John and Liz Ramos served as AG missionaries since 2001 to Guatemala where they invested in youth ministries, medical outreaches, construction of a Bible College, teaching in the National Bible College, planting a church, and leadership of the field fellowship. Liz now serves as a missionary to Belize since 2014.
August 14, 1982 was one of the happiest days of my life. It’s the day I married John Ramos. Throughout the thirty-plus years of our marriage I’d often look at him, smile and quote John 1:6, “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.” He loved it. As one of his gifts for his fiftieth birthday I wrote a condensed history of his five decades of life. I remember writing it and truly seeing Gods hand in John’s life and in our life. I ended it by writing that I couldn’t wait to see what great adventures awaited us in the decades to come. Well, there would be no decades for us, just another six years.
In 1997 began to feel that we were called to serve as missionaries in the country of Guatemala. I say we because God had dealt with us as individuals. I never once believed that John was called and I was to go with him. I believe that God called John and He called me. In 2001, we left New York with our two children to serve as AGWM missionaries in Guatemala.
There are many things I love about the Lord; one is that He constantly wants to draw us closer to Him and to grow in Him. After our first term, during itineration, I shared with a Regional Director’s wife what I was sensing in my spirit and that I believed something was holding me back emotionally. She suggested I talk to another missionary and I did. That simple act of opening up to another sister and hearing feedback and good counsel was what God used to begin a change in my life. My prayers began to change, my thoughts changed, and hunger for more of His presence began to grow. I was falling deeper and deeper in love with the Lord.
Shortly after returning for our second term to Guatemala the field missionary women began meeting for prayer and bible studies. God used those precious times to so minister to me. I began to sense something different and deep change was beginning in me. I was being healed, of what I do not know, but I know that I was no longer the same.
It was during that second term that we became empty nesters. My children know that they are loved deeply, yet John and I were excited about this new time in our lives. We vowed to do as much as we could together. I began to do more ministry with him. It was one of our happiest times together. I remember the joy I felt. In my little world nothing could be better as we ended our second term on the field.
We left Guatemala March 2012 for our itineration and in June, 2012 we went to Missionary Renewal. It was such a wonderful time of refreshing for us. I loved everything about that week. The speakers spoke such truths and truly ministered to me. One speaker was a missionary widow. She shared about trusting God; that God was trustworthy. John and I looked at each other and thought that is something that God has been speaking to us about during our time of itineration. Of course we trusted God, but we knew that God was specifically dealing with us about a deeper trust. After the missionary spoke I was so drawn to her but didn’t understand why.
At the LAC picnic I sat next to another missionary widow. She shared with me her story of how God had ministered to her during her husband’s death. After a little she got up a left. I was so drawn to her and just wanted to follow her. I remember thinking I need to learn from her. Again I didn’t understand why.
Upon returning to NY, John’s body began to show signs of a possible illness. On August 31, 2012, we were told he had advanced liver cancer with an aggressive tumor and there was no medical treatment available at this stage. We could not believe it. I was hit first with the terrible shock, then quickly pain hit me. My question to the doctor was, “are we just going to watch him die?” He answered, “we’ll manage his symptoms.” Not easy words to hear.
On our trip home we began to understand why God was ministering to us about trusting Him more. As the months went by there were a few hospital stays, to “manage his symptoms.” I began to see John’s body to deteriorate and for the first time since I met him he looked frail. I would ask him to tell me how he felt. His answer was always the same, “I’m at peace.” He never once complained.
On March 17, 2013 John had to be hospitalized for the last time. Because of pain and because his organs were shutting down he was kept sedated for last 19 days of his life. Each day I would sit with him, hold his hand, read to him and talk to him. Each day I knew God was with me and my kids. On March 21, I wrote this in my journal,
“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…” Romans 4:18. “and hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:5. For an entire year the Lord has clearly spoken to us trusting Him. What does it mean to really trust Him when everything you know, planned and hoped for God completed changes.”
John went to be with the Lord on April 5. Two weeks after John’s death, I wrote,
“What do I do now? I have wept deeply knowing that my life now is without John. I miss him more and more each day. We had plans to do things together till our old age. Moving forward without him saddens me greatly. Yet, clearly that is what God has chosen for me. I understand more and more each day that His way is not our way. Who can fathom the way of the Lord? Not me! So what I am left with…simply trust Him. I remember the words, “He is trustworthy.”
After John’s death, there were two questions I dreaded being asked, one was, “How are you?” the other, “what are you going to do now?” I am thankful for AGWM, they extended compassion, love and gave me time to grieve. As I began to pray and seek council about my future, I felt the Lord remind me of the individual call to missions. How I knew without a doubt that He called me, I just never imagined that it would be without John. During the next few months, God so sweetly reminded me about the joy of obedience. He reminded me of the few times that I did share while on itineration. I would always read the same verses, Psalm 18:30&32a “As for God, his way is perfect, the Lord’s word is flawless, he shields all who take refuge in him.” “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” I would say, “following a perfect God can only lead to a perfect way, but if its perfect why do we need strength? Perfect does not make it easy, it may not look like you want, it may not be very pretty, it may be difficult, it may be painful, nevertheless if He is leading its perfect.” God just kept using scripture to minister to me. Scriptures like, “though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.” Isaiah 54:10. “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” Psalm 138:8. I began to pray these scriptures. I believed His word, I believed these scriptures but something was different. The best way I can describe it is that for me the words became magnified; bigger somehow, more real if there’s such a thing. They were the balm God was using to comfort, strength, heal and lead.
As I prayed about what to do the Lord used scripture to speak to me and He used my leaders to listen to me and pray with me. I felt God reconfirm his call. I returned to the mission without John but not alone for I know God is with me. On January 29, 2014 I wrote,
“Today I leave NY, my family and friends to go back to the mission field in Belize. After much prayer and counsel I have felt that I am to continue in missions. I am not sure what God is doing. This is a big move and an emotionally difficult move. I certainly would not be doing it if I didn’t believe it was God’s will for me. I pray He use me. My desire is to serve him wherever He calls. Praying for strength and wisdom.”
Some days it’s not easy, but “…my aim is to complete the task given me.” Acts 20:24.
God has not forsaken me, he has taken care of me and my children. Through this most difficult time I have fallen in love with the Lord more and more. He has been my strength, peace and comfort. How do I not serve him!
Commit to pray for and partner with Liz Ramos here.