It was 1965. Reverend Lorene Austin had spent her 39 years working for God through the Pentecostal Holiness Churches. But Lorene was restless. God was calling her and her husband George to
and she was compelled to follow. They sold their home and possessions and then announced her resignation to the congregation she pastured in
Her husband George had by now decided that he didn’t want to live like that. So Lorene, taking her mother Carrie in his place, climbed into an old Chevy pickup and headed for
. He divorced herkeeping their twelve-year-old daughter Loretta while their other daughter Pat went to college.
Traveling alone through Baja, the two women arrived in Guadalupe Victoria, K43,
. Long difficult days were spent hand sifting sand and mixing adobe to build the walls for a church. They prayed for a roof, pews and later an organ. Having established their first church, like the apostle Paul, they left for a second nearby community and the task of building another. This time they skipped the adobe and prayed for real bricks.
It was a hard life of no running water, little food and long days of backbreaking labor. When summer temperatures reached 120 their only refuge was a tiny camper shell on the back of that old pickup or a rundown little out-building offered by a sympathetic land owner, depending on which was cooler at the moment. The Catholic Church, enraged that Protestants were moving in on their territory, became menacing and on occasion, men brandishing machetes appeared at their worksite.
Arriving in Francisco Murguia around 1968 Sister Austin started yet a third church. Things changed though when the two women took a little orphan, Miguel, into the 19 ft. travel trailer that recently became their home. God was now calling Lorene to build an orphanage. She prayed, rallied the neighbors and began work.
For the next 20 years she raised the children, continually battling TB and other chronic lung problems along the way. Her days were full. Up early to wake the kids, see them through their morning routines and off to school. Those too young to go took up the middle of the day along with laundry, grocery shopping and keeping the place up. Suddenly it would be time to prepare for the older kids to return. Dinner, chores, homework, baths and finally they could be put to bed.
The day was filled with prayer too, as she asked for God’s blessings on each of the children. The stingy stipend provided by the Federales, even when supplemented by much of her own Social Security, failed to supply enough for the orphanage to exist on, but faith and experience had taught her God would provide and so her continual appeals have been answered over the years for the much needed supplies and money provided by many individuals and churches. We have been richly blessed in return, a result of her never-ending prayers for us.
The needs of the children and the need for prayer consumed Lorene’s day. But after tucking the children into bed there were still hours to go, writing names on underwear, bookkeeping and writing letters of appeal. Finally, she might extinguish the light in the early morning hours in search of a few hours sleep on a hard bunk in the boy’s dorm. Too soon she would be turning the light back on to start it all over.
replaced the small, old, confines of the orphanage with a roomy new building in 2001 she was amazed. So many times people had promised help, only to leave her disappointed. Finally, God answered this particular prayer too. She toured the home sobbing, her hands frequently reaching out to touch the walls and realized that for the first time in 43 years she would sleep in her own room, in a real bed.
The work of
did for the orphanage and the communities surrounding it spawned new dreams in Sister Austin’s mind. Prayers soon began for a vision that could totally transform her adopted little village. A clinic and a house for its doctor to live in were completed by M2M a few years later. Still to consider, in addition to the houses we build each year, are a Christian school, a nursing home, and a shelter for women and children.
Sister Austin, even though she endured much, found contentment and joy because she answered God’s call not just once but frequently. Never far from her thoughts was the knowledge that Jesus suffered and died. He did it for her.
Mission trips to Mexico involve suffering too although inconsequential in comparison; the cost to the individual, precious time given up, long hours working in the heat and the dust; slivers, aching muscles, sunburn and fingers swollen from repelling the blow of a hammer. At the end of the day solace for a weary body is sought on a leaky air mattress in doubtful hope of finding energy for another day. And yet, one quickly discovers, just as Sister Austin did long ago, these trials are insignificant in the light of the incredible, life-changing reward received when answering God’s call to help others.
Sister Lorene Austin, you have been a wonderful friend and inspiration. You will truly be missed. Your courage, determination, spirit and faith will continue to encourage us. Well done good and faithful servant.