Journey of a Lifetime
I Was a Home Missionary Kid!
by Brenda Spruill
Luther Sanders’ life took a new direction when he left his home state of Kentucky to serve in the U.S. Navy when he was barely old enough to join. He was stationed on the USS Enterprise in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941. He loved the people and saw a spiritual need in the islands. After the war, he completed his education and pastored Free Will Baptist churches in South Carolina, Alabama, and Missouri, but my father never forgot his burden for the people of Hawaii.
In 1959, when Dad and Mom answered the missionary call, Hawaii was set to become the 50th state. Home Missions was also prepared to take a new direction and open up the new state to Free Will Baptist Missions. The Sanders family was approved as pioneer missionaries to Hawaii. The dreaded word deputation became all too familiar to me as a nine-year-old, defined by a different church each service, the occasional church that forgot we were coming, and constant travel in our Rambler station wagon. But, deputation also provided me a rich education in my heritage as a Free Will Baptist. We made new friends who became faithful supporters of my parents’ ministry.
Hawaii sounded like such an exciting place to establish a church, but in reality, we experienced culture shock, loneliness, and constant hard work. My parents taught me that hard work is always rewarded…and quitting is never an option. It took three years to go from meeting in the basement of our home to buying property and establishing a church in Quonset Huts, and then nine more years before Waipahu Free Will Baptist Church was realized.
The real rewards came in the changed lives of those who attended and helped us establish the church. Names and faces flash through my mind, and I stand in awe of God’s power. I was teaching Sunday School classes and Child Evangelism clubs by the time I was 12. When I was 16, my parents adopted a baby boy and our completed family became even busier.
What a blessing to grow up in the home of a home missionary. Mom often told me one of the hardest things was walking down the freezer aisle in the grocery store and watching me slow down by the ice cream, because both of us knew it was not in the budget. Getting a new outfit meant going to the local thrift store. Looking back, I don’t dwell on the have nots of those missionary years, but the multiple blessings of seeing God’s miracles in our daily lives.
Hawaii is still a needed mission field. Free Will Baptists have one church for a state of 1.39 million people. Mormons, Buddhists, and converts to every known religion work tirelessly to spread their message in the islands. The challenge remains for pastors today to take a new look at this state and accept the call.
Someone had to grow up in Hawaii. I sure am glad it was me.
About the Writer: Brenda Spruill works in the business office at Welch College. Learn more about Free Will Baptist Home Missions at www.homemissions.net.