September 7, 2017

The privilege of being a missionary

Written by  Phyllis Groff


Marcella Cu and Phyllis study the Bible together in Cojaj, Guatemala. Photo provided by Galen and Phyllis Groff.

After a total of 26 years serving with EMM in Maine, Guatemala, and Belize, Phyllis Groff and her husband Galen have retired this year. Here, Phyllis looks back on the missionary journey that spans over four decades of her life.

Since Galen and I were children, we both had a call to serve God. We applied to go into mission abroad after finishing college and nursing school, but EMM suggested waiting because we hadn't been married a year and there would be many adjustments and added stresses.

God had other plans to prepare us. Over a period of ten years — the first two of which were spent in Voluntary Service with EMM — we assisted a church plant in Maine, far from our natural family. God refined our characters and ministry skills.

Finally, we were prepared to set out for Guatemala to serve among the K'ekchi' people for the first time. During that first three-year term, learning the language and culture expanded our worldviews and minds and introduced our three children to new ways of life.


Phyllis bargains for food in a Guatemalan market in 1986. Photo from EMM archives. 

Our plan to serve long-term was interrupted when we returned to the States for our children's high school years. During those seven years we became youth leaders at our church. Some of these youth later served in mission.

When we returned to serve in Guatemala, it became clear that I would develop my own ministry rather than walking in Galen's shadow. Together we grew in using our different gifts in ministry.


Phyllis examines neighborhood children in Guatemala. Photo by Galen Groff.

Yes, it has been difficult for our young adult children to have us so far away. God graced us and helped us to share in their feelings of aloneness. When we returned to the U.S. to visit our children, God deepened our bond as a family. They affirmed our desire to return to serve in Guatemala.

The blessing of sabbatical rests deepened our relationship with God. The teachings and renewal empowered us to return to serve more effectively.

God protected us as we traveled many miles to visit church leaders and other missionaries as regional representatives for EMM. These relationships sharpened our leadership skills. We gained confidence leading others to fulfillment in their ministries.

Our son, Tim, said, "When you terminate your mission in Guatemala, let's go somewhere to serve together." After 22 years of serving in Guatemala, we explored where we might serve together and decided on Belize. God expanded our horizons.


In 2015, Galen and Phyllis were delighted to join their son and daughter-in-law, Tim and Julie Groff, for a two-year term of missions in Belize. Pictured are Julie and Tim with sons TJ (14), Simeon (12), and Gabriel (9). Photo provided by Tim Groff.

We deeply thank our friends and family who supported us in prayer and finances. They have been engaged with us from afar, but play an important role in God's kingdom work.

Over the course of more than four decades, Phyllis Groff served with EMM as a church planter in Maine, a holistic church and community developer in Guatemala, and a church leadership developer in Belize. She and her husband Galen have always been in ministry together. The Groffs plan to continue living in Belize near their son Tim, daughter-in-law Julie, and three grandsons. Learn more about the Groffs' life story here.

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