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Posts Tagged ‘Missionaries’

By Jim and Wendy Norvelle

For Lewis and Toni Myers, the road that winds from their childhood homes in the flat Mississippi delta to missionary and family life in Vietnam to retirement days in Richmond includes a very important bench outside a girls’ dormitory at Mississippi College in Clinton.

Day after day, Lewis patiently sat on the bench and waited for Toni to exit Jennings Hall so he could catch her eye. He wanted to make sure that she saw how serious he was about her—about marrying her.

“Every time I came out of my dormitory he was sitting on that bench, waiting for me,” Toni said, her eyes twinkling. Lewis smiled an impish grin, remembering that he would sit on the back of the bench and put his feet in the seat. He didn’t want her to miss him.

Lewis and Toni have been married for 65 years. For 42 of those years, they partnered with the International Mission Board, including 17 years in Vietnam. They arrived in Saigon in 1960, a couple in their mid-20s with their three children. One more child would be born there.

Lewis is from Skene, Mississippi, a delta crossroads community among cotton fields with a general store. Toni is from Boyle, Mississippi, about four miles away on Highway 61.

“It was helpful to be from a small rural area when we went to Vietnam,” Lewis said. “We went with the mindset to build close relationships as we were accustomed to in Mississippi. Vietnam was just opening up as a new mission field for Southern Baptists, and we thought the new work there would fit us well.”

The same could be said for their marriage—it fits them well. Many times during the interview they either began each other’s sentences or they ended them.

What’s their secret?

“We both are of one accord,” said Lewis. Toni nodded in agreement. “Sometimes I have a good idea, and sometimes she does. Our faith has deepened over the years. We have a togetherness. We are not running off and doing many different things.”

The ending of their time in Vietnam did present a challenge. They were back in the United States on furlough in 1975 when South Vietnam fell, ending the long civil war. Eventually Lewis joined the staff of the then Foreign Mission Board in Richmond.

“It was tough when I came to the board and, for the first time, we were not in ministry together on the field,” Lewis said. Toni found her mission field at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, getting involved in the college ministry and Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) as well as serving as a volunteer interpreter for Vietnamese refugees, especially at the City of Richmond Health Department.

For Toni and Lewis, their marriage and their faith have always been intertwined.

“I made a good choice,” Toni said. You could say that it was like two parts of the same bolt of cloth or two sides of the same coin.

“I don’t know how to pull our faith and our marriage apart,” Lewis echoed. “We’ve made a faith commitment to each other and to the Lord.”

Their routine is a key, they said. They rise early, share a daily devotional time, enjoy a cup of coffee and read the newspaper. A morning walk is usually next. Faithful church attendance is a given. They return to Vietnam each year for Lewis to teach in the Vietnam Baptist Bible Institute. Toni counsels students dealing with long classes and final exams.

The road continues for this loving couple who started in Mississippi, heard the call to serve God while in seminary, preached and witnessed in Vietnam, and today teach a Bible study class, work with the WMU and sing with the choir on Sunday mornings at FBC. Together. Intertwined.


ICON-norvelles

Jim and Wendy Norvelle met at First Baptist Church and were married in 1983. Jim sings in the choir and serves as president of the Endowment Fund. Wendy serves as a deacon. The Norvelles have two daughters, Laura and Kate, and two grandchildren to spoil.

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By Paul Bishop, with Jeannie Dortch.

Paul disciples a Cambodian who may face strong anti-Christian sentiment from his family. Photo by Tim Kenney

Life on the mission field has turned out to be much different than we had planned. When we first went to the field in April 1997, we were going to be church planters in a restricted access country in Asia. Our first term, while not without its struggles, was a wonderful time of learning language and culture. However, God radically altered our plans when He allowed us to be kicked out of that country at the end of our first term.

God’s plan became evident when He led us to a neighboring country to work with the same unreached people group. Soon after our arrival, the team leader for that people group left, and Cathleen and I were asked to take over as team leaders. God quickly opened doors to the gospel. When two villages were burned down, our team used disaster relief funds to enter these communities and show the love of Christ. We were able to start a church in each village. It has been a blessing to see these churches start two more churches and outreach groups.

Cathleen works with Mon-Khmer women. Photo by Jade Phan

After our second term, God had more changes prepared for us. Cathleen and I were asked to take on the newly created Strategy Group Leader position for the country of Cambodia. We have been serving in this position since June 2004. Our primary responsibility now is to help each of the teams working among the Mon-Khmer-speaking peoples, the vast majority of whom are Buddhist. We provide direction, encouragement and administrative assistance to the personnel as they establish reproducing church movements. We are truly blessed to work with seven teams, each focused on a different people group. These teams include 32 adults and 38 children. We also work with national partners in most of our area’s people groups.

Both of our children were born on the field. Cambodia, more than any other place, has been their home. Early on, they traveled with us as we were involved in church planting. Now they travel with us as we visit with personnel in various parts of Cambodia and Thailand. Our children also help us to build relationships in our neighborhood. As a family, we work together in prayer to lift up both our co-workers and the unreached peoples of the Mon-Khmer Cluster. Our children have been home schooled for the past several years, but this year we put them in a small international school that uses a British-based curriculum. There they have friends from Cambodia, Australia, New Zealand, India, America, and England.

Cathleen and Paul, Isaac and Abby at home in Cambodia. Photo by Laurie Gardner

Our lives are busy, rich, and full of God’s grace and peace. We thankfully and lovingly send greetings to our always faithful First Baptist Church family,

Paul and Cathleen Bishop


Join the Bishops in their work with the Mon-Khmer people through prayer at http://monkhmercluster.wordpress.com.

For more missions prayer requests, visit: http://www.fbcrichmond.org/prayer.

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