Till We Meet Again . . .
Who changed the most?
Arnold: It all started for me in 1994. After reading the AFM magazine at my mother’s house, I asked myself, Could I be a missionary? I felt inadequate. Me, Arnold Hooker? ‘Least likely to succeed’ . . . from Auburn Academy and Liberty High School? I was someone you probably would not have wanted as your roommate during my teen years. Then AFM founder and president Clyde Morgan came to my house. At the time, I was married with three small children. He said, “I think you’ll do just fine as missionaries.” Really? Me?
Over the following months, we were excited to see how God’s hand was in our decision. Several large donations meant that we would be going to training in June. That summer was a blur as we met twelve of the most extraordinary families on earth, fellow missionary trainees. Learning from John Kent was like drinking from the fire hydrant, and the Lackeys were not any different, teaching us medical procedures we would need to know. There was so much to understand. It was a great bonding time. After training, each of us left for our different mission calls, reaching the unreached in various parts of the world.
Landing in Cambodia with the mysterious smells and unfamiliar sites, I realized I was not in Washington state anymore. Am I actually going to live here? Yes. I did live there, and I enjoyed it. I learned to love the people.
My children learned the language faster than I did. They also enjoyed exotic animals like gibbon apes, civets, and native dogs as pets. It changed all of our lives. We even love rice now.
You have read our many stories over the years. But what I never said was how inadequate I felt — being a furniture maker and not a pastor or teacher.
After six years of 90-degree weather with 90 percent humidity, we returned home. We were a little beat up but better for it. God brought about changes in my life that can never be taken away from me. Though we had not accomplished everything we set out to do, we witnessed God perform miracle after miracle, and we achieved more in some areas than we thought we would. We saw many previously unreached lives changed, people baptized, and two churches planted. A small teaching industry was also begun, helping people from the community to get jobs.
Back in the U.S., I thought I would get a job or start a business. However, Clyde Morgan asked if I would work on the development team, ministering to those on the West Coast who had partnered with AFM. I felt inadequate a second time.
After receiving much internal training and traveling to different development programs, I began working in Washington, Oregon, California and Canada. Eventually, I expanded my territory throughout much of the U.S. Wow! I had loved serving with AFM before, but now I had the opportunity to do so in my home country. Why not?! For about 13 years, I attended multiple GYCs and ASIs, visited dozens of SDA colleges, schools, and training schools, and spoke at many SDA churches and camp meetings, even some that were not SDA, all over the U.S. and Canada. Anywhere Diane and I were asked to go, we went. Then I got tired of the road and, once again, asked to leave AFM’s employment.
As we were finishing development work, Conrad Vine joined AFM and asked if we would become field directors. Previously, Dale Bidwell had twice asked me to be a field director; however, the timing was never right. Now Diane and I were being asked for a third time. And for a third time, I felt inadequate.
Back to my knees, I went! After much thought and prayer, Diane and I accepted the invitation to become field directors, trusting God to lead. Thus began our new adventure and much intense travel, working in Malaysia, Brahmiland, India, Himadria, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Cambodia, Sinim, Thailand, South Africa, Brunei, Mozambique, and probably other locations. I have often told Diane that if I never saw the inside of an airplane again, I would be okay. But I must confess, during this time, God opened doors for us to go into airline lounges for free, receive free upgrades, and many other God-given blessings. Everywhere we went, He provided safety for us, too.
As field directors, we were also blessed to help missionaries along their own journeys. We brought them together and trained them. We prayed with them and cried with them. We brought clothing for their children and food from the U.S. that they would love to eat. Anything the missionaries needed we tried to bring. We loved the missionaries and their children, always feeling it was a two-way street.
One of the most challenging times was sorting through John and Pam Lello’s belongings in Papua New Guinea. John had died when a massive tree limb fell on him while clearing jungle land. I remember crying with Diane in the sweltering heat. How precious their belongings had been packed, even gifts purchased and clothes made in advance, knowing they often would not be able to purchase presents around the holidays or for birthdays. Now, these items would never be unpacked in Papua New Guinea by the family who went there to serve and returned home without their treasured husband and father.
Lastly, we served AFM as ambassadors-at-large — a wonderful opportunity with an impressive title but no extra respect or perks at the airport, even with my business card. For a fourth time, I felt inadequate. But by this time, I had learned that God qualifies those He calls. Diane and I traveled to enlarge AFM’s ministry, helping to establish projects in Brahmiland and Ukraine and sister offices in South Korea and Romania. Each trip took a month or longer. Again, so much travel and so much safety from God.
I am immensely grateful to the entire AFM home office staff and our team of missionaries and field directors. All of you mean so much to me. Thank you for being my friends and believing in me when I did not believe in myself.
Hindsight is 20/20!
Diane: I have only served fourteen years with Arnold at AFM. It was at an ASI convention where we completed our honeymoon. Not so romantic; however, thanks to some special friends, we spent a few days at two locations on our drive to get there. I, too, have always felt inadequate for the work God called us to do. But as I look back, amazed, I see how the Lord was preparing us for His use.
When Arnold and I met, I had already lived abroad for nine years, four years as a child (a third-culture kid) and over five years as an adult. I moved a lot during those years and after giving my life to Jesus. He seemed to never let me put down roots. That was a wonderful preparation for our time spent on the development team, driving all over the West Coast. It also prepared me for living and traveling overseas as a field director and ambassador-at-large. Never was there time to let the grass grow.
What I was not prepared for were life’s opposite extremes. I would be soaring like a kite when witnessing baptisms, changed lives, victories over strongholds, Christ exalted at all costs, donors giving so sacrificially, missionaries committing their lives to serve, and so much more when someone accepted Jesus as their Savior.
The lows were like sucker punches, though, sometimes so unexpected and deeply painful at the core. It felt like dark clouds hovering over our existence.
We had to learn to entirely rely upon the Lord to move us forward despite what was going on with our teams, loved ones or ourselves. We needed to trust Him implicitly even when we could not see His way forward.
God used some of you in those times, too, as we received an encouraging word or a note informing us that you were praying. During those difficult moments, a word in due season was truly a healing balm.
The Lord has become much more intimate in our times of sorrow, and I can now look back fondly on how He held, encouraged, sustained, carried, and strengthened me to continue. At times a rainbow covering the sky or the lingering colors of sunset would reassure us that He was still sovereign. What an amazing God we have to individually care as He does.
Now, we see that those times were preparing us for what lies ahead. Our future holds many unknowns, and the escalating fulfillment of prophecy can be overwhelming. We need to choose to rely wholly upon the Lord. He knows the end from the beginning. We can trust Him to lead us in the best possible way!
We have learned that nothing happens to us without the Lord allowing it. Second Timothy 1:12 says, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed unto Him against that day.” Learn to trust God in all He lets happen.
It is time to hang on, fellow workers, prayer warriors, teammates and soldiers for Christ. Remember, those who endure until the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13).
As Arnold said, we are inadequate; however, God is not. Trust Him to prepare you for what is coming, and follow Him as He leads. Go intimately into His arms, and despite the obstacles, struggles, heartache, and sorrow, know that He is working for you for the greater good!
Stay faithful! Jesus is coming very soon! We look forward to eternity with you.