A Journey of Faith

Leaving a life filled with family and service in Canada to walk with God in a new land

By Barbara White
October 2003

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As the crimson sky gave way to daylight, our plane touched down in Georgetown, Guyana. This is to be the home of Scarboro lay missioners Maxine Bell and I for the next three years as we live and work among the people here.

I first felt called to do mission work many years ago. After graduating from high school, I took nurses' training at the University of Alberta and worked for a short while before I married. My husband Glenn and I raised six children who are now grown and independent. During our 39 years together we did much traveling and enjoyed visiting other peoples and experiencing their different ways of life.

When my husband was nearing retirement, I was anxious to do something more with my nurses' training. Up until this time, I had been a stay-at-home mom and co-operator of our farm. So when the opportunity arose, we moved to British Columbia and bought a care home for 16 seniors.

Here I could put my nursing to use and Glenn could get away from a nine-to-five office job.

Operating this home was a most enjoyable and fulfilling time in our lives. Fourteen years later we decided to retire and do some traveling while we still had our health and energy. We hoped to give some of our time to helping others in another country. However, God had other plans. Five months after we sold the care home, Glenn was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died six months later.

Scarboro missioners Maxine Bell, Barbara White, and Magda VanZyl. Guyana.

At the stelling, about to embark on a river journey with Jaggernaut, a friend who does social work and counselling with AIDS patients. L-R: Scarboro missioners Maxine Bell, Barbara White, and Magda VanZyl. Guyana.

The next couple of years were a time of turmoil and adjustment for me, but I feel that I have come to terms with my grief. I soon realized that living the 'easy' life was not enough for me and that I was being called to do something more with the time God has given me.

After researching many different organizations that do mission work, I decided to apply to Scarboro Missions. I wanted an organization with a faith base. I had heard of Scarboro Missions many years earlier when a Scarboro priest spoke at our parish in Ottawa. And Scarboro Missions magazine was always around our home.

When the application for the lay program arrived with its many questions and a request for me to write an autobiography, I was daunted. Then one day I was prompted to get going and lo and behold my words ran off the computer quite easily.

Things moved quickly from there and I was soon enrolled in the lay formation program. This was an excellent time of preparation for mission. I feel a deep gratitude to Scarboro Missions for being such a wonderful supportive community and giving lay people this opportunity to serve.

One of the most difficult aspects of going to mission overseas for three years was leaving my family, my seven grandchildren, and my friends. Yet, their blessings and affirmation confirm that I have made the right choice at this time in my life.

Since my arrival in Guyana, I am enjoying my work at the hospitals and the orphanages and it keeps me very busy. Sometimes it is pretty heart-wrenching, seeing all the poverty and neglect. All I have to offer is myself and my gifts, but with prayer and faith I know the Lord will lead me, and I pray for the courage and strength to follow God's will.

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