Then and now Patty Walker

The technology that church ministries use today did not exist 45 years ago when Patty and the late Sherman Walker served as missionaries in Columbia, South America. When Sherman showed Christian films, “He rigged our car with an AC generator so he could show films in areas where there was no electricity,” Patty recalled.

Sherman worked with a local pastor who visited smaller congregations without a motorized vehicle. “That pastor received a motorcycle from Marrable Hill Chapel. Getting that motorcycle was a big deal for the pastor.”

The Walkers always flew to Columbia, landed and entered a world lacking modern conveniences. “Three months after Richard was born in El Dorado, we moved into a rental in El Carmen, Columbia about three hours from the Bible Institute where Sherman worked,” Patty said.

“When my husband was the director of the Bible Institute and treasurer for the missionaries in Columbia we had a landline sitting on his desk. If one of the missionaries in Okania called, I would answer the phone. If he was out fixing pipes or electrical things, I would go out the door and yell ‘Whoooo Hooo.’ He would yell back in his squeaky voice and come running to answer. What a change to having a phone on your person all the time.”

Earlier during the time they served, Patty said, “We didn’t even have a phone. We had to send the letter by air mail or it would have taken months for the mail to get across the continent. I wrote a letter every week to my parents. My mother was used to getting that letter at least once a week.” So when she did not receive any mail from Patty for a week, she noticed. A second week passed with no letter. By the time a third week had come without a letter, Patty’s mother called the mission headquarters.

“I have not heard from Patty in three weeks. Is something wrong? Do you know why we have not received a letter?”

The folks at the mission headquarters said they would investigate. Somehow the staff at headquarters in the United States reached Patty and Sherman in Columbia. “Why haven’t you contacted your parents the last couple weeks?”

“But I have written a letter every week,” Patty protested.

Not understanding what happened, Sherman went to the little post office in Aguachica. “My wife has been writing a letter every week to send back home to her parents in America. We have left money every week to pay for the airmail letter. Do you know anything about it?”

The postmaster reached down, opened a drawer and pulled out all of her letters. “None of them had been sent,” Patti said.

“’ We don’t have any stamps to mail the letters. We were waiting for stamps to arrive,’” the post office clerk explained.

“Well, from then on my husband would get lots of stamps when he went to the big city four hours drive from where we lived. That way we made sure our mail had stamps. Somehow the postmaster found out that we had stamps. When they needed stamps, they would come to us and buy the stamps from us. I don’t know how many times they might have done that.”

“Things have changed so much.” With email and instant messenger no one needs stamps. With a phone in the pocket, no one is limited to a single location. With electrical lines and Internet access, no one needs an AC generator to simply watch a movie or video. The message of the Church has not changed, only the methods used to share it.