MINNEAPOLIS, MN (June 23, 2018) – Three long-time missionaries, Keith and Florence Gustafson and Christy Taylor, were honored today at the 133rdAnnual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
Keith Gustafson and Florence Gustafson served in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Keith served from 1984 to 2018, and Florence Gustafson served from 1984 to 2008.
Keith was a frequent and expert translator. He translated for Jules Mboka, president of the Congo Covenant Church (CEUM) when he spoke to the gathering. He was instrumental in forming strong relationships between the ECC and the Congo Covenant Church. He also coordinated, recruited, and prepared mission teams and trips.
Florence worked extensively with women’s ministry and also has been known for her gift of hospitality and pastoral listening, having provided encouragement, discernment, and insight to many to whom she ministered. She also maintained radio communications with other media stations.
The delegates gave an extended standing ovation until Florence told them to sit down and that she had a lot to say. She began by telling them, “In my teen years, I did not want to marry a pastor, be a missionary, particularly go to Africa, nor did I want to be a teacher, but God has gently nudged me to do four, for which I’m grateful.”
She got only a few sentences beyond that, however, when she said, “Okay, so now I’m crying so I can’t see my notes,” adding, “I’m just grateful to God,” and stepped away from the lectern, which drew laughter and even more applause.
The love the Gustafsons have for the people of Congo was obvious also as Keith shared. “There were days we said to each other we could do this for the rest of our lives and other days we wondered if we’d make it through the day,” he said.
“We’ve been changed,” Keith told the gathering. “We’re very grateful to the CEUM.”
Keith offered words of exhortation. “The work that we do as a church and as a mission is not anything we do alone,” he said. “We always work with other people. We always depend on other people. We are changed together. What we do as Christians here and elsewhere is based on relationship—relationships that are good and hard, that are often complicated, and that are very worthwhile.”
He continued, “It takes years to learn a language well. It takes a long time to understand a joke. Even longer to understand a sermon.”
Keith cautioned Covenanters to “view missions as relationship and not as a project, to view mission as a lifetime of commitment to other people and as work we continue through love and frustration, through war and peace.
“Mission is something we do, but it also is something we need. Because we need to learn the diversity of language and culture. We need to see how God works in other people. We need to understand to expand our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus because our own routines and our own culture and our own place puts blinders on us, so we can’t always conceive of all that God wants to do.
“We need the CEUM, and the CEUM needs us. We need to know each other, to live together, to talk, to listen to grow old together, and to prepare other generations. We need each to share how God is at work.
“So we ask you and call you to be intimately involved with other people. We ask you to learn other languages and to be changed by other cultures and how people think. We urge you to be stretched and changed by working together with others and to keep on sending some of our people to do those things in other places.”
Christy Taylor, who was unable to be at the meeting, served in East Asia from 2007 to 2018, a context that could sometimes be difficult due to constraints on missionary service.
Taylor taught in the English immersion program at the Oasis Training Center and in collaboration with Evergreen. She was a grammar, speech, and community development teacher.
Taylor mentored college volunteers at the Joy in the Journey Camp and engaged in creative ministry that included offering Zumba classes for the community.