RIPLEY – The past seven years of mission work in England have been years of growth for the Sturm family.
For the next several months the family will continue visits to the churches in the United States which have supported them and their work.
Andy and Amy Sturm – with their children, Brieanna, 13; Andrew Jr., 11; Blessing, 10; Noah, 7; Eli, 5; and Emily, 2 – have been fellowshipping with members of the Unity Baptist Church congregation, sharing stories of their lives in Carlisle, England.
“We’ve shared an update from the beginning of the work there, some of the hardships and trials as well as the triumphs and heavenly blessings,” Sturm said.
The family developed a close relationship with Unity and its pastor of more than three decades, Dr. Ronnie Barefield, through the years, Sturm said, and they “poured their hearts out.”
The life of a missionary, particularly when raising a family thousands of miles from the family support system, has many challenges that others wouldn’t think about.
“We’ve had to get through the family crisis of surgeries without that family support,” Sturm said. “It’s related to a hereditary condition and we know some of the children also face surgery in the future. Sometimes you feel isolated and alone, but the Lord sees you through and gives you the grace to make it through those times.”
When the Sturms posted to England seven years ago they had two children, Brieanna and Andrew Jr.
“The oldest two remember people and places here, but the youngest four, all they know is life in England,” he said. “It has required them making an adjustment. Even though the language is English, there are expressions and words they don’t know, like when we first went there and I was trying to find the right expressions for what I wanted to say in my sermons.
“There are different fun foods my children wouldn’t even enjoy, simple things like cereal. There are no Lucky Charms or Captain Crunch, so they never had them before.”
Life is quite different for 38-year-old Andy Sturm, too. His work as a missionary living abroad is a far cry from the Amelia, Ohio native’s decade-long previous career as a funeral director and embalmer.
“The Lord used that to give me a heart for people.” he said. “You’re trying to be a help to people at the most difficult time in their life.”
He resisted the call to missions at first, Sturm said. The promise of having the $10 million funeral business passed on to him when he turned age 30 was more than tempting.
“It was a great opportunity, but I had to ask myself was it what the Lord wanted for my life,” Sturm said. “Money isn’t everything, and the Lord transformed mission work from a burden into a calling. I now know this is the greatest calling one could have.”
Sturm is making visits to each of the 15 or so congregations that support his mission, having visited five of them before arriving in Ripley. He’ll travel to Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina and Tennessee before returning to Mississippi in November. The family travels back to England in February.
“We’ll try to expand the ministry when we get back,” Sturm said. We hope to purchase a minibus, a 15-17 passenger van. People don’t drive much with gas $9 a gallon. The van will enable us to bring more people to services, children to bible classes. We’ll also continue new work we’ve begun at Penrith, a town 20 miles south where we helped start a ministry. We’ll continue that ministry as well.”
Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal Corinth Bureau