A little girl, four years of age, attends a missionary service in rural Minnesota. At the close of the service, the missionary speaker, a single lady who served in Africa, announced that she felt that God was calling someone from the congregation to missionary service and she invited that person to come forward for prayer. The little girl immediately went forward. On seeing the child, the missionary said to her, “Honey, this isn’t for children.” The little girl took her seat. Again, the missionary made a passionate appeal to the person God was calling to be a missionary. And again, the little girl was the only one to go forward. The missionary responded by saying, “I’m not talking to children.” The missionary continued, “I am strongly impressed of the Lord that he is calling someone to missionary service. I don’t want to close without praying for that person. Please, come forward so that I can pray for you.” To the missionary’s surprise the little girl came forward once again, this time with tears streaming down her cheeks. The missionary said to her, “Honey, what’s the wrong?” The four year old responded, “Jesus is calling me to be a missionary tonight.” The missionary knelt beside the child, placed her hand upon the child’s head and dedicated her to missionary service. Thus began the incredible missionary career of Ruth Kensinger.
      Perhaps you have never heard of David and Ruth Kensinger, most people never have, but they are true heroes of the faith. In anonymity, they faithfully and sacrificially responded to the Master’s call. Ruth’s reflections on a missionary career that spanned four decades are filled with incredible stories of God’s faithfulness and the steady, miraculous progress of the Kingdom. Although they originally thought God had called them to India, they concurred in prayer and said yes to an invitation to Latin America where they served first in Nicaragua and then 30 years in Costa Rica where they pioneered the work, a work that today is comprised of thousands of believers and hundreds of churches, who in turn have sent out missionaries throughout the world.
      Space does not allow a full rehearsal of David and Ruth’s story, but the following is illustrative: David and Ruth celebrated their first wedding anniversary on Nicaraguan soil and found themselves alone in a very hostile environment. Relationships were strained b
ecause of the political conflict between the United States and Nicaragua. One Sunday morning during the Sunday school hour, the national pastor stopped his teaching and said, “What are you “gringos” doing in Nicaragua? We don’t need you. Why don’t you leave? Just get out!” During the worship service a similar tirade ensued. The Kensingers returned to the mission station totally discouraged. They thought to them selves, “Maybe we made a mistake. Maybe it’s not the Lord’s will that we are here. We should probably just leave.” The five o’clock train arrived in their city and shortly thereafter there was a knock at their door. It was  “Don” Benno looking for a place to stay the night. “Don” Benno had been the first Assemblies of God missionary in Nicaragua. For twenty years he had planted churches with great sacrifice, but he strayed from the Lord, fell into immorality, abandoned his wife and family to destitute poverty, and became an atheist given to a life of sin.
       “Don” Benno was welcomed by the Kensingers who invited him to share their evening meal. During the meal he asked, “What’s the matter kids? Why the sad faces?” Ruth says she doesn’t really know why, but they pour out their hearts to this fallen missionary. “Don” Benno responded by preaching a powerful message from Luke 9:62 affirming that once one puts the hand to the plow, there’s no looking back. He challenged them to not give up, to rededicate their lives to the Master. He said, “You both need to get down on your knees and pray. You pray because God won’t hear my prayer, but he will hear yours.” Dave and Ruth got down on their knees and prayed, “Lord, whatever comes, we will keep on.” Ruth states, “It was the only time in 41 years of missionary service that we ever considered giving up and God sent a fallen missionary to give us encouragement.” (After many years away from God, “Don” Benno at age 80 rededicated his life to Christ.)
      Dave and Ruth were always an encouragement to other missionaries. Since the language school for missionaries to the Spanish-speaking world was located in Costa Rica, Ruth often held the hand of those first term missionaries as they passed through what she called, “the missionary’s garden of Gethsemane.” It was my parents first year of missionary service. They were attending language school and we were going through a very difficult time. Aunt Ruth came to visit my mom who was in bed with hepatitis. It was an emotional moment as my mom recounted how that when the Kensingers had visited a church in Grafton ND where they were pastoring a few year before, Uncle Dave had preached a missionary message. At the close of the service, he asked that those who would be willing to answer the call to missions come forward for prayer. An eight-year-old boy quietly made his way to the front of the church and knelt at the front pew. Frankly, I can’t remember what uncle Dave preached about nor can I remember if anyone actually prayed for me. What I do remember is that when I got up from that pew, I knew God had called me to be a missionary. On hearing the story, Aunt Ruth exclaimed, “How wonderful, DeLonn, you can come and take our place!”
      I could never take their place, but just to hear Aunt Ruth say those words was powerful confirmation from the Lord. Uncle Dave was among the very first to challenge the churches of Latin America to missions. In a passionate plea to his missionary colleagues in 1972 he proclaimed that the missionary task among a people was not complete until that people began sending their own missionaries. Though I became aware of that message much later, that is the call that God placed on my life. It is the same call that fuels my soul even as I type these lines! Today the Assemblies of God of Spanish speaking Latin America has more than 350 missionaries in over 50 countries of the world.
One of those missionaries is **Ruth Ramirez. At 17 she was baptized in the Spirit and enrolled the following week in the Christian University of the Assemblies of God to study missions. Upon graduation I asked her if she would be willing to go to an unreached people group in Honduras as a missionary. She said yes to the call of God, broke off her engagement, raised her own support, said good-bye to family and friends, journeyed to a remote region, learned a new language and shared Jesus with the lost. Today, we have 6 Assemblies of God churches in the region and a Bible school has begun. 
      Ruth is now in India in a state where there are only 25 churches among 170 million people. It is a difficult place, but there is no other place she would rather be. She has heard the call the Master and he said, “Go to India.” About two months ago I was asked to speak at a missions convention here in San Salvador on the cost of being a missionary. In the middle of the night the Lord woke me and impressed upon me that I should share the Kensinger story. As I preached, a holy conviction came on those present and when the call was issued at least 40 leaders responded with holy tears of surrender. When I returned home, I checked my email and the first message I read was the announcement of Aunt Ruth’s entrance in glory. David and Ruth Kensinger have left a powerful missionary legacy. I know she is looking down with great joy on her many grandchildren in missions around the world missionaries like Ruth Ramirez.
      Divine Connections: a 4-year-old Ruth to an 8-year-old DeLonn to a 17-year-old Ruth. The Master strategist makes the connections.  Latin America is being reached so that Latin Americans can reach India and the world. As we yield to the Master of all connections, his will is done, and the world is reached. Let us keep connected, to him and to each other.
** Name has been changed.