October 12, 2018

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” -Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)

In the early stages of their ministry together, Dan (’70) and Peggy (Harper ’73) Whitcher were forced to trust the Lord’s timing and sovereignty. They had big plans, and a heart for ministry in Mexico, but when things weren’t happening as fast as they wanted them to, they just had to trust God’s perfect plan.

“As we went into missions, we were sometimes asked if we had been out of God’s will in the pastorate,” said Dan. “The fact is, as God led us in different ministries, we constantly prayed ‘God, don’t forget about us and our burden for Mexico.’ We had even tried to pry open some doors along the way, but at each step, we were confident we were exactly where God wanted us to be.”

The Whitchers relationship began while they were students at Faith. Prior to attending Faith, Dan spent a portion of his young adult years in the state of Arizona where his family often hosted missionaries. He believes his burden for missions, specifically for the Mexican people, began during those formidable years in the Southwestern United States.

“In my teenage years, a missionary to Mexico spoke at our church,” said Dan. “As I felt God leading me into ministry and I went off to college, Mexico was on my heart.”

Dan met Peggy at Faith, and their relationship blossomed. As they discussed their potential future ministry together, Peggy was hesitant about life as a missionary.

“Peggy was willing to serve God in any way He chose, but she thought she was too weak and inadequate to be a missionary. As we were dating, the subject of missionary service came up. Her testimony is that God used Philippians 2:13 to help her understand that, where God calls, He will also enable.”

Even while they were students at Faith, Dan and Peggy had to be patient and trust the Lord’s sovereignty and timing. Facing financial difficulties, Dan made the decision to drop out of school and was drafted into the army during the Vietnam War. Following his discharge, Dan and Peggy were married and resumed their studies at Faith once again.

Near the end of his time at Faith, Dan had the opportunity to serve as the assistant pastor at Peggy’s home church in Winterset, Iowa. After graduation, the Whitchers spent time in pastoral ministry in Kansas City, Nebraska, and Mount Pleasant, Iowa. As the Whitchers patiently waited for an open door to Mexico, the Lord continued to mold and shape them right where they were. Their patience was rewarded.

“In the spring of 1981, Faith’s Missions Department professor was in our church, and commented that he was taking several students on a ministry trip to Mexico in the summer,” said Dan. “I shared our interest in Mexico and he invited us to go along. Our church graciously allowed us the time away and helped us to go. As we returned home, we both felt that this was God’s time for us to move in that direction.”

The Whitchers enrolled in language school and began their work in Mexico in a small village, completing the work of a church plant. From there, they moved on to Mexico City, where they would spend the remainder of their 22-year ministry as missionaries. With a lifetime of work still ahead of them, the Lord threw a curveball their way in 2004.

“We were content in Mexico, and had seen God use us as people came to Christ and churches were established,” said Dan. “At that time, we received a call from the leadership of Baptist Mid-Missions (BMM) asking us to consider, as Dr. Anderson put it, ‘coming off the playing field and being a coach to other church planters.’ Our emotions weren’t there at first, but we could see that our experiences had equipped us for just the kind of ministry that we were being asked to consider. Leaving Mexico was much harder than leaving the United States to go to Mexico, but God gave us grace for the adjustment.”

After spending the last 14 years traveling most of North America for BMM, the Whitchers have now entered the retirement stage of their lives. They are excited to anchor down in Southeast Texas near their daughter and son-in-law and to be involved in the lives of their grandchildren.

At each step of their ministry lives together, Dan and Peggy Whitcher have had to trust in God’s timing and sovereignty. Hindsight is always 20/20, and now that the Whitchers can look back on their ministry, they understand the importance of patience and letting God set the pace for their lives.

“So much of ministry preparation comes with skills learned by experience. I was glad I didn’t have to gain that experience while adjusting to another language and culture. Looking back, I can see all the things that God was teaching about life and ministry, and the things that He was working on in my own heart. I strongly suspect that we would have ended up as ‘missionary dropouts’ if, after graduation, we had gone directly into a cross-cultural ministry.“

Using their lives as an example and the wisdom gained along the way, the Whitchers have strong advice for young people going into ministry:

“Don’t be in a hurry. When we’re young, we are anxious to get going, but it takes time for God to develop our lives. Along with knowledge, gain experience in relationship evangelism and personal discipleship. Ministry is about people. Get some training and experience in Biblical counseling, because people have problems and they need help to find God’s solutions.”