Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Grace, Determination, and Faith

Following is a memoir from a retired missionary, Ann Wollerman, who served in Brazil for about 40 years. She is 91 at the time this tape was made. The tape was then transcibed and posted on the internet. I'm posting the entire transciption here because I found it so inspiring. It's long, but worth the read. As you read it, notice
1. Her astounding faith.
2. Her extreme determination.
3. The abundant grace of God made available to her as she lived in a really difficult place.

You can go along way on the mission field with those three things.


It is so good to be back with you again. The hugs and greetings! And I want to thank Pastor Dale and all of those who make the program for giving me this wonderful opportunity to once again share with you the great, miraculous things that God has done in my life. And I do it humbly giving all the glory and all the praise to Him. And I want to encourage you in your walk with Him. So I will just touch on three of the most memorable days in my 91 years.

Of course the first one was the night when I was born again. I had been born on December 13, 1910 but when I was twenty_six years old the Holy Spirit convicted me that although I had been brought up in the church, I was a lost sinner. I had one foot in the world and one foot in the church. But that night as a guest in a little Methodist Church with my sister and her fiancé' I found Jesus and I accepted Him as my Lord, as my Savior. I asked Him to forgive me of my sins, to cleanse me, to change me, to make me a new creation as this book says He will do. And he did. He made me a new Ann.

And so that night I made the first vow that I have ever made to the Lord. I said Jesus, from this night on I will be what You want me to be. I will go where You want me to go. I will do what You want me to do. And so my wonderful life of walking by faith began.

Of course I realized that to serve Him I would need more than my high school education. But how could I go to college and then to a seminary when I had no resources whatsoever? So He began His miracle in my life, an unheard of thing I was able to secure a full work scholarship for my college training and for the seminary.

During that period I came to know what His plan was. What He wanted me to do was to go to Brazil, not to stop along the coast where other missionaries were and where our Baptist work at that time was very developed, but to go way out there into the interior of Brazil where very few missionaries of any denomination would go. To live with the people, love them, and to share with them the glorious gospel.

And so when I graduated from the seminary with a Masters Degree in Religious Education I thought I am ready to go to Brazil. But God thought otherwise. I was not appointed by the Foreign Mission Board and I was crushed. I made the second vow of my life. I said Father if You want me to go to Brazil I will go with Board or without Board, but You have to open the door. I will not go around knocking on doors trying to force it. So God instead of sending me to Brazil at that time sent me to Corpus Christi, Texas. And you will hear later in my testimony why that step was God's plan, not mine.

At that time the big city church was the First Baptist Church of Corpus Christi. It was right after Pearl Harbor that I went there in 1942.The staff was composed of the Pastor, the janitor and me. We were it. So I had ample opportunities to serve the Lord, to mature and to devote myself to the young people during those early world war days.

Then in God's timing He led me back to Arkansas to the college or the university, as it is today where I graduated. This time I was a professor and I was director of all of the religious activities on the campus! It was there and then when I was 36 years old He opened the door, this wide, a little crack. I was not appointed, I had no sponsorship but I remembered my vow and I knew I had to go through that little crack. When I resigned and declared what I was going to do, people thought I had lost my mind.

And so I made my third vow to the Lord. I said I know Father this is Your plan and You have opened the door but so all of the people will also know it I'll make a vow to You I will not ask anybody to support me not even the work that You will give me to do. I will never make a speech and ask for money. I will never write a letter and ask for money. I'll bow my knee and ask You and You will provide.

And that is my testimony until this day.So at age 36 for twenty_one days I traveled on a heavily loaded freighter at sea from New Orleans to Rio de Janeiro. Then one whole week of arduous travel from the eastern border of Brazil to the extreme western border of Brazil by truck and a wood burning train.

Finally, I arrived in the big interior state, called Mato Grosso, (which then included Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul), which means the big woods.Well, I didn't know any Portuguese, and had no orientation, or language studies. But as soon as I could I went to Campo Grande, the largest city in that area. There I lived in a little Brazilian rooming and boarding house.

There were no other Americans around to help me. I had a wonderful, intelligent, young man to be my teacher. He didn't speak a word of English. He only had a little high school English. I didn't speak a word of Portuguese but our miracle working God after six months, before I had been in Brazil one whole year, had me open a school teaching the whole primary curriculum of Brazil in the Portuguese language to His people.

But after my language study I found a little place that God had sent me to. It was called Amambai, Mato Grosso. It was not on any map. There was no church there, no school there, no doctor there, no banks; I didn't have much use for that anyway. Yes there were no banks, no post office, no electricity, and no bus line linking it with the nearest town where those things were available. But there were people, beautiful, wonderful people who were waiting to hear the Good News of the Gospel that I had to share with them.So of course all of the children and young people came to my school.

I taught one group in the morning, one group in the afternoon and at night the young people. I told all the children now Sunday will be Sunday School and bring your parents. So Sunday we had Sunday School and all of them came. In one year God worked His marvelous grace. There were enough converts to have a Brazilian Pastor come, baptize them in a little creek, organize our church and become the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Amambai.

Well one day I was riding my horse that was my transportation. I was not a very good horsewoman but he wasn't much of a horse either! So we got along just fine! So one day I was riding the horse, God was blessing and yet I felt so little, so isolated. I said Father I have given You my life but how can this one little life make any impact on all that need here and beyond. And He said to me, Ann put your life into the lives of your young people and they will do what you cannot do. Oh, I wish I could tell you about the young people who came out of that insignificant little place, where they are, what they are doing today! But I must go on because when that little work was strong enough I moved on I lived in six different places to begin from scratch or to enlarge what little work was already there.

I even was the first missionary to go to the state capitol, Cuiaba. It was a very forbidding place in that big area and it was the last state capitol of all of Brazil where there was no Baptist witness.So God blessed me as I went into little towns. At this time I had a pickup truck with a loud speaker on it and a gasoline motored generator so I could show a filmstrip on the main street of town at night. I'd get out my accordion and I'd stand on the street corner, Richard (speaking to the church song director), and I can't sing but I'd play my accordion. I was always accompanied by some of my young people and they would sing.

That's the little seed just planted and God prospered. Before I knew it I was sixty_four years old and I knew that I only had one more year there in Brazil before I would be retired. It was the retirement age set by the Board, and by that time I had been appointed. At this time my little mother needed me. She had been in a nursing home for four years because I couldn't come home. I had no way to maintain my life in Brazil and so when I could retire, I came back.

And so I told the Lord, I said, I will go but who is going to educate my young people? And He said once again to me, Ann, I want you to start a Bible Institute right out here in Mato Grosso, and your people can be trained here instead of having to go to other states and places for their preparation. Well I could do most everything but to begin an institution frightened me to death, but He provided. We built three little, very meager, frame buildings on a lot that the church gave us and walked sixteen blocks back and forth to the church for classes but God honored and blessed it.

I went back to Brazil shortly after my little mother went to Heaven. The first thing I did when I got back was to dedicate a great big track of land that we had been able to buy very cheap with the little offerings that I had been able to send while I was here. On the day of the dedication the young people played their guitars and they sang and we worshiped and praised the Lord. I was to give the dedicatory prayer. I reached down and got a handful of that red dirt, there is just brush and nothing out there on that land, I don't know what I prayed that day but I know I reminded God that my people were poor. They did not have resources to build, I did not have any resources and I had my vow that I would never ask for money, but I said, Father we can't but You can.

One month and a half later, you will see why I had to go to Corpus Christi before I went to Brazil. I got a letter from the Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Corpus Christi saying Ann, Harold and Caroline Kellum have been prospered by God and they are sending you through the church $150,000 for your work. Now Harold and Caroline were young people way back then when I was ministering in the church of Corpus Christi. They were ordinary little young people who had a very special place in my heart. So $150,000 scared me to death, but we began building the seminary.

They have continued until today. Not one dollar was ever raised by a campaign, not one dollar ever came from a foreign mission board, the bulk of it came from that one couple in Corpus Christi. We have ten buildings; six of them are two story buildings, a beautiful campus. The seminary is fully licensed and recognized to give degrees in Theology, Religious Education and Sacred Music.And along the way over my great protest many times they named it for me.

So there is a Seminário Teológico Batista Anna Wollerman in the heart of Brazil. It is a monument to what He has done. And so now I'm 91, almost, and I am on my last great assignment. I believe God has asked me to record on tape the wonderful things that He has done. Somebody called it my life's story, no it is not my life's story, it is His story, History.

So I am committed to taping this wonderful life He has given me in English and in the Portuguese language to send to Brazil for use there. In order to do that I had to make a dramatic change in my life style.And so God opened the door for me to go to a beautiful Christian retirement center way over on east Broadway where I have a lovely apartment, house cleaning, all my utilities paid, dining, transportation and quiet, safety and a beautiful environment. There I can devote myself for at least as long as it takes to doing what He has given me. I believe this is my last assignment before He comes. So pray for me, continue to encourage me, to love me, to thank God and be what He wants you to be and to go maybe across the street, across to your neighbor, go where He wants you to go and to do what He wants you to do.

God bless you.
Ann Wollerman
December 9, 2001


Anonymous said...

Cam, good job!!!
This blog is so great!
I loved it.
May God bless you in all the time.

Anonymous said...

Awesome, Cam! What a testimony, what a lady! What joy, what lightness. Jesus's yoke is light. I'm inspired. I want to cry. This is the life I want. Thanks for sharing this. This is freedom in Christ.

Janis said...

Cam, Need to find out if the original translation of Ann's testimony is available. I have a friend who was Ann's college roommate. thanks

Campbell Dunson said...

Hi, Janis,
I did some checking and no one knows where to get a copy of the tape.
They did tell me that this was a transcription of it that is posted here.
They also mentioned that Ann is 96 now. So, presumably she is still living.
This was another link they gave to it:
Sorry I can't be more help.

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Anonymous said...

Prezada Cam Dunson,

Sou Sérgio Nogueira, pastor batista e diretor da Faculdade Teológica Batista Ana Wollerman. Eu fiz o mestrado em Ciências da Religião na Universidade Metodista de São Paulo e a minha dissertação de mestrado foi um recorte biográfico da Missionária Ann Mae Louise Wollerman. As gravações que ela menciona no testemunho dela, foram feitas em português e estão conosco aqui em Dourados-MS/Brasil.
Teremos neste final de semana a Assembléia da Associação das Igrejas Batistas do Sul de Mato Grosso do Sul e celbraremos o centenário de vida da missionária Ann Wollerman. Orem por nós, para que consigamos continuar esta obra tão linda, de graça, determinação e fé iniciada pela missionária em nossa região. Meu e-mail é prsergionogueira@hotmail.com e nosso site é www.anawollerman.com.br .
Qualquer dúvida estarei a sua disposição.
Sérgio Nogueira, Pr.