Wayland alum says passion for call, people led to 36 years on same mission field

Release Date: April 1, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – Dr. Alvin Gary gets the same question asked of him a lot lately: “How on earth did you spend 36 years in one place doing mission work?” Once aware that Gary’s home for the past three decades plus has been a nation the size of Rhode Island, the questioner becomes even more quizzical.

Gary shared those reasons – both simple and complex at the same time – with students at Wayland Baptist University on Wednesday, April 1, as the keynote speaker for the Sixth Annual Dorothy McCoy Lecture Series on missions. Looking back on a long career as missionary with 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 both were critical to his commitment to the people of Guadeloupe.

“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 related the story of meeting a man during a missions conference who said he had prayed for a couple to not only go to Guadeloupe but also to stay there. The man felt God led him to greet the Garys and therefore, 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.”

Gary drew off the passage in Luke 9-10 where Jesus visits with several who want to follow him but have too many conditions to illustrate their commitment to the French-governed nation, despite the sometimes difficult task of reaching the educated population with the Gospel.

“We believed we were an answer to their prayers, because people had prayed for workers to come to the harvest there,” he said. “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 Judy also felt that God had sent them to Guadeloupe, and they rested in His authority to do so, and they believed as the Luke passage said that there were “children of peace” who would welcome them and help them begin a work. They indeed found several individuals who were ripe for the Gospel message and became pillars of their home church and ministries there.

In concluding, 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 the chapel service Dr. Travis Hart, pastor of First Baptist Church of Plainview and a 1968 Wayland graduate, presented the couple with the McCoy Mission Service Award for 2009 in honor of their many years of service.

“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 Dr. McCoy, who died in 2001 as distinguished emeritus professor of mathematics at Wayland. Provisions in her will created an endowment at First Baptist Church to provide the annual lecture series on missions, a longtime love for the professor during her lifetime.

Gary visited the campus while on stateside assignment with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the couple officially retires at the end of August. Judy is pursuing a master’s degree in French.

Gary spent the lunch hour with the Ministerial Fellowship group at Wayland and spoke in the Wednesday evening service at First Baptist to finish out the lecture series.