Posted by: calloftheandes | July 19, 2013

Not One Tear Wasted for Woman Recalling Hardships as Missionary Kid in Ecuador

Story by Ruth Pike and Ralph Kurtenbach

Record my misery;
list my tears on your scroll—
are they not in your record?
—Psalm 56:8 (NIV)

Robbyn Booker

Robbyn Booker

Returning to Ecuador after 40 years, Robbyn Booker has been thrilled by the “blessing of being able to come here and see what the Lord did with those tears that I shed.” A child of evangelical missionaries, she grew up in the South American country during the 1960s.

Her former church in Quito, Iglesia Evangélica Iñaquito, has grown 20-fold and is still growing. The church, whose name translates as Iñaquito Evangelical Church, is now led by Ecuadorians rather than North American missionaries. Offering five services every Sunday, the congregation meets across from Radio Station HCJB’s campus in Quito where her parents, Leonard and Imogene Booker, served in English-language broadcasting. The church is now sending workers around the world, including countries often closed to North American missionaries.

For Booker, the hardships of growing up as a foreigner in another country were definitely worthwhile. Originally from California, she arrived in Quito with her family in 1962 just prior to her 11th birthday. Producing programs for listeners around the world via international shortwave radio, her parents also responded to listeners who wrote to the station.

Typical programming included news and cultural shows followed by a short Bible message. Every Thursday after school, the children of the radio producers would sing Sunday school songs and perform skits for live radio and television, including a popular children’s radio program called “Gospel Bells.”

Booker also used to play the piano for church services at the Iñaquito church, whose congregation began decades ago in the home of Dr. Paul Roberts, founder of the mission’s Hospital Vozandes-Quito. His wife, Barbara, who served as a nurse, held Bible studies known as “kids’ clubs” in the couple’s backyard.

Archive photo from an HCJB Global prayer album, circa mid 1960s.

Archive photo from an HCJB Global prayer album, circa mid 1960s.

For her family, the transition to life in Ecuador held its fair share of challenges—communicating with relatives for a start. During the 1960s, Radio Station HCJB aired Party Line which originally featured missionary families sending monthly greetings to their homelands where their loved ones could listen on shortwave. Some missionaries—but not the Bookers—used amateur band (ham) radio to keep in touch with home.

Daily life was an adjustment too. Shops were few and far between, prompting difficulties in buying even common conveniences, including shampoo.

Booker said that for the first four years, “every night I cried myself to sleep.” However, a trip to the U.S. on home ministry assignment in 1965 involving visits to donors and family enabled her to see Ecuador as home and gave her a greater excitement for the work there.

In 1969 she began living in the U.S. In the ensuing decades, in spite of developing a successful career in banking, she declares, “I’ve always prayed, ‘Please don’t let this be my life.’” Then in 2006 a short-term voluntary trip to Ukraine reignited a longstanding interest in serving God overseas.

Robbyn Booker at Pan de Vida (Bread of Life) in Quito

Robbyn Booker at Pan de Vida (Bread of Life) in Quito

However, the real push came in September 2012 when she was unexpectedly laid off. This news came as a shock for Booker, but not to her daughter who confessed, “I was praying for you to lose your job!” As she came to terms with this, she asked God, “Are you freeing me up?”

A few months later, she is now serving in Quito, Ecuador, as a working visitor in HCJB Global’s human resources department. She speaks enthusiastically of the opportunity “to encourage the people … doing the work.” She also volunteers at Pan de Vida (Bread of Life), a ministry begun in 2001 when a local businessman, Oscar Aguirre, shared God’s Word and a breakfast with 20 people who had gathered in the carport of former HCJB Global missionaries David and Marilyn Tippett.

Life is never without its challenges, and unexpected health problems greeted her in Quito. Yet she is still able to declare confidently that “the Lord is in control and He has a purpose.”

“I’m feeling so blessed to be here,” she relates. “This makes it like the full circle.” Seeing the growth of her former church and the continuing work of HCJB Global has given Booker a fresh perspective on the trials she experienced growing up in a different culture. Looking back on her childhood in Ecuador, she can genuinely say that “not one tear was wasted.”

Have a half hour? Listen to “Christmas With The Bookers

Archive photo shows the Bookers in the early to mid 1960s.

Archive photo shows the Bookers in the early to mid 1960s.



  1. […] Springs to be closer to family, including their son Gary who works at Focus on the Family and their daughter, Robbyn, who has served as a missionary to Spain and recently joined Reach Beyond as a […]

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