THE STORY OF BEN AND ANGELA

My husband Benjamin and I have been married for 21 years. We have three sons (18, 13 and 2) and one daughter (9).

WE ALREADY HAVE A LONG AND RICH STORY TO TELL

I grew up in West Michigan, he grew up in Guatemala, Mexico and Texas. We met at bible college in Chicago. He earned a BA in theology/music, and I hold a BS in biblical studies/international missions & education.

Ben married me when I was a mess. For years I struggled with debilitating health issues, which also affected me emotionally. Doctors predicted I would never be able to have children and would most likely be in a wheelchair by the age of 25. I was on more medications and spent more time in bed and in pain than I care to recall. To this day, when I think about Ben’s willingness to commit to me at such a young age and with full knowledge of my condition, I get tears in my eyes. He is a man who loves well.

In the first year of our marriage, we found ourselves pregnant with our first child. My body was not in any condition to carry and nourish life. We lost our first baby. This shared sorrow actually drew us into a truer heart of worship and intensified our commitment to each other and our hunger for the deeper things of God.

I WAS HEALED

Shortly after our loss, it was through one of my college courses on spiritual warfare and subsequent discipleship and prayer with my professor and his wife, that I was completely healed physically and delivered emotionally! I remember a doctor’s visit not long after in which I had routine blood work done. The physician waved my results in the air and in disbelief asked me what happened because my very blood was now “perfect.” In my young shyness and inability to give language to all that happened to me, I smiled and simply answered “Jesus.”

Jesus.

About a month after my healing, we were thrilled to learn that we were expecting our second child. Our oldest son arrived nine months later, on my birthday — such a gift and a declaration! All of our children are equally miraculous and hold stories of their own. Those early experiences shaped our marriage, our parenting, our faith, and our ministry.

Photo Credits: Caleb Blycker

OUR FIRST TWELVE YEARS

During the first years of our marriage, we lived in Illinois, Michigan, and Florida (going where there was work) where Ben earned our living as a trim carpenter and cabinetmaker. I have always been a stay-home mom with a passion for overseeing the holistic education of our children and walking with them as they become all that God has intended. And I’ve always managed to keep writing, studying, creating, and speaking on the side, some seasons more than others. My husband is quite skilled with his hands, and I treasure the furniture he has made us and the fact that in all the homes we have lived in, nothing stays broken for long! With his skills and my artistic eye, we have enjoyed creating functional beauty, wherever we live.

The years of Ben working a “traditional” job were not easy as these were the years following 9/11 and during the recession. We went through over 13 job losses. You can imagine how much this affected us. We learned to live completely dependent on a miraculous God. These times challenged our marriage and tested our walk with God. As much as my husband loves to work and works hard, he learned that his value was not in what he accomplished as a man, but who he was as a beloved son. Those were refining years. We made mistakes, but in all by God’s grace, we failed forward. We have so many stories from those hard years of our good Father’s care and provision.

Ben made this mahogany easel for me on our 10th anniversary. Every time I use it, I think of our story and that “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

OUR HOPE HAD ALWAYS BEEN TO “GET TO THE MISSION FIELD” IMMEDIATELY AFTER COLLEGE

But our wise Papa knew He had much pruning to do in us. And many assignments to complete through us before he would send us. His plan always involves his timing.

One of the greatest things he had to show us was that we minister most powerfully out of our brokenness, not with our knowledge or competency. We could rejoice in our weakness! We encountered the power of a life lived hidden in Christ, with the enablement of the Holy Spirit. We understood the critical lifeline of prayer. We defined with a more mature accuracy the particular DNA of our marriage and the acceptance thereof, as well as the make-up of our strengths and motivations.

My own heart was humbled to the point of vulnerability and teachability. I had to come to the place where my calling was not my god. My calling was and is to know my God.

We could have not come to Mexico without all of this lived-through revelation.

WE FIRST SERVED STATESIDE

In 2010 (shortly after my book was released) we began living and working full-time as supported missionaries on staff at an international missions sending agency in Fort Myers, Florida. Ben helped maintain the campus. We both provided member care and prayer ministry to preparing or furloughing missionaries from around the world.  

We saw first-hand how important the role of “senders” is to encourage, to equip, to give, and to pray. We understood more the inner workings of a mission agency. We also heard how lonely it can be to be a missionary, how difficult to raise and maintain support, as well as unfairly being placed upon a pedestal. Having grown up as a “missionary kid,” Ben innately understood all this, but now grasped it from the perspective of an adult.

Almost nightly at our family supper table we heard story after story from our visitors of the kingdom of God expanding and being strengthened around the world through many different types of ministries.

Our hearts burned within us.

My own heart for missions began as a young child growing up in an Evangelical Free Church founded by my Norwegian ancestors. I served on the missions committee as a teenager, learning all I could from that perspective. It was during my trips as a youth to serve in Mexico that I knew for certain this land would be a significant part of my life. Regardless of my health at the time, I held onto this dream. It was our mutual love for Jesus, love for Mexico, and love for creativity that initially drew my husband and me together back in 1995. I am grateful that God “called” me here, long before we met.

MAKING OUR HOME IN MEXICO

In 2013 we moved to Mexico to serve as missionaries under Ripe for Harvest World Outreach.  How excited (and a bit nervous!) we were to finally be asked by God to go! We were confirmed in this and sent out by our local church in southwest Florida.

Few understood the significance of all that was involved leading up to this point in our history. We sensed a victory cry from heaven when we landed in Mexico on our one-way flights on June 6, now six years ago.

A new chapter began.

Little did we know how much we would be changed in the going. How we no longer would be able to identify fully with either the American or Mexican culture. Our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven would take precedence in a way like never before.

We spent our first term (2013-2017) in the state of Puebla where we enjoyed a daily view of the massive active volcano, Popo. We lived outside the city of Puebla (population: 3.2 million) in a smaller town called San Pedro Cholula (population: 45,000). My husband established relationships with village governments and helped lead in short-term teams to complete clean water projects (spring boxes and cisterns) and often do the follow-up with discipleship.

We were there to serve the thirsty. We saw many people’s thirst quenched, both physically and spiritually.

Ben also helped construct and maintain a Business as Mission center. I hosted women’s monthly prayer gatherings and bible studies in our home, taught evangelistic painting classes, and was part of the preaching team in our bi-lingual church plant.

These were busy, busy years of serving and cultural adjustment for our family. Again, we grew and learned. I describe much of our experiences in blog posts here. Our term ended with the surprise birth of our youngest son, our little dual Mexican/American citizen.

Click the link below to watch a video recap of our four years in Puebla: https://vimeo.com/214217578

LIFE IN A VILLAGE

We spent last year in an insanely hot little coastal fishing village called Cacalotepec (population: 700) where my eldest son and I studied Spanish full-time at a language school. He took a gap year and earned all his high school foreign language credits, and I finally had an opportunity to learn the mechanics of the language (though Spanish is still such a constant, difficult thing for me).

We all learned about the indigenous history and culture of southern Mexico and found our hearts being moved in the direction of serving unreached people groups within Oaxaca with the Word of God.

During that time we lived in a bright teal-colored house with clay tiles for a roof. A large iguana lived in our ceiling and often peered down at us while we ate supper. Our bathroom was outside. Scorpions and tarantulas frequently decorated our mosquito nets. But, we heard the ocean at nights from our beds, and outdoors we saw a clear sky twinkled brilliantly with starry lights.  We experienced first-hand the two large earthquakes that recently shook Mexico, one of them had us fleeing to the mountains in the wake of a tsunami threat.

Our eldest son ran a small bike repair/rental business for the village. Our other children ran through the streets and built friendships. When we had to leave a month earlier than anticipated because our baby boy was diagnosed with a serious tumor and needed immediate surgery, many wept at their departure. While Ben and I were busy surviving and me studying, our kids were out bearing fruit!

It was an unforgettable experience, those hard months. Again, God accomplished a deeper pruning and unity. Our youngest son had surgery here in Oaxaca last May and through that was miraculously ( to the wonderment of the surgeon), healed.

THAT ALL MAY HEAR

Now into our seventh year in Mexico, we live in the southern state of Oaxaca, 45-minutes outside of Oaxaca City (population: 450,000) in a town called Mitla (population: 11,000). This time we find ourselves in a dry cactus-ridden desert valley. We live in a lovely rental home built by Mission Aviation Fellowship facing a de-commissioned airstrip and air-hanger. After ten years of homeschooling and four years of Mexican school experiences, our three older children now attend Oaxaca Christian School, a small school for missionary children 40-minutes away. This past year I also taught there two days a week and currently serve on the board.

Ben is serving with a team of audio technicians at a studio located a few minutes from our home to get the audio Scriptures into the heart language of indigenous people groups.  Over 120 languages besides Spanish are spoken in the state of Oaxaca alone!   The great majority of these indigenous language speakers cannot read their written language. This is why we are concentrating on making audio recordings of the Scriptures that have been translated.  The Word of God is a treasure to us and we desire people here have full access to it too, whether they can read or not. 

Men carrying boxes of the translated NT, now available for the first time in their language!

Ben helps manage the details of recording projects, and travels at least once a month to either make connections for new projects, encourage village pastors and leaders, assess areas that have not yet received God’s Word or distribute the completed audio Scriptures. It is such an honor to be a part of what God has been doing through the studio for the past 20+ years, as well as work by association with the faithful SIL/Wycliffe Bible translators. It takes a network of many people, faithfully serving in different roles to bring the Word to those who have yet to hear.

When I walk over to the studio to see my husband and pray with him over the projects and the language groups, I am always struck by the sense of holiness therein. The Scriptures have been read aloud hundreds of times over all these years there, in many different languages. It’s sacred work. It brings to mind Revelation 7:9-12:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,  saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

In so many ways we sense that the work in which we are now involved is the one for which God has been preparing us our entire lives. We hope to stay here for many, many years to come to continue to be a part of this ministry, that all may hear.

Learning to use an audio Scripture device in his heart language

Thank you for reading. Thank you to those who are part of our support team, our community, our network of intercessors, our family. Thank you to those who are prayerfully considering also coming alongside us.

We are rich.

And our story continues.