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Melvin “Mel” Eberhard

Watching His Fields
"We leaned heavily on God’s grace and found it to be sufficient."
By Rachel Elwood, Staff Writer, 2012

Arthur Melvin “Mel” Eberhard hadn’t planned on going to Honduras as a missionary. But while he was teaching at the Pan American Institute of Agriculture, Mel met WGM missionary Don Hawk. Don was just beginning the ministry that would become Escuela El Sembrador, a school for underprivileged Honduran boys. Mel worked for Don for several years, and his interest in the project grew.

Mel had grown up in California. Though he did not come from a Christian home, it was a good home, and Mel considered himself a Christian. After high school, he attended California State Polytechnic College. He spent one year in Japan with the U.S. military. For the next three years, he showed dairy cattle at county fairs across California, and when he was offered the chance to go to Honduras, he jumped at the opportunity.

While in Honduras, Mel became interested in WGM missionary Wanda Sharpton. When she returned to the U.S. to study at Greenville College (Illinois), Mel returned with her. Mel gave his life to Christ at a revival service at Greenville, and Mel and Wanda were married in 1956. After some Bible training, Mel and Wanda returned to Honduras as WGM missionaries.

They served at El Sembrador and started a lay-training program in Juticalpa, and later they moved to La Esperanza to plant churches. During this time, they became good friends with another missionary colleague on the field named Sara Radebaugh. When Wanda became ill with cancer, the Eberhards had to return to the United States for medical treatment. Sadly, Wanda passed away in 1969.

Determined to follow God’s call, Mel returned to Honduras with his three sons: Dan, David, and Paul. As Mel transitioned back into ministry, he and Sara Radebaugh soon sensed that it was God’s will for them to work together. In September 1970, after Sara finished her second year teaching at Tegucigalpa Bible Institute, she and Mel were married. They would later have four children together: Rachel, Steve, Tim, and Rebecca.

At El Sembrador once again, Mel helped direct the farm. Sara supervised the laundry and the dining room for the 150 students and workers and sometimes hosted visitors. On the weekends, they traveled to nearby villages to hold evangelistic services.

Tragedy struck the family again when Mel and Sara’s daughter Rachel died four days after she was born. Within a few months of losing their child, Mel and Sara again experienced loss when two Honduran students were killed in a car accident and one student accidently shot and killed another. “Those were the days when we leaned heavily on God’s grace and found it to be sufficient,” recalled Sara.

After an earthquake struck Nicaragua in 1972, Mel and Sara were sent to Managua to become the first WGM missionaries to that country. They held services on a coffee farm and later ministered to women and children in a military housing area. Mel pastored the English-speaking Union Church of Managua and Sara led a women’s Bible study. Mel also helped with evangelist Luis Palau’s campaign. In 1978, the Eberhards left Nicaragua due to the unstable political situation.

Back in Honduras, Mel worked for the national church and traveled to visit different congregations. Sara taught music lessons and cooking classes and wrote for the national church’s women’s society. They also had a film ministry, trained teachers, and held Vacation Bible Schools. Later, they served at Tegucigalpa Bible Institute. Sara and Mel both taught classes and Mel worked on various agricultural projects.

After 33 dynamic, Spirit-filled years in service to the Lord, Mel and Sara retired from service with WGM in 1989 and made their home in Findlay, Ohio. Mel went to be with the Lord on January 3, 2012. His friends and family all over the world rejoice that he is now celebrating with his Lord and Savior. His testimony and witness have led countless lives into the kingdom. John 15:8 (NKJV) testifies of his life: “By this my Father is glorified, that you will bear much fruit; so you will be my disciples.”

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