in the center of God’s will and we know who’s already won the war!
Engage: Please share a story of a significant event or moment that has happened in your current assignment.
Sarah: We mentioned earlier the miracles we’ve seen in these last six months. We have been overwhelmed with God’s goodness and His power in the midst of some of the strongest spiritual warfare we’ve ever faced.
One example of His protection over our lives: Two of the young missionaries working with us always had their morning devotions under a nearby tree. One morning, they chose to move to the other side of the yard. As they were praying, the tree near where they usually sit suddenly fell on their regular devotional spot. Had they not moved that morning, they certainly would have been seriously injured, if not killed.
A second example involves our 5-year-old son, Landon. The church grounds where we currently live are enclosed by a tall fence. There are gates in the front and back of the property. These gates are generally closed, although not locked as many neighborhood boys come to play soccer in the afternoons. We always let the boys play outside with their friends and give explicit instructions to never leave the property. One afternoon, one of the church members noticed Landon talking to a strange man through the gate. The church member called Landon to him and the man immediately took off. Landon told our friend that the man was his new friend and was inviting him to his house for a birthday party. The man apparently spoke English and Landon assumed that anyone who spoke the language of his parents was “OK”. We are so thankful that someone saw Landon and he did not leave with this man. (The boys no longer play outside unsupervised after this incident.)
God is so good! We could share many other stories of His protection and provision for us!
Engage: How do you maintain a close relationship with God and your family in the midst of the demands of missionary service?
Sarah: It is very important for us to make time each day to spend reading the Bible, praying and listening to God. Ryan prefers to wake up early and do his devotions while I prefer to do mine after the kids have left for school. We have found that the more difficult things become, the stronger we cling to God. We have experienced some pretty intense emotions and situations but He is the reason we are here and He will carry us through.
Likewise, family time is something that we cherish. Since we live in close proximity to the young missionaries we are in charge of and need to be available at all hours for them, it is sometimes difficult to maintain a family routine. We take advantage of the little things, like the drive to and from school and family dinners, to make sure we are staying connected as a family.
Engage: What are the rewards of what you do?
Sarah: The biggest reward is an indescribable peace that we are doing exactly what God wants us to do. Other rewards are knowing that we were and are involved in the conversion and discipleship of hundreds of new believers and seeing churches started where there were none.
Engage: What are some aspects of the culture where you live that you have come to love or embrace?
Sarah: We have been in Paraguay for such a short period of time that this is a difficult question to answer. As with all the South American cultures we have lived in, we love the importance of relationships and family. Children are a priority and treated as precious members of the family and church body. Relationships are prized and time is spent cultivating them.
A tea-like drink, called tereré, is an important part of the Paraguayan culture. People carry thermoses of cold water and cups with mate leaves everywhere they go. They can sit for hours while sharing this drink and talking with friends and family.
Engage: What do you like to do for fun?
Sarah: Isaiah and Landon have been raised in South America so they LOVE soccer. They can play it for hours and enjoy watching games with their dad.
We try to have a family night every Saturday. We skip a traditional meal and instead eat apple slices dipped in dulce de leche (an amazing culinary delight in Paraguay!) and popcorn while watching a family-friendly movie together.
Engage: What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Sarah: There are two national languages in Paraguay: Spanish and Guaraní. Although we parents struggle with the third language, both boys are picking up many words and phrases in Guaraní and can even count to 20.
Engage: What advice would you have for others exploring a possible call to missions, or embarking on their first missionary assignment?
Sarah: For those exploring a possible call to missions, we would say to pray and LISTEN for God’s will. The life of a missionary is not an easy one. We have learned that a need does not always signify a call. For those who have heard and answered God’s call to missions, remember that God is not limited by our skills or lack thereof. A friend shared the following quote with us: "He does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called." God just asks us to follow Him and He will provide all that we need when we need it.