June 30, 1999

Missionary feels at home
'worlds away' from Harlingen

___By Mary Speidel
___SBC International Mission Board
___PARAMARIBO, Suriname (BP)--As a missionary in Suriname, Tracy Adair is worlds away from her native Texas. But she couldn't be more at home.
___"I've experienced such peace and joy here," said Adair, a single career missionary appointed by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. "I know I'm where God has called me to be."
___And just where, exactly, is that?
___Adair, from Harlingen, asked herself that same question as she neared the end of the IMB's missionary appointment process in 1995.
___When she heard about a need for a missionary teacher in the former Dutch colony of Suriname, she thought it was somewhere in Africa.
___But when she searched for Suriname on a world map, she was surprised to find it on the northern coast of South America. And she was equally surprised to discover the people groups who live there: More than half the population is Asian (East Indian, Javanese, Chinese and Hmong), mostly descendants of indentured servants; another 40 percent of the people are Africans, ancestors of West African slaves; and the rest are Amerindians and Europeans.
___Suriname wasn't a place Adair remembered hearing about while growing up in Girls in Action and Acteens missions education groups at First Baptist Church of Harlingen. Or at Texas Baptist GA camps she attended in the summer. Or even through the Southern Baptist missionary prayer calendar her family used in praying for missionaries nearly every night of her childhood.
___But God used all those experiences to call her to serve him there. He also used her involvement in Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, where she attended while a student at the University of Texas at Austin and later as a fourth grade teacher at Hyde Park Baptist School.
___It was during her years at Hyde Park that Adair got serious about seeking God's purpose for her life. As she prayed about that matter, God began to speak to her through some books by evangelical author Elisabeth Elliot. Elliot's first husband, Jim, was murdered by an Indian tribe the couple was trying to evangelize while the Elliots were missionaries in Ecuador.
___"I was so impressed by their commitment to the Lord and the sacrifice they were willing to make to serve him wherever, no matter what," Adair explained. "I began to wonder if I could ever sacrifice like that for him."
___While she was teaching at Hyde Park, Adair earned a master's degree in education at UT-Austin. After graduate school, "I began to feel a restlessness in my life. Finally, I said, 'OK, Lord, I'll go wherever you want me to go.'"
___That prayer led her to Benin, West Africa, where she served a year and a half teaching missionary kids through the IMB's International Service Corps. She was sick with malaria during all but four months of her ministry there, but God showed her clearly she was right where he wanted her.
___"Almost from the moment I arrived there, I knew that missions was what God wanted me to do. I was like, 'Oh, wow, Lord, I can do this, can't I?' And I knew he wanted me to go as a career missionary."
___Today as a missionary in Paramaribo, Suriname's capital, Adair teaches at a school operated by several evangelical mission agencies that have missionaries in Suriname. Her students are children of missionaries and diplomats.
___"If God is calling and you say 'no' to him, you're going to miss some incredible blessings," she said. "Missions is just something you can't imagine. You can't sit at home and say, 'OK, this is what it would be like.' You just have to go. Obedience is so important."
___Adair also uses her gifts in the handful of Baptist churches in Paramaribo--teaching guitar lessons and developing church music leaders; leading women's ministries; encouraging Baptist pastors, who are in short supply there; working at Suriname Baptists' publications center; and helping lead vacation Bible schools.
___Besides these ministries, Adair also works with Southern Baptist volunteers who come to Suriname. Many of these volunteers have helped open doors for sharing the gospel among the Saramaccans, an unreached people group in the country's rainforest.
___With so many responsibilities, Adair tries hard to keep her life balanced. "I try not to get involved in anything that isn't lasting," she said. "And prayer has to be behind everything. It's truly what keeps me on the field."
___Based on her own experiences on the mission field, Adair has some advice for Southern Baptists who might be praying about joining God at work overseas.


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