The Francises Serve AsiaBy ELISA MAYO,
Ralph and Gayle Francis met at Bible College and had no plans to become missionaries, but Ralph felt the call to Asia when he was serving as a counselor at a youth camp.
“I heard that there was one couple from our denomination serving in a city with twice the population of the state of Alabama,” recalls Ralph, “That gripped my heart and I felt it wasn’t right.” He went home and began to pray about it promising God he would increase his giving to missions and work to increase the church’s giving, “I did that, but I couldn’t get away from the impropriety of it. I struggled for two years until finally saying we’ll go.”
Gayle interjects, “The unfairness Ralph felt was that we had so much and they have so little as far as the gospel. I never fathomed I would serve overseas, but I had seen him struggle with the decision and I knew he was not being impulsive when he told me we would go.”
Gayle was six months pregnant with their first child when Ralph told her of his decision to move the family half a world away from their home. “My mother had told me when I was about 16 that she had seen in a dream that my husband and I would be ministering to dark-skinned people,” laughs Gayle, “But I quickly had forgotten about her dream until Ralph delivered the news to my parents and my mother told him about the dream she had all those years ago.”
The couple set out for a journey that would have them ministering to the people of Southern Asia* for forty years. At first, the couple was only allowed into the country for three months at a time. Then, they received a major miracle, “We were granted the first missions VISA to be issued to our organization in twenty-five years. It was a miracle. We were able to move into the country in 1995 and stay until 2015,” says Gayle, “I moved there and I just loved it. I fell in love with the people.” Ralph agrees, “God had a plan and we were in place to be able to get the VISA we needed to live among the people and help meet their needs.”
The Francises have a particular passion for village pastors who are so poor they are paid in grain and often lack water. The rainy season comes only once per year in the country and lasts 2-3 months. Often, water can be purchased from a large city and trucked into the villages if there is money. In dry years, the villages are so starved for water they ration a 5-liter bottle of water for a family of four for ten days. Gayle says, “We can do two things: we can pray for rain and we can help by providing tanks of water twice a week to each village.”
Ralph says, “Presently, we are able to supply a 5,000 liter tank (1,320 gallons) for $17 and a 7,000 liter tanker (1,848 gallons) for $22. Our local pastor says the temperature is running 118F to 120F and the month of May is the hottest month of the year, so people will have much difficulty until the rain starts in June.”
In a country with lack of water and the need to break down long-standing cultural boundaries, the Francises worked to support the native pastors, “Our effort has been to enhance and train workers there. We had a burden for the people. Christianity always raises every level of life in every sphere.”
In addition to providing water and outreach, the Francis’ mission organization established homes for children. In one of the schools, sixty-eight boys between the ages of 5 and adulthood lived. “They were taught that once they entered the home, they were brothers,” explains Ralph. Gayle tells a story of such brotherly love, “One family of boys lost their mother and father. The three-year-old boy could not stop crying. He cried and cried. One of the older boys in the home took up with the boy and carried him for three days, just holding and caring for him. They had so much compassion. I hurt for those boys.”
In another story, Ralph recounts, “One of the boys met a widow in the village and invited her to the compound for church. She continued to come to church for years walking ten hours from her village. As a widow, she was a liability to her culture. She lived in a hut and had a couple of chickens and a goat. The goat provided milk and butter for her. She went out one day and the goat was dead. She had no way to buy another goat. She remembered what her pastor had told her about Jesus. She went over and knelt beside the carcass of that goat and she put her hand on the shoulder of the goat and said, ‘God, pastor said you care for us and will supply for all of our needs and you know that I need this goat for my milk and my butter. I can’t do anything about this, so I am asking you to do something for me.’ She gathered her eggs and went back into her hut. She heard a noise behind her and turned to see the head of that goat stuck through the doorway of the hut. Those kinds of things gave us an assurance that our being there was what God wanted.”.
Their successes are expressed in the relationships they have built with the people. One of the pastors of the largest church of the denomination they serve with is a product of the boy’s home. He was found on the platform of a railway as an infant. He is now a pastor of a church of 3,000 and has 58 pastors who look to him as their supervisor.
The Francises are now living back in the states, but Gayle says, “Our heart is still to Asia and we want to be involved in the ministry.” So, the couple continues to raise funds to purchase the much-needed water for the people they love.
Gayle recalls a quote from missionary Amy Carmichael, “We will have all eternity to celebrate our victories, but only a few short hours to win them.”
To support the work of the Francises, donations can be made to Restoration Outreach, Inc. P. O. Box 291 Quitman, MS.
*For the protection of those still serving, the specific country name is not included in this article.