Why I Live for Refugees – By Terri Saelee

Several of my students neared decisions for baptism at the end of my third year of teaching English at a camp of 50,000 refugees in Thailand.

I was a college student from the U.S. state of Nebraska, and my students were learning about Jesus through Bible classes offered as a bonus to the English classes.

But then the pastor who taught the Bible classes told me that the students who wished to be baptized were hesitating. They were afraid of becoming Christians and seeing the missionaries leave before they understood Christianity enough to live real Christian lives.

When the pastor shared this with me, I didn’t know what to do. I had been planning to go home after three years as a student missionary. My mother was looking forward to seeing me. But my main goal was the salvation of souls. So I began to pray, “Lord, what shall I do?”

Then I read during my morning devotions: “The cause of God is to hold the first place in our plans and affections” (Counsels on Stewardship, p. 220).

I thought, “This passage is pointing right at me.” I wanted to finish school, have a profession, and start a family. But it was like God was saying, “Terri, here is the guidance that you have been waiting for. God needs to be first in your plans and affections.”

I decided that my first responsibility was to my family. But my family already knew God. So I decided to call my mother and heed her advice.

I traveled 35 kilometers (22 miles) to find the nearest post office with a public telephone. I called collect because I didn’t have any money. I knew it was expensive.

I asked my mother, “What would you think if I decided to stay another year or indefinitely?”

Her response was immediate. “Terri,” she said, “I will never tell you to come home. If I told you to come home and even one soul failed to hear the gospel, I would regret it for eternity. But if by staying you can help even one soul to know God and to be in the kingdom, it would be worth it even if I never saw you again.”

Tears streamed down my cheeks as I sat in post office. I praised God for a mother who loved so much. My mother wanted to see me, but she had already made the sacrifice in her heart. The salvation of souls was so important to her that she would give up seeing me again.

Terri Saelee did eventually come home to see her family as she is now the director of Adventist Refugee and Immigrant Ministries for the North American Division. A total of 140 new churches comprised of refugees has opened across North America since she became the ministry’s founding director in 2009.

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  • khethiwe

    Amen praise God for your sacrifice Terry. May we also be able to lay our lives like Christ did.

  • N Bal4 – Sinner saved by Grace

    Praising God for having a mother who is so supportive to you and your wishes. May you continue to do the good work.

  • Ros Farrell

    Praise God for such a powerful testimony and the sacrificial love of a mother that represents the heart of Jesus to each of us. Lord, please give me a heart like Yours to represent You in this sinful world that is full of pain and suffering. Amen

    • Dennis Lowrimore

      I stayed in China 13 years depite my family urging me to come home. It was worth it.

  • Gloria Mosha-Onchiri

    Amen thank you for a powerful testimony.Blessed be your mother who put God first and the results are smazing.Lord teach me to be a mother who puts you first in Jesus Name!

  • Jeanette

    Beautiful testimony of sacrifice and love.

  • Elaine James

    Very touching. What an unselfish mother! Many stars in both their crowns.
    “Like the stars of the morning, His bright crown adorning, They shall shine in their beauty, Bright gems for His crown”
    May God bless your continued service.

    • Desiree

      Halelujah. Amen.

  • Esther

    Thank you Terri for sharing this beautiful experience with us. Thank you for your mom who had made the sacrifice first in her heart and did not hold you back from doing what God had purposed for you to do.

    • Desiree

      Praise GOD.

  • Fungai Sakaike

    Ámen! What a powerful testimony and display of a Christ like character! Lord may you help us to be such exemplary mothers in our daily walk in life!

    • Desiree

      Amen.

  • Desiree

    Thank you for sharing this inspiring experience,may GOD help us all to always put HIM first. Praise HIS Holy Name.

  • D.V.B.

    Scripture reminds us: we will hear a voice saying this is the way, walk in it. God never fails to give directions in a way we can understand. Once we seek Him first, He does add everything else unto us. Thank you Father for Terri’s testimony and for her mother’s working faith. Thank you for reminding me that nothing should be too great a sacrifice for your glory.

  • Noeline Cutts

    Terri will have no regrets. Our deepest happiness & peace lies in putting God first. Denying self helps us grow closer to Him.

  • Wojtek Janiuk

    Amen and Amen

  • Gina Geertsma

    Amazing testimony sister Terri. God works in many mysterious ways. What a wonderful love of a mother who sacrifice for the sake of others. I just think about the text in the Bible”seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.” Thank you for sharing your story am sure that a lot of people are inspired while reading it.

  • Mavhoro Tawona

    Amen and Amen. The cause of God is to hold the first place in our plans and affections” (Counsels on Stewardship, p. 220). Matthew 6. 33. May God help us to be faithful to the cause.

  • Marilyn Fletcher

    A wonderful testimony; thank you for sharing it with us.

  • EL POETA MISA DE QUISQUEYA DOM

    THANKS MY GOD-333 THANKS BROTHRES AND SISTERS-

  • Tahoya

    Praise the Lord!