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Vonitta Gurney

When I was 7 years old, I told my mother I wanted to preach at church. She encouraged me, and most of the other churches in town closed down so their people could attend and hear a little girl preach.

I guess it didn’t surprise Mom that I wanted to preach because she always prayed that I would become a missionary and reach people for Jesus Christ.

My family moved from Wyoming to Woodburn, Ore., when I was 15, and my father started the first taxi service in Woodburn. We attended the Foursquare church in Woodburn, and it was there that I met my future husband, Ed. He and a friend walked by me, and Ed stumbled and fell—he loved to say that he fell for me at first sight.

After high school, we traveled to Los Angeles to attend L.I.F.E. Bible College (now called Life Pacific College) and pursue a life of ministry. In 1944, we graduated from college and were married by Aimee Semple McPherson in Angelus Temple. Five thousand guests attended our wedding because Sister McPherson like to marry couples following the Sunday evening service, and most of the congregation stayed to support the young couples as they exchanged vows.

We pastored for a short time in the Midwest and Northwest before answering the call of God to become missionaries to Central and South America. We helped establish the first Foursquare church in Central America, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We felt so much at home that we stayed for 15 years.

That’s not to say our years in Honduras were trouble-free. When we arrived in Tegucigalpa, we did not speak Spanish. Ed began to study the language, but I was expecting our second child and could not attend classes with him. I read my Spanish Bible faithfully, although I did not fully understand it, and listened to people conversing, hoping to pick up a few words now and then. Every day, I prayed that God would help me. After about six months, I was completely frustrated.

Then, one Sunday night as I was preparing to preach through an interpreter, the Lord spoke to me. “Preach in Spanish tonight,” He said. I asked the Lord to give me a promise from His Word. The Holy Spirit brought to my mind the words of Jer. 1:9, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth” (NKJV). Still doubtful, I said, “But, Lord, are they Spanish or English words?”

That night I did preach in Spanish for about 25 minutes. I did not understand all I was saying, but I felt a unique presence of the Holy Spirit. I knew I had the words to speak because of the anointing of God. It was like the anointing in Acts 2:11: “We hear them speaking in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”

As I studied Spanish, read my Spanish Bible and wrote my sermon notes in Spanish, the Lord helped me communicate in Spanish in Honduras and in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where we served for another 10 years. It was on the coast and very hot, and we loved the people of Guayaquil.

Our oldest child, Lolita, and her husband, Michael, invited us to work with them at the mission in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and we lived a block from one another for another decade of ministry. Ed started Bible institutes around the country, and eventually we opened a second Foursquare church in Buenos Aires.

In 1986, we were back in the U.S. and had nearly decided to return to Honduras for an interim assignment. That night, before Ed went to bed, he said he couldn’t believe that he would be going home the next day. He died of a massive heart attack that night.

Our Foursquare leaders loved me and encouraged me through the loss of my beloved husband. They told me that God wasn’t finished with me, and they sent me back to Honduras for a one-year stint. I stayed four years.

The last time I visited Honduras, the children there still called me “Grandma,” and I still love the people. My second husband, Marvin, joined Ed in eternity, and now I am even more in love with heaven every day.

My life has been full, and I still love being as active as possible, and helping sing and lead worship in church every chance I get. With every passing day, I anticipate the day that I will see Jesus and fully realize the fruit of a lifetime of ministry in His name.

is a retired Foursquare Missions International missionary to South and Central America.