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Joyce Ward

Retired Missionary to Honduras
"I’m So Thankful the Lord Called Me"
By Rachel Elwood, Staff Writer, January 2013

“They were two totally different ministries,” said Joyce Ward of her service in Honduras and at Peniel Compassionate Ministries in Portland, Oregon. “But they were both rewarding. I put my heart into both of them.”

Born in Pueblo, Colorado, Joyce moved with her family to California during World War II. After the war was over, they settled in Oregon on a farm south of Portland. Joyce’s early years were spent helping her father around the farm. “I was the only one in the family who learned how to milk a cow, so guess who got the job?” she laughed.

Throughout her childhood, Joyce’s parents sent her and her two brothers and four sisters to church. Although she always knew she loved the Lord, she did not truly surrender her life until years later, after she had married and had her oldest daughter, Susan. Joyce and her husband would eventually add Sherry, Rodney, and Jeffrey to their family.

Joyce’s husband had multiple sclerosis, and when she became unable to care for him while working full-time to support the family, he was placed in a nursing home. Sadly, he divorced Joyce soon after.

In 1976, God began to speak to Joyce about missionary service. She went on a missions trip to Honduras and realized God was calling her to serve there full-time. In 1980, she arrived at Escuela El Sembrador. Her main ministry was that of field treasurer, and she also taught in the Bible school and did village evangelism with students. Although she enjoyed her role as treasurer, she especially loved taking teams of students to remote villages to share the gospel.

Toward the end of her first term, Joyce suffered an accident that ruptured her inner ear. When she returned to the U.S., she was diagnosed with trauma-induced Ménière’s syndrome, a condition that has required many surgeries and treatments. She decided not to return to Honduras and instead began serving at Peniel Compassionate Ministries USA in Portland, Oregon, which was a WGM ministry at the time. She joined fellow missionaries Phil and Beth McCoy.

Peniel was a place for homeless people to come in for evening services and a hot meal. It also housed a men’s shelter, and Joyce took over running the women’s shelter that had just recently been opened by Beth. The ministry also offered counseling and various classes.

In a 1988 letter to her supporters, Joyce wrote, “I pray that God will fill not only our eyes but our hearts with His compassion as we reach out to those who so desperately need Him.”

Although Peniel was in a rough neighborhood and Joyce sometimes encountered “difficult” people, she was never afraid for her safety. She later learned that one of the residents used to follow her to her car because he wanted to make sure she was safe. “He had a lot of problems, but he was very kind. I will never forget him.”

Joyce retired in 1997 after 16 years of service. She still lives in the Portland area and serves as the treasurer for her church and for Harmony Evangelical Women, a Christian women’s group. Her family has grown to include eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. She stays in touch with some former students from Honduras and women from the shelter.

“I’m so thankful that the Lord called me, and that I went to Honduras. I praise the Lord for all the times He took care of me and gave me opportunity to have such a life.”

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