By Barb Dunlap-Berg
June 2020 | ATLANTA
‘My place in life’s journey is simple,’ says Sudola McCuistion. ‘Do good, do no harm and love Jesus.’
As a child born and raised in Texas, Sudola Maye “Sue” McCuistion promised herself – and God – that she would make a difference.
Studying at the University of Oregon, Eugene, Sue earned two degrees – a Bachelor of Arts in international studies and a Master of Arts in Public Policy Planning and Management. She married a man whose job took them to Peru, Guatemala and Mexico.
“That girlhood commitment stayed dormant for many years,” she said. By the 1990s, Sue was the president of United Methodist Women at Trinity United Methodist Church, Arlington, Texas. A friend suggested that she reach out to McCurdy Mission School, an Advance-supported ministry in Espanola, New Mexico. This began a succession of 12 mission journeys from 1998 to 2009.
Sue’s senior pastor, the Rev. Dean Posey, commented that the congregation now had its own Mission Volunteer (MV). Sue had no idea that such a United Methodist program for individuals existed. She checked it out online and completed an application. During her training, she said, “I was really intrigued because I had already read most of the material before I knew of the required reading.” Mission Volunteers [insert link: https://www.umcmission.org/serve-with-us/mission-volunteers] are individuals or couples ages 18 and up, who seek long-term partnerships with communities around the world. Opportunities are diverse and range from working with refugees, children and youth to serving as teachers, pastors, camp directors or health care professionals. The length of service ranges from two months to more than two years.
Una Jones, MV program director for Global Ministries, asked Sue where she wanted to serve and for how long. Without hesitation, Sue replied, “Latin America because I speak Spanish and for no longer than three months at a time.”
Then, she prayed for God’s guidance. “Sometimes,” Sue admitted, “it’s hard to discern God’s will from mine.” Another visit to McCurdy proved serendipitous. “I was introduced to a United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) team [insert link: https://www.umcmission.org/serve-with-us/umvim] preparing to go to Guatemala to build stoves,” she said. “No one on their team spoke Spanish.”
Then Global Ministries sent Sue as a Mission Volunteer to San Jose, Costa Rica, where she worked in the Latin American Biblical University library. “I learned the Dewey Decimal System, checked books in and out, and reshelved them,” she said. She also entered information from the files from Spanish to English.
Traveling with three teams to Panama, Sue continued to wear many hats. She accompanied a UMVIM team from First United Methodist Church, Alvarado, Texas, installing PVC pipe to alleviate flooding on a school playground. With Global Hands of Healing, a faith-based nonprofit based in Hurst, Texas, she translated at a vision clinic. Her most recent assignment in Panama involved converting portable sewing machines to hand cranked so recipients, whose homes have no electricity, could sew items for their families and to sell.
Today, Sue lives in Tyler, Texas, where she and her family attend First Christian Church. Through her connection with Global Ministries, she continues to build a resume that may be one of the most eclectic imaginable. She has translated, done community outreach and worked with children. She has also mixed concrete, repurposed sewing machines, built stoves and hauled water.
Sue realizes her efforts may not produce instant results. “It takes years for change to take place,” she acknowledged. “Have I made an impact? It’s not me they will remember but my actions and love while helping them.”
Reflecting on her experiences, Sue said, “I can’t take away the hurt, but I can add laughter. Sometimes, that laughter is on me when I goof in translating something in Spanish. The young men in Guatemala who are master stove builders in the community get the biggest kick out of me searching for an appropriate word to describe concrete blocks, mortar, rocks and sand. And then we laugh, and they tell me the correct word.”
Every experience is unique, Sue said, noting, “I learn something new each time.”
Amid COVID-19 restrictions, Sue’s future mission journeys are uncertain. “I await God’s calling,” she said. “He has something in store for me, I am sure.”
Barb Dunlap-Berg is a freelance writer and editor for Global Ministries.