Global Woman Highlight | Lynda Oatley
Even as a very young child I had an awareness of God and his desire to have me do good rather than evil. I see this sensitivity to himself as an amazing gift from the Lord. This is more amazing when you consider that I had no spiritual training.
I wasn’t really “raised,” but rather grew up while being moved from home to home. I spent my preschool years in foster homes and moving back and forth between my schizophrenic mother and my alcoholic father, who were divorced. During those years I was dropped off at grocery stores and forced to beg for food. On one occasion I was kidnapped by one parent and on another was hidden in a closet from the other parent. My two younger siblings and I were living with our paternal grandmother when I entered kindergarten.
During my elementary years we moved frequently between her home and my father’s, until the school district intervened because we were changing schools so frequently. During my junior high years we lived primarily with my grandmother. I can remember staying home from elementary because Grandma was sick and needed my care. I was also in charge of caring for my younger siblings and cleaning the house. In the years before permanent press, I became so skilled at ironing that Grandma gained extra income by having me iron for other people.
During those early years, Grandma occasionally sent me to Sunday school at a nearby church. When I reached junior high, some friends and I went to a neighborhood theater to see the Billy Graham movie, “The Restless Ones.” It was there that I accepted Christ. I went forward and filled out the decision card, and when the card asked which church I attended, I gave the name of the church I had occasionally visited. As a timid child, I was shocked a few weeks later when I received a call from that church’s pastor. He informed me he had been advised that I had accepted Christ, but that their church didn’t “support” such things! So life pretty much went back to normal, because I had no way of being discipled and actually did not know that it was needed.
Although I loved to read as a child, I never thought after accepting Christ to pick up my Bible and read it. That’s because several times I had been required to memorize psalms as punishment. Thus, I equated reading the Bible with something undesirable.
As I entered high school, the Lord rescued me from a precarious lifestyle. I was on a downward slide, hanging out with the wrong crowd and beginning to realize there was more to life than caring for an ill grandmother. Grandma was hospitalized, so I was placed in yet another foster home. But this time my foster mother was as single Christian woman named Dorothy. The Lord, through Dorothy, saw to it that I was thoroughly discipled. I grew by leaps and bounds and dedicated my life to missions when I was 17. It was Dorothy who sent me to Bible college and nursing school. When my father died (the whereabouts of my biological mother were unknown), Dorothy offered to formally adopt me, and I joyfully accepted! At age 25, married and eight months pregnant, I stood before a judge to sign my own adoption papers. This part of my history is very precious to me!
Today I am the institutional chaplain (meaning that I do everything) at a residential shelter for street/abused children in Rio de Janeiro. We accept children from ages 2 to 14. When they reach 14 they may continue living with us if necessary. We currently have girls that are 15, 16 and 17 years of age. We also have a 15 year old boy.
My prayer requests:
- My role involves much more than one person can do. We need dedicated volunteers but the culture here doesn’t take volunteerism (is that a word in English?) seriously. Pray that the Lord would touch Brazilian hearts to partner with the ministry here to disciple our children!
- With so many needs on every side, I constantly need to be choosing between the urgent and the important. Please pray that I would sense what the Lord has for me to do and what I should leave for others.
- Pray for this upcoming home assignment, that I might effectively cast a vision for people to understand that they can become a very important part of the ministry by upholding us before the Throne of Grace!
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