CCCU has a rich history of national and international mission outreach! CCCU has sent hundreds of people around the world since CCCU’s first international missionary, Mary Johnson, boarded a ship bound for India in 1929.
The General Missionary Department recently began a project to track down our former CCCU career and volunteer missionaries. Through many personal conversations, countless follow-up phone calls, e-mail after e-mail, online research, and even checking white pages, we connected with many wonderful people who have contributed deeply to our Great Commission Movement! We enjoyed hearing the stories of a couple of our oldest alumni and thought you might also.
Education was one of the early ministries on the Texas-Mexico Border. The Christian Union Institute operated three schools at that time. Students at the school in Zapata came from the surrounding community. The school in Laredo was for children age 12 to 20 that legally crossed the Rio Grand River daily to continue their studies. Countless children over the years were taught and mentored by our faithful staff members. We can learn much from two of the early servants, Sylvia (Huffman) Stone and Bea (Ramsey) Park.
Sylvia Stone served on the Texas-Mexico Border from 1949 to 1958. Always up for adventure with Jesus, she spent her first year teaching first graders who did not speak English - before she learned Spanish herself! Sylvia shared how difficult the transitions were. She would cry when she departed for the field and cry when it was time to return to Ohio. No matter how hard it was, she always followed where God led her.
Today, Sylvia is 93 years old and attends Peebles CCCU. She still sings songs in Spanish and praises the Lord in the church aisles. She is described as the church’s cheerleader. Here is Sylvia’s story.
Sylvia’s Story: “In 1949, I was at Mount of Praise Camp Meeting on the Ohio Street campground when the need for teachers at Christian Union Institute was presented. I immediately thought, ‘I could do that.’ I went to pray in the prayer chapel by the railroad track. I was scared, thinking I would need to take a train out by myself and would possibly get lost. I struggled, prayed, and finally surrendered to the Lord’s will. Much to my delight, there were three other young women also headed for the Border - Edna Leonard, Mabel Blakeman, and Bea (Ramsey) Park.
A generous supporter donated a well-used Studebaker for us to make the trip to Texas. The men of the denomination gave the car a tune-up after our farewell service, and we departed at 5:00 p.m. on a Thursday. We arrived late in the afternoon on Labor Day, the night before school started. Rev. Burnis Bushong, the school director, was pacing the lane when we pulled up. Isn’t it just like God to answer my prayer with a fun, unexpected road trip?”
Bea (Ramsey) Park, another one of our pioneers, is 96 years old. After returning from the Border, Bea married Rev. Neil Park and served as a pastor’s wife for 50 years. They are members of Bond’s Chapel CCCU.
Bea’s Story (as told by her son Byron): Bea was just a little girl when she dreamed that she walked through a door in a foreign land and stepped into a room with a dirt floor. Passionate about God’s work around the world, she remembers attending a missionary service in a CCCU church in Chillicothe, Ohio, where Mary Johnson was the special speaker. Mary had traveled to India by boat in 1929 to follow God’s calling on her life. Mary said to the gathered group, “Maybe someday one of you will go!” Bea immediately said, “I will!”
Several years later Bea was at Mount of Praise Camp Meeting when she was asked by the General Missionary Board if she would be willing to go to the Texas-Mexico Border and teach at the Christian Union Institute. She excused herself to go pray at Circleville First Church, just down the street. Convinced of God’s direction, she made immediate preparations to depart for the Border. She left directly from the campgrounds without returning to her home in Chillicothe.
Ministry on the Border was filled with adventure! With dark hair and a dark complexion, Bea blended in quite well and was often questioned by security when crossing the Border. Bea remembers driving to San Ignacio, Texas, in the old Studebaker. The gas tank leaked so they put a pan under the car to catch the gas and poured it back in the tank before taking off the next morning! One day she went to visit a new friend. As she stepped through the wooden door of the new friend’s home onto the dirt floor, her childhood dream flooded her mind.
Bea and Sylvia were both faithful to consider the need for workers and seek God’s direction in prayer. As a result of their faithful obedience, the lives of countless children were impacted forever. Are we praying and encouraging our young men and women to follow God’s leading in 2021? Is God calling you? Let us continue to passionately pray the prayer of Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Photo 1: September 1, 1949, Edna Leonard, Mabel Blakeman, Sylvia (Huffman) Stone and Bea (Ramsey) Park pose for a picture in front of the donated Studebaker as they depart from the Mount of Praise Campground to serve at missionaries on the Texas-Mexico Border.