Meet Suzy McCall, an American missionary in Honduras. The obedience of this one woman from South Carolina has radically changed the lives of thousands of people in Central America and the United States.
Suzy is the founder of The LAMB Institute, offering hope for new life – both spiritual and physical – in Flor del Campo, the slums of Tegucigalpa. LAMB serves up generous bowls of the Gospel of Christ, seasoned with unconditional love, to every soul passing through its doors. She lives out her ministry motto: follow the LAMB wherever he goes. Now, after only two decades of existence, LAMB operates a school, a children’s home, a safe house, a micro-loan program for cottage industries, and a teen outreach program for young boys on the streets.
In Oct. 2013, Living on Jesus Street caught up with Suzy during her recent U.S. visit:
Jesus Street: First, please give our readers a short background of how and when you came to Honduras.
Suzy: In 1979, at a Jesus Festival in Orlando, Florida, I answered an altar call by Tony Campolo to take the Gospel to the nations. I didn’t respond to that call for 13 years, but in 1990, after two short-term trips to Costa Rica, I left the USA for Antigua, Guatemala (for language school), and then arrived in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on April 1, 1991, as a missionary with SAMS (Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders).
Jesus Street: How did you know you had a call?
Suzy: Tony Campolo said, “If your heart was burning within you as I spoke of the needs of those who have no one to share with them the Good News of Jesus Christ, then perhaps God is calling you to GO.”
My heart was on fire. I could not believe that there were people in the world, much less millions of people, who had no access to a church, Bible, pastor or missionary! I had been a churchgoer for my entire life. I had never heard a missionary speak at a single church service. I felt both ashamed (that I had never considered the needs of the rest of the world before) and called by the Lord to respond to that need.
Jesus Street: What has God asked you to do that was hard? Please tell us about how it turned out.
Suzy: I don’t even know where to begin with this question. Almost everything God asks us to do is hard at first. It was very difficult (traumatic!) for me to leave my wonderful Christian community in the Diocese of S.C. I knew no Spanish and had never lived abroad. I am a homebody, and I was deeply entrenched at St. Philip’s Church, and in the Cursillo and Kairos communities.
In Central America, I knew no one. That was my first huge hurdle: adaptation. I could write a book of the ways in which I felt challenged during my first year as a missionary, and also of the ways in which God met me at every crossroad to confirm His calling on my life and also His promise not to leave me alone.
Jesus Street: How did you learn to trust God radically?
Suzy: I am still learning. Saying yes to Jesus each and every day increasingly leads us deeper into His heart and will. What I thought was radical a few years ago is part of my lifestyle now, and I pray that will be true each and every year that I choose to follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
Jesus Street: What advice can you give people who are trying to find their purpose in life?
Suzy: Pray, and when you ask God to give you direction, determine to block out every other voice and be obedient only to His. People get confused because they ask God to direct them, but they put parameters into place which muddle His voice. We cannot hear God’s voice clearly if we are not willing to give Him sovereignty in our lives.
“Saying yes to Jesus each and every day increasingly leads us deeper
into His heart and will. What I thought was radical a few years ago is part of my lifestyle now.”
Jesus Street: When do you feel closest to Christ? When God speaks to you, is it through pictures, through a still, small voice, or through other means?
Suzy: The Lord speaks to me in many ways. Often I am alone, and His Spirit gives me a word of revelation or instruction. When people ask me, “How do you know it’s Him?”, I think of a woman who was serving as a missionary in New Guinea when World War II came to her area, and she was placed in a Japanese POW camp. She spent three years there, and when the prisoners were rescued, there was no way to notify her family that she was still alive.She was taken to the USA, and as soon as she was able, she found a pay phone and called her parents’ home. It was the middle of the night. Her mother answered with a sleepy, “Hello?
The daughter, Darlene, said, “Hello?”
“Is that you, Darlene?” her mother immediately called out.
Darlene uses this example herself of how she recognizes her Savior’s voice: It is a familiar, loving voice, distinguishable from any other. She could never mistake it for the voice of someone else. There are times when I know it is the Holy Spirit.
The Lord has also spoken to me through other people, through books (including, of course, the Bible, which has been my faithful friend for many years), and through music. Worship and praise music have been a balm to my soul through many a confusing and difficult time, and also a medium for expressing my love and devotion to Christ.
It is important to listen for God’s voice. We spend too much time talking. Silence is our friend when we are hungry for a Word from the Lord. At this stage in my life, I always feel close to Christ. I don’t go looking for Him; I have learned that He is right here, everywhere, never changing, always loving, and forever inviting us to enjoy His Presence.
Jesus Street: What stories stick out in your mind about what God has accomplished through the LAMB?
Suzy: Each child in our children’s home has a story, as do the men, women and children who have been touched by Jesus through our ministries in Flor del Campo. If we have accomplished something for the Kingdom through LAMB, it is that people feel heard by us, individually and lovingly. We have programs, but we never forget to treat each person as a unique, special child of God.
A recent story involves two children, Marvin and Marjeli. Their parents were small-time drug traffickers with gang connections. The father sent the two children (8 and 2) to the street each day to forage for food and money while he and the mother got high. They started stopping by our school. Our staff had compassion on them and bathed and fed them. A visit was made to their home, and we discovered that Marvin and Marjeli slept on a dirt floor every night and were often insulted and beaten by their parents.
We were fearful of reprisal from the gangs if we asked Social Services to take the children, so for two years our staff ministered to the children and reached out to the parents. Then the mother appeared at the neighborhood health clinic with tuberculosis. By law the children had to be tested, and they both tested positive. The government authorities stepped in and took the children to a hospital, and then took them away from their parents who asked that they be placed in our children’s home.
It was a miracle.
Shortly afterwards, Marvin and Marjeli’s mother was tortured and killed. Their father went into hiding. The mother’s family, who had been afraid before of having contact with them, came forward, and they come to visiting day to see the two children. Marvin is going to a special school where he is excelling, and Marjeli is now in kindergarten. They have family. They sleep in beds and eat regularly. They have a hope and a future. God’s eye is truly on the sparrow!
Jesus Street: Why, when one is doing the Lord’s work, are there still mountains to climb and roadblocks to overcome?
Suzy: Why should there not be? Everyone’s life, both those who are doing the Lord’s work and those are not, includes pain and heartbreak, trials and failures. Why should our lives be any different? What makes the life of a follower of Christ different is the RESPONSE to these normal challenges. How we respond to loss, loneliness, hatred, violence, sickness, and death is our witness to the unbelieving world of our unshakeable confidence in our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.
“How we respond to loss, loneliness, hatred, violence, sickness, and death is our witness to the unbelieving world.”
Jesus Street: How do you keep going when you lose a battle, such as the murder of Alonzo? (Alonzo, a former LAMB scholarship student, young husband, and father, was murdered for his cell phone in Oct. 2009, only a few days before he would have completed his law degree.)
Suzy: Christian community is such a bulwark in times of trouble! When Alonzo was murdered, we opened up our school/daycare property in Flor del Campo for his wake, and we drew together, leaning on one another, grieving our loss, and yet proclaiming throughout the night that we trusted in God’s will.
We preached and sang and shared with unbelievers who wandered in that Alonzo was a child of God, and that although we were saddened by his death, we were not crushed. At Alonzo’s funeral, three people stood on each side of the grave as his coffin was lowered. These six people were being discipled by Alonzo at the time of his death.
A few days before Alonzo’s murder, the Lord had given a dream to one of our ministry leaders, which she knew to be guidance for our ministry: Go to the young people on the streets with the Gospel. In her dream, she saw a drug addict attacking a young person, which is exactly what happened to Alonzo. So we started the Alonzo Movement. We had no budget and no paid staff, but it quickly grew to a group of more than 200 boys and girls, a dozen volunteers, and eventually a paid staff to coordinate everything.
By responding to tragedy with hope, by reaching out to young people who could end up in gangs or as drug addicts, we are proclaiming the redemptive nature of Jesus Christ. A few days after Alonzo’s death, we received a message at our office: “We know who killed Alonzo; if you give us $50, we will kill the guy who murdered him.”
We sent a message back: “We would like to know who killed Alonzo so that we can share with Him the Good News of salvation and eternal life. We do not want any more killing. Tell that young man that Jesus loves him, and we love him.”
We heard that the young man was killed shortly afterwards in a drug conflict. We did not celebrate. The fourth anniversary of Alonzo’s death is approaching, and I know that he is rejoicing in heaven that so many youngsters have received hope, faith, and love in Jesus’ Name because of his life, witness, and death.
“Grief is a door to forgiveness and unconditional love. Hatred breeds more vengeance and violence.”
Jesus Street: You have seen such atrocities. How do you reconcile the evil in the world with the enormity of God’s love?
Suzy: Fallen human beings commit atrocities. God has always grieved over the inhumanity of humanity. We should as well. Grief is much healthier and holier than hatred.
Grief is a door to forgiveness and unconditional love. Hatred breeds more vengeance and violence. As long as we seek to be like Jesus, we will never respond to atrocious behavior with more atrocious behavior (and vocabulary!). We will, like Jesus, be led like lambs to the slaughter, peacefully proclaiming the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, joyfully enduring the trials of this world as He did, with the Cross as our symbol of sacrificial, supernatural divine love and resurrection.
Jesus Street: How is the faith of the destitute different from faith of those with means?
Suzy: Faith is an absolute, so I don’t know that there is any difference. Either we have it or we don’t. We talk about “deep faith,” but I believe although we talk about how faith “grows,” it isn’t really the faith that is growing; it’s our awareness of God that is gaining strength. We don’t see Him, and then we get a glimpse, and then we decide to throw our lives in with His, and then as we continue to be obedient to His leading, we hear and see Him more and more.
Our faith becomes more apparent to us and to others, seemingly growing, and yet like love and hope, it is abstract, so the visibility has more to do with the shaping of our character and the resulting action than it does with the absolute of faith. People say we are growing in our faith because they see more fruit in our lives, more evidence of Jesus at work.
Perhaps “those with means” feel little need to be more aware of Christ in their lives, and so there is less fruit. The faithful poor have “ears to hear and eyes to see” because of the constant need in their lives, and because God draws near to the brokenhearted. They have been abandoned by “those with means,” and so they are scooped up by their Heavenly Father, which often means that their lives are richer by comparison in the things that last, that matter, that have eternal value.
“We cannot hear God’s voice clearly if we are not willing to give Him sovereignty in our lives.”
Jesus Street: What is the main obstacle against real, vibrant faith in Honduras? In the United States?
Suzy: Honduras: imitation of U.S. Christianity; cruel societal structures
USA: an unwillingness to live in the spiritual, rather than the material, as reality;
the lack of transparency which allows sins such as pornography to become epidemic;
the tendency to treat Christianity as a hobby rather than a lifestyle, our reason for being.
Jesus Street: How has God provided for LAMB and for you?
Suzy: The greatest treasures in this life are other lives. The Lord has brought wonderful people to support the work of LAMB, and He has called into His service in Honduras committed men and women who share the vision of our ministry heart, soul, mind and strength. We do not have reserves of cash, but we have friends and workers who are sold out to Jesus and who will stand alongside God’s ministry through LAMB no matter what comes. We are so thankful for this provision!
Watch The LAMB at work
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