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Sara Eberhard

Retired Missionary to Honduras
"An Example of Faith"
By Laura Coulter, Intern, January 2012

“Seeing people come to know the Lord and helping them along in their Christian walk was the most important and rewarding part of our missionary lives,” shared retired missionary Sara Eberhard of her life spent in service to the Lord in Honduras.

Sara Eberhard’s story begins with her husband, Mel. Arthur Melvin “Mel” Eberhard didn’t go to Honduras for the first time as a missionary, but as a teacher at the Pan American Institute of Agriculture. While in Honduras, Mel met WGM missionary Don Hawk, who 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 working at El Sembrador, Mel became interested in Wanda Sharpton, a missionary working in Juticalpa, Honduras. She returned to the United States to study at Greenville College (Illinois), and Mel asked to visit her there. Mel gave his life to Christ at a revival service at Greenville. Mel and Wanda were married in 1956. After some Bible training, Mel and Wanda returned to Honduras as WGM missionaries.

In the meantime, Sara Radebaugh was growing up on a farm in Ohio. She lived in a Christian home and was saved in the fifth grade. Her interest in missions began as she listened to missions stories in Sunday School. Sara graduated from Bluffton College with a degree in elementary education. She taught public school in Ohio for three years before applying to WGM. In 1967, she was assigned as a missionary to Honduras.

On her way to language school, Sara met Mel and Wanda, who, since their marriage, had served at El Sembrador and started a lay-training program in Juticalpa. They had most recently been planting churches and doing evangelism in La Esperanza. Sara and Wanda became close friends, corresponding and sometimes visiting with one another. A few months later, Wanda became ill with cancer and the Eberhards returned to the United States to seek medical care. Sadly, Wanda passed away in 1969.

Mel returned to Honduras with his three sons, Dan, David, and Paul, and he and Sara 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 worked on and helped direct the farm. Sara supervised the laundry and the dining room for the 150 students and workers and hosted visitors. On the weekends, they went out to the nearby villages to hold evangelistic services.

Tragedy struck at El Sembrador when Mel and Sara’s daughter Rachel died at only four days old. Within a few days of losing their child, Mel and Sara experienced loss once again when two boys from the school were killed in a truck accident and one student accidently shot another student, who later died.

“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 and Sara lived in La Paz, where Mel worked for the national church and traveled to visit different congregations. Sara enjoyed this time because they were able to be part of a local church, through which they worked with the children and did village evangelism.

Sara taught music lessons and cooking classes and wrote lessons for the national church’s women’s society. They also had a film ministry, trained teachers, and held Vacation Bible Schools.

After about three years, the Eberhards were transferred to Tegucigalpa Bible Institute. Sara and Mel both taught classes and Mel worked on various agricultural projects. They were once again able to be part of a local congregation.

Mel and Sara retired in 1989, and Sara now lives in Findlay, Ohio. She worked as a church secretary for 13 years. Before his health limited some activities, Mel was very active, playing tennis and doing yard work. Mel passed away on January 3, 2012. Sara enjoys the times when their six children and 15 grandchildren come home and they can all be together again.

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