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My full name is Sheryl Ann Martin. I was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I am the second child in a family of 5 girls and 1 boy. Some of my growing up years, I lived on a dairy farm, where I learned to love milking cows. I taught school for 10 years, mostly teaching 4th and 5th grades. I enjoy traveling which is probably what brought me to Haiti in the first place, back in 2005. Five years later, I made a second trip to visit a friend serving there. I fell in love with the country, especially the people and moved here in 2011 to minister to the Haitians through medical aid.
I serve at a mission called Mennonite Gospel Mission to Haiti. We have a clinic open every weekday, which is where I work doing wound care and registration. The mission also heads a boarding school for deaf natives. We support several churches and schools as well.
How long have you been a missionary?
Since June 2011
What factors led to you becoming a missionary?
Prior trips to Haiti, a friend encouraging me to go, a love of adventure
How did you know this was the path God wanted you to take?
Everything fell into place, doors opened; my parents and church were supportive
What were some of the hardships you faced during the first year on the mission field?
Language barrier, being far from home and family
How did you overcome those hardships?
With the language, I had to sink or swim. I learned to swallow my pride, laugh at my mistakes, ask people to repeat phrases, ask what a certain word means if I didn’t understand, and eventually we came out on top. Being far from family is just something you have to accept as part of the package when you are answering God’s call to minister in foreign lands.
Was it what you expected?
Yes, pretty much. You see, I had recently visited so I knew somewhat what I was getting into- the smells, the trash piles, heat, mosquitoes
What surprised you most?
Nearly everyone has cellphones, even though they don’t know where their next meal may come from
Will you share a memorable experience?
One of the patients who came to our clinic for reoccurring abscesses was diagnosed with cancer. We walked through that experience with him. As the days passed, he became weaker, and the pain was always constant. Each morning, we would go to his home and administer a pain shot. We were present the day Pastor Sophony led him to Christ. What joy! We were also standing by him when he drew his last breath and left to meet his Maker. Unfortunately we could not attend his funeral.
What scripture verse keeps you going during hardships?
One of my favorites is Isaiah 41:10 Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
How has your relationship with God changed during your mission work?
I think it has drawn me closer to God; I realize that of myself I can do nothing. In the states, it was easy to feel like I have it all under control, and yes, God is important, but I don’t need to rely on Him so strongly. That is not true. I NEED GOD. All the time. And my relationship to God is reflected in the way I relate to those around me, and especially on the mission field, I am carrying a banner for God and if I don’t ‘walk the walk’ and ‘live what I preach’ I may be a stumbling block or prevent others from becoming Christians. So I realize that I must stay in close connection with my Creator to be the blessing He wants me to be.
What would you tell someone thinking about becoming a missionary?
Communication is the key- between you and other missionaries on the field, between you and the board you work with, between you and natives… Expect the unexpected… most countries live a more laidback lifestyle than Americans- be prepared to have your patience tried; if it doesn’t happen today, there’s always tomorrow
Did you have a team supporting you in prayer when you first were on the ground?
I did not have a special group committed to praying for me daily. My family did, of course, and the board of directors for the mission. How has this impacted you personally and your missionary work? I personally think it has impacted me more than I realize. We do not know how often God worked behind the scenes and prevented calamities because of prayer. It inspires me to pray faithfully too, for myself and others.
Where have you served?
Did you “work up” to your current location with smaller mission trips?
I spent a few weeks at Northern Youth in Canada cooking at a summer camp for native children, I also spent 5 weeks in Liberia, Africa painting orphanages and conducting Bible school, two trips to Haiti
Have you mentored new missionaries yourself before they went out on their own?
How has your family supported your desire to be a missionary? Did their view of your work make it easier or harder for you to serve God in the way He has called you?
They support me by prayer, by paying large sums of money to come visit me. This has made it easier for me.
What culture shocks have you experienced?
The complete lack of respect for personal space. The cultural practice of respect of persons- using your friends/contacts as a crutch to help you cheat the systems, or get through somewhere faster or cheaper
How have the local people welcomed you into their communities?
Very openly as a whole. Some want to be friends only to see what material benefits they will receive from the relationship.
What was your scariest moment and how did God use this in your life?
Being robbed at gunpoint on our way home from church one Sunday. This incident showed me how vulnerable we really are. It reminded me to pray more specifically for God’s protection and thank Him faithfully for His angels’ guard over us. It required more faith from me to leave the main road and travel the country lanes. Every person who stepped out from the roadside as we were approaching caused my heart to do an extra skip. I needed to trust God completely, knowing He is in control of each circumstance in my life.
What advice would you give someone who is praying through God’s call to the mission field?
Please go if you have no reasons to say no. God’s grace is sufficient. God does not call the qualified; He will qualify the called.
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Hi, my name is Erica and I am a God-called missionary for Northern Uganda. It is my passion and life-calling to bring God’s word to the people of the world. Each and every one of us can do our part in spreading God’s word to people in need of Jesus’ healing touch and hope. Trying to figure out if God has called you to the mission field? Do you want to learn more about what it’s like to be a missionary? Check out my book, For the Joy Set Before Us – Insights Into the Missionary Journey today.