Saturday, October 13, 2012

Remembering how I got started in missions...

So what do you want to be when you grow up Lisa? My answer from High School on was that I wanted to be a gym teacher, just like Mrs. Bryant at North Allegheny High School has been for so many years. So, I attended Penn State University, main campus, and during my practicum, right before I graduated in 1982, I found myself seated in a locker room asking myself the question: Do I see myself doing this five years from now?  I was quite dismayed to hear myself say: NO.

Up until this point, I had a strong relationship with the Lord, having been brought to Christ through my mother, Bobbie Anderson and having grown up nurtured in the Lord by my parents (George & Bobbie) and Memorial Park Presbyterian Church under the leadership of the youth pastor, Jay Passavant.  However, I had never really considered becoming a missionary. I do distinctly remember loving the stories Pastor Black (affectionately known as Blackie) used to tell us about their missionary service in Africa. Missions simply was not on my radar. That was quickly about to change!
After that shocking discovery that I didn’t feel fulfilled being a gym teacher, I was encouraged to attend Urbana 1981-1982, a huge gathering at University of Illinois campus, to join in with 14,000 other college students to ask: What would you have us do with our lives, Lord?  I signed up for a SHORT TERM missionary experience which I figured would get whatever was bothering me out of my system, after which I would return to the USA to get a job in the field of education. God, however, had other plans. Exactly, almost to the day, one year after signing up with Latin America Mission I was in Costa Rica learning Spanish. In the intervening year I had graduated from PSU, fallen in love with the ministry of Christian Camping while serving as a VIM (Volunteer in Mission) at Bingle Memorial Presbyterian Camp in Fairbanks Alaska, and raised support to serve as a missionary at a Christian camp outside of Mexico City, Camp Kikotén.

1 Lisa Anderson is leading a team of young people to discover what it means to be “The Body of Christ working together” as they prepare to climb over the 14 foot wall a work team from Pittsburgh has just built.
The first hump God had to overcome was getting me to commit to a THREE year service contract when I had anticipated only ONE year (and that felt pretty generous to me!). God wooed me by providing me with a job description that was my dream job—it required of me elements that I already possessed like my PE background, love for nature and building outdoor recreational facilities, a strong desire to disciple and reach young people for Christ plus other elements I had little or no experience in like developing promotional materials for camp, and training camp counselors. Drawn by such an attractive job description, I said: Alright God, I’ll give you three years, and not a day more! What a sanctified attitude I had! God is so patient with me.

2 There's no better way to learn about "letting go and letting God" than experiencing the trust fall and reflecting on its implications for your life.
As my time of service neared its end, my Mexican boss, Juan Isaias, prodded me to reconsider and stay on another two years. At first resistant, shortly after our conversation the big Mexico City earthquake hit (8.2 Richter scale Sept. 19, 1985), I found myself deeply moved by the suffering and anguish all around me. God used this and other experiences to woo me into continuing to serve Him as a missionary. So, “my call” had no bells and whistles, no bright lights or voice from heaven. It was progressive in nature and at the end of those first five years, I returned home to Pittsburgh for a year’s furlough and felt like there was nothing else I’d rather be doing than being a missionary.

At that point, I was invited to serve with the Association of Christian Camping International in Latin America (CCI/LA) as the director of leadership development. I was to live in Honduras and develop a curriculum to train camp counselors and program directors. That is exactly what I did, working together with a team of Hondurans we wrote a number of training manuals which are currently in their 5th edition and are being used throughout 12 different countries of Latin America.
The Umana-Anderson family
Almost thirty years have passed since those initial years of wondering what I would do with my life. I have found that following God’s promptings no matter where they lead you provides the most adventurous, exhilarating journey one could ever ask for. While in Honduras one of my students was Alfredo Umana, who is now my husband of 16 years and with whom we have formed a family with Valerie (born 199) and Victor (birth 2001). We live in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and serve at our local church, Christian Community El Hatillo, in charge of the Sunday School for ages 0-18 years and we regularly use camp outs and nature activities to create a strong bond of friendship within each Sunday School class and to discover those invisible attributes of God which are visible in His creation (Rom. 1:20).

4 CCI/Latin America's multicultural team of professors, receiving on the job training during the IFI held in El Salvador Aug. 2012