Even in the face of fear and mystery, I will still trust the Lord

I was really close to my brother Gary. We were good friends in high school, roomed together in college, even were best man for each other’s weddings. We coached together and could argue with one another on the sidelines, and it’d be OK. Our dad died when we were young, and we went through that ordeal together. We worked with Fellowship of Christian Athletes and with our churches.  

We were very aware of Gary’s calling to missions throughout all those years. I was excited for him. We had taken mission trips together as college kids. He’d organize it and we’d go to Mexico with groups. He worked for 10 years to get everything in line with the International Mission Board. They’re very meticulous about who they put on the field because they want those people to stay.

Gary and his family had not been in Mexico as full-time missionaries for long at all when there was a terrible accident. In 1999, Gary was swimming in the ocean near Tapachula when a strong undercurrent carried him, his 10-year-old daughter Carla, and two summer missionaries out into deep water. They all drowned. 

"I’m learning to be careful with human plans and to plan with the mysterious plan of God in mind."

Well, I guess it’s the normal human response when somebody is taken away—especially when that somebody is taken before, what we call on Earth, “their time”—to think we would have more time with them. Having it happen so quickly after they got on the field—why would God do that? I wouldn’t have planned it that way—a career-minded missionary who’s spent 10 years trying to get there. But God knows. He sees before and after, so you just have to trust Him, even though you fear what can happen. I call it “fearfully awesome.” God’s plans are fearfully awesome, because He could just take anybody [at any time].

Gary’s death created some fear in me in the next five or six years after that, maybe even now. There are pictures in my mind of tragedies that could happen to me and my wife, my kids, that God could do anything. And if He does, then He’s still the Lord and you just have to keep on. 

So when my daughter planned to be married to my now son-in-law, I already knew he had a heart for missions. They grew into their relationship, got married, had kids, and they worked in the Houston area. I said, “Well, one of these days, [them getting called to the mission field is] probably going to happen.” And sure enough, it did. And all those feelings of fear resurfaced.

FBC Groesbeck’s South Asia missions team is pictured. Sloan can be seen second from right with Pastor Keith Collier (third from right) and Glyn Sloan (middle).

Just recently, I don’t know, a year-and-a-half ago, a retired coach that I’d worked with started putting together mission teams and he ended up in Tapachula, where Gary was. He sent me a picture with an older Mexican guy and asked, “Do you know this guy?” I didn’t, but he was one of Gary’s first converts and is now a pastor, and he’s still doing it 23 years later.

The day before the drowning, Gary had met with a few pastors and set out his vision for the whole Chiapas area. That vision is continuing today. There’s an institute for training, a seminary, and a group that was still meeting last I heard as of 2012 or 2013. Was Gary the guy that it’s all centered around, or did his passing cause that group to become stronger on their own? I don’t know. There we go again—the mysterious plan of God’s will.

Now my daughter, her husband, and their children are my church’s missionary family that we pray for and travel to help. We’ve been on two trips to their area and probably will do more. Our VBS offering goes to them and my daughter sends videos for each day. It’s been a great connection between our church here and our family in Southeast Asia.

Sloan visits with a shop owner in South Asia. Submitted Photos

We picked up an unreached people group in that area and we began to pray for them. We had gospel conversations on two trips [in the unreached people group] that we took there and are praying that one of those people will be at God’s throne with every race and every tribe.

I’m learning to be careful with human plans and to plan with the mysterious plan of God in mind. These [plans] are just thoughts that we’re going to act upon, but they may not happen. There’s got to be a trust in God there. 

I’ve been reading through Leviticus recently, and there are these little stanzas that end with, “I’m the Lord.” I’ve got them all underlined, about 20 of them. He is the Lord and His mysterious plan is going to come about. I think I’ve learned that even when I’ve got my own plans here, God may have another plan.

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(as told to Gary Ledbetter)
Larry Sloan
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