I’m so excited to be interviewing Heidi Schussman, author of El Tiburon, and a fellow Vinspire Publishing author, this week. You can read more about Heidi’s adventures following God on her blog at Author H. Schussman.
Heidi, let’s start by sharing your experience on the mission field. Tell me a little about where have you served on missions and at what age?
My husband and I started going to a local church about ten years ago. It turned out to be a mission-based church. These guys take mission very seriously, both locally and in distant lands. My husband felt called to go to Mexicali with the youth group right away. He came back a changed man. His excitement and enthusiasm was contagious. I went with him the next year (I was about 40). This time we went with the senior’s club. I work in the medical field with geriatrics, so this was my actual focus… making sure our older missionaries were safe and healthy. They out-worked us all! I could barely keep up.
What made you decide to serve there?
Selfish reasons, really. My husband and I were learning Spanish and this represented an opportunity to serve and practice our newly developing language skills. The final decision was made when I knew I’d be working at an elderly orphanage in Mexicali with abandoned grandparents.
Describe how you knew you should go and what challenges you faced to this decision.
The first time I went, I can’t say I knew I should go. I actually struggled with it quite a bit. Taking time off of work was difficult, and the news was constantly showing scary scenes from Mexico. I was fairly certain I would be kidnapped for ransom or beheaded! But we were very safe and well cared for. My husband told me, “If God wants you dead, he can kill you right here at home.”
What opposition did you face before you went or while you were serving?
My biggest opposition was my physical well being. I had just injured my neck and had surgery. I was concerned I would re-injure it. Our team was set up to do a lot of repairs to the home for the elderly. I found plenty to do that didn’t damage my neck.
Once we got down in Mexicali we didn’t have opposition, but crossing the borders was difficult… especially coming back. One year we got stuck with the job of driving the huge truck full of camping supplies for 150 people. When we attempted to cross the border back to the United States, the guard decided to make my husband and I get out and unload the truck. It had taken the base camp all morning to load it and we were supposed to unload it and re-load it alone! After we emptied about a third of it, they got bored and let the police-dog sniff around. Then we re-loaded the truck. They wouldn’t let anyone help us. It was a bummer to say the least, especially because we had a ten hour drive ahead of us.
What would you most like people to know about the place/people group you served?
Mexicali is a great community with hundreds of churches serving the needs of the poor. The pastors are unified in a way that allows them to accomplish a lot. That being said, Mexicali is inundated with two people groups, three actually. First are the elderly parents who are left behind when their children jump the border. Second are the women left behind with babies, and selling their bodies to the third group… the men who have been sent back over the border because they have gotten in trouble with the law. Prostitution and abandoned children are major issues in Mexicali. The orphanages are full of children with living parents. Because of this dichotomy, the kids can’t be adopted. One of the large school/homes we serve has developed a recovery section for women to be reunited with their children. They live in a tightly controlled drug-free community.
What are some other ways you’ve served the God?
That’s a huge question. There must be a million ways to help the missionaries and to share your faith in different places. We have found that as we travel around the world, especially when we are living in Spanish speaking countries, we constantly find opportunities to help the poor, widowed and orphaned. You just never know when or how it could happen.
Most of the people we meet down there are “religious.” After three or four weeks of living with a family in Mexico or Guatemala, they begin to ask us about the peace they see in us. That becomes our chance to explain the personal relationship with Christ that is available to them. We also love scuba diving. This is definitely a rich person’s sport. Club Med is our favorite resort to dive with. Because Club Med is a European company, tons of visitors are from the elite upper class of Europe. I absolutely love sharing my faith with the intellectual non-believers.
Have you seen things you’d call miraculous?
Too many to count! The first one that comes to mind was when we were in Guanajuato, Mexico at language school. We were visiting a Christian lady who had set up a safe zone for teenagers. As we stood on the sidewalk chatting, a lady crossed the street and said she’d heard that we were Christians. She asked us if we would pray for her shoulder. She was scheduled for surgery the following morning. She bowed her head and waited expectantly. All three of us placed our hands on her and prayed for a miracle. It was a powerful moment because she had no doubt that God would perform the miracle. About a week later, we were back visiting and all of a sudden the lady screams out to us in excitement and waving BOTH arms, she races across the street to embrace us. We couldn’t understand her because she was talking so fast and with such detail, but the interpretation was; She’d gone in for her pre-op x-ray and the surgeon asked for more x-rays and scans. Finally he called off the surgery because there was nothing wrong with her shoulder!
Do you have any recommendations for people considering serving as a missionary?
Just do it. Keep in mind that you are the one who benefits the most from your journey, as God loves to mold your heart to be closer to his. The sweet joy of serving others who are struggling can be experienced in your local town too. You don’t have to go to India to participate in his plan.
Thanks, Heidi, for sharing your experiences with us!