By Sheri Schofield
I was four years old when I decided to become a missionary, but it was over thirty years before God finally allowed me to go to the mission field: Panama. By then, I was married to Tim, a military physician. We had two children, and Tim and I were both eager to get started. Tim was made chief of radiology at the military hospital. Within a few months I had made contact with HCJB Trans World Radio’s sister station in Panama City, HOXO, and was hosting my own radio program for children. My dream was blossoming!
Then disaster hit. Tim’s commander tried to involve him in illegal activities and threatened our family when Tim refused. In order to protect us, Tim called the Pentagon inspector general and told him of the illegal activities and the danger we were in. After his commander learned of Tim’s report, he did all he could to destroy Tim. He had him locked in a military psychiatric ward in Georgia in order to destroy his testimony about the crimes. Tim was placed in a room across from a row of elevators that dropped thirteen floors. The elevator shaft closest to his room was open. A narrow yellow ribbon was stretched across the yawning hole. It said, “Caution: Met At Word.” The military psychiatrist put “suicidal” on Tim’s chart, though Tim was not remotely suicidal. It was frighteningly clear what was happening.
Tim’s parents flew to Georgia and the kids and I flew up from Panama. Our meeting on the hospital lawn was deeply emotional. Dad had gone to the military legal office, but nobody there would help him try to free Tim. Dad and Mom looked discouraged, “Sheri,” Dad said, “you are the only one who can fight to save Tim. You have what it will take. It you will fight, we will back you all the way.”
Other Christians had warned me that if I were to fight the military, my life would be serious danger. Tim had told me to stay out of this fight and let the military destroy him. He had said, “Sheri, one of us has to survive for the sake of the children.” He knew the danger.
Now Tim’s parents wanted me to fight the most powerful force on the planet: the U.S. military! Me? I was tiny! I had no legal training! My voice was so childlike that people who called my home would ask me, “Is your mommy home?” (To which I answered, “No!” and hung up.) I was no match for the military. This wasn’t a David-verses-Goliath fight. It was more like a David’s wife-verses-Goliath! This was my Esther moment.
I knew I had to fight for the man I loved. I could not live with myself if I failed to try. As I made the choice to fight, I felt like the weight of the world had just descended on my shoulders. Taking a deep breath and exhaling it, I said, “Moody once said, ‘The world has yet to see what God can do through the man fully surrendered to him.'” Now I say, “The world has yet to see what God can do through the woman who is fully surrendered to him. I will fight this battle under one condition: You must organize prayer teams back home and pray for me daily.” Inwardly I added, “And if I perish, I perish.”
With that the battle began. Everyday I spent the mornings home schooling our two children. The in the afternoons, I visited military commander’s offices, made phone calls, wrote letters and sent faxes. I went all the way up the military chain of command. I contacted our congressman and senator. I wrote the President of the United States. Soon I was put in touch with the Congressional Subcommittee on National Security, International Relations & Criminal Justice. Hundreds of Christians prayed for us daily. But nothing changed. I could see the depths of corruption in our national government that I could not have imagined. In the meantime, the military psychiatrists were abusing and drugging my darling Tim. We felt betrayed by our country, abandoned by God.
Then a reporter from Gannett News/USA Today contacted me. A detective friend back home had told her our situation. The reporter wanted to help. Finally, I started winning. Eventually, Tim and I would appear on ABC’s 20/20 with Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts and Hugh Downs.
After nine months of captivity, Tim was finally freed because of the press. But now Tim was broken. I remember sitting in the inspector general’s office crying out, “This is the death of our dreams!” The mission field was no longer a possibility.
Later that year, I discovered that my broken dreams were exactly what God would use. The battle I fought to save Tim resulted in the Judge Advocate General’s office writing the Military Whistleblowers Protection Directive, which protects our troops from retaliation to the day. The JAG lawyers who wrote it called it “Tim’s Law” among ourselves.
Afterward, God sent me back to teaching children about Jesus…in Montana, where Tim was able to find work. It would be sixteen years before God would ask me to write about what we went through. In the meantime, I threw myself into ministry in order to heal.
All these years of teaching children about Jesus has given me deep insights into who they think at each stage of life. Now God has asked me to share what he has taught me about leading children to Jesus. I’m providing a book for parents to read to their children entitled, The Prince and the Plan, due to be released June 1, 2018. Already missionaries in other countries are requesting it in the languages where they work! So my original desire to serve God on the mission field will now result in reaching far more children for Jesus than if I had spend my life teaching in one or two locations.
I’ve learned to hold my own dreams lightly and trust that if God interrupts my work, it is because he has dreams for me, too. Charles Spurgeon said concerning God, ‘If you can’t see his hand, trust his heart.’ His heart always has a bigger and better plan for us than we could possibly imagine, if we are willing to live in total commitment to his will.
Sheri Schofield’s website is http://www.sherischofield.com. Her blog is on her Facebook ministry page: Facebook.com/faithwind4kids. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Sheri would love to hear from you.