Zelma Houser (1924-2014)
We draw inspiration from the life example of a woman named ZELMA HOUSER.
"Mommy Zelma," as everyone came to call her, was 63 years old when she felt led by God to leave the comforts of home and the fellowship of family and friends in Phoenix, Arizona, to live in one of the poorest towns in Cavite, Philippines.
Imagine moving to a new country by yourself at retirement age. You had no clue about the country's culture; you could never pronounce correctly a single local word; you didn't have much to live comfortably; and you didn't know anybody.
It does sound like Abraham's walk of faith -- when God told him to “Depart from your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you."
And, like Abraham, Mommy Zelma held on to God's call.
The first three years saw her living in run-down houses infested with roaches, riding overcrowded public transportation to go places, and caring for babies abandoned by their parents.
She eventually met a Filipino couple, Pete and Lita, who became her most trusted ministry partners and friends.
Mommy Zelma's daughter, Jan, said that if Pete and Lita hadn't been there for her, she might have returned to Phoenix.
Eventually, Mommy Zelma's friends and church family started sending her financial support. Her mother church in Phoenix donated funds to buy a property in Naic, Cavite. On this piece of land, they built an orphanage, administrative offices, and apartments for Mommy Zelma, Pete and Lita, and visiting missionaries and friends.
Early on, Mommy Zelma discovered that many of the abandoned children had fathers who were in prison. So she started a Bible school inside the maximum security prison in a city outside of Manila. Her hope was that God's Word would change the hearts and minds of these men and that they would become better husbands, fathers and neighbors.
Hope did not disappoint. Some of the men who graduated from the Bible school and in the end got released from prison started their own churches and became Valley Cathedral pastors.
Mommy Zelma came to the Philippines not knowing what God had in mind for her to do. She did not plan to start an orphanage or a Bible school or build churches. She just walked in faith one step at a time and trusted God for the journey.
She wanted her life to account for something.
On December 13, 2014, God was pleased to take Mommy Zelma into her eternal home. She was 90 years old. Per her request, she was buried on the property under a mango tree – to be near her people whom she loved dearly.