Remembering history and then moving forward

25 Feb

The year was 1898, and a 22 year-old named David Finstrom followed God’s call to go to Venezuela to share the Gospel. For decades he labored and gave his life in a way that made it clear to the Venezuelans that he was there to help them. But pioneers don’t necessarily make great team members, and soon after other missionaries followed in his footsteps there were striking differences in opinion and approach. Nevertheless, David Finstrom is highly regarded by the Venezuelan church and the last one he pastored in Palo Negro still bears his name.

David Finstrom never wanted to leave Venezuela. He took very few home assignments and stayed in ministry many years after his official retirement. Just one month after his eightieth birthday, he passed away in his home in Palo Negro. His funeral was attended by hundreds, representing churches, government and many who simply knew him as the man who would help in need. His grave is simple, marked with a Bible verse and his name.

I had the privilege to visit this grave and remember that all of the mission work our organization has in Latin America began with this one man. Would he fit the model we seek for missionaries today? Perhaps not. But he was a pioneer when that meant real hardship, and he stayed at it for 58 years. That is amazing, and I am grateful to him for the doors that opened as a result of his commitment made at the young age of 22.

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