Posted by: calloftheandes | August 29, 2016

Former Missionary Linda Clayton Known for Quiet Influence for Christ in Ecuador

Linda May Clayton

Linda May Clayton

Note: A memorial for Linda will be held on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 2:00 at Robertsville Church Morganville, New Jersey.

Story by Harold Goerzen

Quiet, unassuming and easygoing, former missionary Linda Clayton never stood out in a crowd. But during her nearly 17 years with Reach Beyond in Ecuador, serving as an X-ray technician at the mission’s hospital in Shell, she left a lasting impression, endearing herself to all who met her, whether missionaries or Ecuadorians.

“She often forgot about the time while talking, especially to jungle patients, so an X-ray could take some time to get done, but only we Westerners (missionaries) complained,” recounted German surgeon Dr. Eckehart Wolff who served alongside Clayton at the hospital.

“The X-ray department was full of papers, articles and ideas she had collected for her patients,” added Wolff. “Even today I talked to some former lab technicians from the old hospital. Linda shared her life with them and had a great influence on the national personnel.”

Linda May Clayton died in Port Orange, Fla., on Wednesday, July 20, after a brief battle with cancer and subsequent complications. She was 68. Born in Englishtown, N.J., on April 29, 1948, she had a desire to serve as a missionary ever since she was a young child.

Early Years

Raised in a devoutly Christian home, she committed her life to Christ at the age of 4 while her father was pastoring Spring Valley Community Church in Morganville, N.J.

“We had missionaries stay in our house every time there was a missions conference in the church,” she said in an interview soon after arriving in Ecuador. It also made an impact on her life when one of her Sunday school teachers decided to become a missionary in Benin, West Africa.

“Later when I was a teenager that same person influenced me to go into missions,” Clayton related.

After graduating from Freehold Regional High School in Englishtown, N.J., in 1966, she took a two-year pre-nursing course at The King’s College in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. Then she went on to the Princeton Hospital Radiologic Technology School, graduating from the program in 1971.

Still not feeling fully prepared to enter foreign missions, Clayton spent the next 13 years working as a general radiologic technologist at Bayshore Community Hospital in Holmdel, N.J.

“I’ve always enjoyed working in the X-ray field, especially because of the personal contact with patients and the opportunities to witness to them,” Clayton related.

For a two-year period, the hospital’s pediatric department made a room available where she could lead weekly Bible studies for patients and visitors.

In 1981 Clayton began making serious enquiries into foreign missions. As she put it, “The Lord reminded me, ‘I can use you.’” She learned about the jungle hospital’s need for an X-ray technician through Intercristo (now—a placement agency for missionaries and other Christian workers.

Missionary Service

Clayton applied to the mission, then known as HCJB, and she was officially accepted in August 1985. After raising the required financial support, she studied Spanish in Costa Rica for eight months.

While this was a difficult time, living with a Tico (Costa Rican) family helped her learn both the language and the Latin American lifestyle. “It was exciting,” she said. “And I had always wanted to go to Costa Rica.”COS-Advancement Bizhub 454e-20160804101303

After completing language school in December 1986, Clayton went directly to Ecuador to begin her work at Hospital Vozandes-Shell (also known as Hospital Vozandes del Oriente or HVO), quickly fitting into the local community.

“This was the first time I’d worked in a hospital where all the doctors are Christians,” she recounted. “There was also a lot more freedom to share my faith. I had many opportunities to pray with the patients.”

Clayton described the people living in Shell as a “very close-knit family. We all worked together and helped each other out.”
Former HVO administrator Mark Papierski recalled first meeting Clayton while serving as a working visitor in Shell in 1988.

“I was impressed with her love for children and willingness to share her faith with anyone she met,” he said. “She immersed herself in ministry to the people she loved…. She was generous, witty and friendly to all and always brought a smile. She was loved by the national employees and patients and was known for her prayers and concern.”

“She was a true warrior of prayer and a faithful servant to what God called her to do,” added Papierski’s wife, Marilyn.

Clayton’s work included training Ecuadorian X-ray technicians, regardless if they had any formal education in this field.

“Linda invested time in befriending the national nurses who worked in our hospital,” added missionary nurse Betty Van Engen, who had served in Shell before moving to Reach Beyond’s Hospital Vozandes-Quito. “She would visit them and share with them and had a good investment of Christian discipleship with these young ladies.”

Church Involvement

Linda Clayton rClayton also got involved in the local evangelical church, La Luz del Evangelio (Light of the Gospel), often helping with Good News Clubs, teaching Sunday school, putting on neighborhood puppet shows, leading junior church and helping with midweek prayer meetings. She also led a Bible study with staff members in the hospital laboratory.

“Linda had a deep love for bringing people to Jesus,” said former Reach Beyond missionary Mary Mertz, whose husband, Bruce, served as a physician at HVO which closed at the end of 2013. “It wasn’t uncommon for her to arrive at church with some visitors in tow. Linda really loved children and they loved her…. She was a person who looked out for ‘the least of these.’ She also had a servant’s heart and was eager to volunteer, no matter the task.”

“When Linda was going down the streets in Shell, she was usually followed by a trail of children,” added missionary Sharon LaBouef. “She led many children to the Lord at her Child Evangelism Fellowship clubs in the area.”

Community development nurse Miriam Gebb recalled meeting an Ecuadorian woman in the jungle who asked about Clayton. “About a year ago I was having some classes there with children about washing their hands and brushing their teeth. One of their mothers who had lived in Shell as a child came over and asked about Linda, stating that she had come to know Christ because of the Bible clubs that Linda led,” Gebb explained. “She loved the people, and the Latinos loved her.”


Jennie van Schaick, who succeeded Papierski as the hospital administrator, described Clayton as being “very creative with food and once brought us Jell-O with popcorn in it, as I remember, for the Christmas dinner.”

Dr. Jerry Koleski confers with nurse Jackie Benavides and X-ray technician Linda Clayton.

Dr. Jerry Koleski confers with nurse Jackie Benavides and X-ray technician Linda Clayton.

She also recalls that Clayton became “very upset about her mother being ill and left to care for her.” After moving to Florida to look after her mother in 2003, she never returned to Ecuador.

Moving to Florida

Linda got involved at First Baptist Church of Harbor Oaks in Orange, Fla., helping with various children’s ministries. She also began taking courses by correspondence through Moody Bible Institute in 2014.

A memorial service was held at First Baptist Church on Saturday, Aug. 13, with one of the church’s former pastors, George Robertson, officiating. Clayton died not having any surviving immediate family members.

“I would say that even though Linda was one of the quietest, most reserved people on our staff, her care for others and her faithfulness to her task were great examples of commitment and love,” concluded Ron Cline, a former Reach Beyond president now serving as a mission ambassador.

Linda Clayton at a Vacation Bible School for children at First Baptist Church Harbor Oaks in Port Orange, Florida.

Linda Clayton at a Vacation Bible School for children at First Baptist Church Harbor Oaks in Port Orange, Florida.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: