A Path To Missionary Service
Missionaries to America Deaconess Flor and Rev. Miguel Sanabria, Sr.
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
His proud father set out the path for his oldest son.The ten year old boy stood quietly as the older man made arrangements for him to enter a Roman Catholic seminary in Colombia, South America.
Everyone agreed that the boy, Miguel Sanabria, was smart; he loved going to class, he loved learning. But his father saw something more – saw the boy’s love for the Divine – saw the making of a priest. Parents could make that decision for their sons and feel blessed to have a child who could grow in service to the Lord. Miguel would not disappoint. The path he was on led to more responsibility.
Later, as a young man, he was singled out by his professors as someone with rare potential. Miguel was one of two students from his seminary chosen to continue his studies at a higher level. After ordination an early assignment saw him serve as a university chaplain. A Cardinal recognized the promise shown by the young priest and invited Father Sanabria to accompany him to Rome. That path led to even higher service. Miguel became a professor at the seminary in Colombia – but then God turned Miguel in a different direction.
Realizing his father’s choice was noble he still knew he was not called to walk the road his father had laid out. Miguel Sanabria left the priesthood. It was a courageous decision. Recognizing Miguel’s talent and love for the Lord’s work, the church made him the head of all education programs for the Catholic Church in Colombia. That was only the first change.
By God’s grace he later met Flor, they married and formed a partnership to follow a passion put in their hearts by the Spirit of God – the passion to bring the good news of Gods’ undeserved love and forgiveness to all. The assumptions the people of God had made about the Messiah were way off track. Jesus surprised them all. He came as a servant, a servant who died in our place, taking the punishment we deserve – so we could live with that heavenly Father forever. To share that good news Miguel and Flor were put on a path that led them to Tampa. Today they minister to four new missions in Tampa, missions begun by the family of Deaconess Flor and Rev. Miguel Sanabria.
Miguel’s earthly father would not have guessed his son would become a missionary. Or that he would go with a wife and children into the mission field. And not in Colombia, even though there was great need in that country, but the mission field of Tampa, Florida. The Heavenly Father had laid out a different path.
I wish I had a dime for every missionary who said to me, “I never thought I would be sent to (you name it) Africa, China, South America.” Let alone the United States. All of which says to us, “For your thoughts are not my thoughts neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” ( Isaiah 55:8)” We do not choose God, God chooses whom He wants to serve where He wants them to serve. Few feel worthy or prepared to serve.
No one in my high school class guessed I would enter seminary, let alone manage missionaries. St. Paul was even less likely a candidate. Even after he gave in to the Voice on the Road (Acts 9) there were times he still couldn’t find the path. Eager to be a missionary in Bithynia in Asia, his path was blocked and he found himself a missionary in Europe. I wonder if he was disappointed; after all the prayers and planning he would have to forgo mission work in Bithynia. Who would have guessed that three hundred years later Nicaea in Bithynia would become the site of the first worldwide church council, and produce a creed endorsed by the Emperor of Rome? God’s way is full of surprises.
There are still surprises your Father in heaven has in mind for you.
Out of love a father in Colombia put his son on a path he believed would lead to serving a wonderful God as a priest in Colombia. His heavenly Father had another path. We can all remember that., and pray “Show me your ways, O Lord. Teach me your paths.” (Psalm 25:4)