PLAINVIEW — Alvin Gary hears the same question quite often: “How on earth did you spend 36 years in one place doing mission work?”
Given that Gary’s home for the past three and a half decades has been a nation the size of Rhode Island, he can understand why some people might wonder.
Looking back on a long career as missionary with his wife, Judy, to Guadeloupe in the French West Indies, Gary said his initial call to preach from age 12 and his call to missions as a senior at Wayland Baptist University both were critical to his commitment to the people of Guadeloupe.
Gary described his calling when he delivered the sixth annual Dorothy McCoy Lecture on missions at Wayland’s Plainview campus.
“We stayed that long in Guadeloupe because early on, I came the point of wanting to follow God completely, and I believed we were appointed to that place,” Gary said.
He recalled meeting a man during a missions conference who said he had prayed for a couple not only to go to Guadeloupe, but also to stay there. The man felt God led him to greet the Garys, and he believed they were the ones meant to serve there.
“That remembrance got us through some very tough times,” Gary said. “We knew that all of this—even my time at Wayland — was orchestrated by God, and he knew what he was doing. …
“We believed we were an answer to … prayers, because people had prayed for workers to come to the harvest there. Sitting in this room right now are many answers to many prayers. Maybe you don’t know where that harvest is yet, but God does. The harvest is the place where God wants you to be.”
Gary said he and his wife also felt that God had sent them to Guadeloupe, and they rested in his authority to do so. The couple found several individuals who were ripe for the gospel message and became pillars of their home church and ministries there.
Gary encouraged students to trust God and listen to his call on their lives, then brace themselves for the rewards.
“I discovered that God wanted the very best for me, and that was in Guadeloupe. I tried to leave, but God kept bringing me back,” he said. “One of the most exciting things is to know that you can help people through missions, wherever you may be. And God will show you things you can’t even imagine. You can make a decision right now to make your life count for God.”
Also during his speaking engagement at Wayland, Pastor Travis Hart of First Baptist Church of Plainview presented Alvin and Judy Gary the 2009 McCoy Mission Service Award.
“Alvin Gary has been for me personally a longtime inspiration of commitment and love for people,” Hart said, noting that Gary was a student of McCoy, a distinguished emeritus professor of mathematics at Wayland. Provisions in McCoy’s will created an endowment at First Baptist Church to provide the annual lecture series on missions.