Royce and Sandra W. had bought into the American dream. They’d worked hard, raised a family, and were preparing to enter their retirement years enjoying the money they’d saved. They had plans of traveling the world together. But God had something unexpected and infinitely greater in mind for them.
In 2007, the Lord began opening Royce and Sandra’s eyes to His call for their lives.
“God really began speaking to us predominantly through David’s messages and God’s Word,” explains Royce. “He began showing me that those things I was working so hard for are of temporal value. And He helped us focus on things that are of true, eternal value. That was really a turning point for us. Because our plans for decades had been that someday, she’d retire from educating, and I’d retire from the pharmaceutical business, and we would travel.”
After going on several short-term mission trips with Brook Hills over the next couple of years, Royce and Sandra both felt the Lord was instilling in them a desire to serve overseas.
Sandra describes how those short-term trips led to more, “You come back from those trips, and you’ve formed relationships, you’ve seen some lives start to change and people committing their lives to the Lord, but then you have to leave. You aren’t able to develop a long-term relationship there to help disciple or encourage them in their faith. So, we just felt God was calling us to be involved in a specific place for a longer period of time. We were getting close to retirement at that time, so we started praying for God to tell us where He could use us. Looking back and thinking about what really prompted me to make this decision to go overseas, I think I just felt the calling to go to another context where there was a more limited access to the gospel.”
Royce and Sandra first chose to serve mid-term in Uganda, and after going back and forth for about five years, they felt the Lord directing them to explore opportunities to share with Muslim people groups. They visited a country in southeast Asia and quickly felt God drawing them there.
“We went, not necessarily knowing what exactly we would be doing or how God could use us to support the work,” Royce elaborates. “It was a little like in Isaiah 6, when God said, ‘Whom shall I send?’ And Isaiah answered, ‘Here I am, send me.’ Isaiah volunteered without really knowing what God was sending him to do. We decided to do the same.”
“This year has been a wonderful journey of faith for us,” Sandra continues. “When we arrived, we had a to-do list—essentials such as finding a house, getting utilities connected, buying furniture and household items, navigating the transportation system, finding a church, learning about the culture, and learning how to engage in sharing the gospel in a multicultural city of 8,000,000. We quickly learned the value of joining a team already navigating through this process. Since Brook Hills has partnered with KL, we not only had the community of the team that has been serving there for many years, but we also had some of our Brook Hills friends already on the ground. We were immediately welcomed, embraced, and accepted as a part of the family.”
Though it’s been difficult to be away from family and friends and to miss holidays, and adapting to the culture is no small challenge, Sandra says God has been faithful to open doors.
“He has provided many opportunities for us to not only share the gospel with those who have not heard, but also to support the families serving there and to open our home to short-term teams and visitors ministering in the city. This past year, we’ve had the joy of opening our home as a guest house to over 60 people. What a privilege to have those from other countries and cultures, as well as our friends and partners from the U.S. who need a place to rest and refresh while serving short term in the city.”
God has been faithful to walk ahead of Royce and Sandra. He knew what He was doing when He led each of them down their career paths, and when He directed them to serve where they are now, using their skill set for His glory. He is continuing to grow their faith and knowledge of who He is.
“One thing I’m learning through all this,” Sandra shares, “it’s enlarged my view of what a big God we really serve. I think we tend to put God in a box, especially living back in the U.S. We see how He fits into this little box we have of our family, our friends, our church, and how He works in our lives. But moving here and meeting people from all these different cultures, we see how God is working in their lives too, and we see how He’s bringing us in contact with them. It causes me to see how much bigger our God truly is.”
Royce and Sandra also express their thankfulness, “God is working in KL and continues to fill our hearts with joy as we look to Him to open new doors and build relationships. We are so grateful for a church back home who loves, prays, and sends teams to join us in His work in KL. Our prayer is that you will continue to be a church who exists for the sake of the gospel, making disciples for the glory of God. It is a joy to be sent by you to serve the nations.”
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” — 2 Corinthians 4:5
Royce and Sandra Watkins began attending Brook Hills, the first year the church began meeting, in the fall of 1990, and soon after, they became members. They have two sons, Tim (late) and Jim, who is married to Amy, and four grandchildren: Fisher (22), Jude (18), Tripp (16), and Levi (13). Royce and Sandra were involved in various ministries and leadership at Brook Hills over the years before serving mid term.