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Wilma Salazar

Retired Missionary to Mexico (1929 - 2021)
"The Call Has Never Grown Dim"
By Maria Martin, Intern, adapted by Kateland Vernon, Staff Writer, March 2021

Wilma Smith was born on July 7, 1929, in Marion, Indiana, into a Christian farmer’s family. She spent her childhood in rural Pulaski county and professed faith in Christ when she was in second grade.

A dedicated student throughout her elementary and high school years, Wilma was actively involved in activities and communities that grew her faith, such as camp meetings, church activities, and monthly prayer band meetings. She also used her musical talents from a young age, learning to play piano and trombone and being involved in various school and church music ensembles. “Music was one of my chief joys,” she wrote.

After graduating from high school, Wilma spent the summer with her aunt in Chicago, helping with a Vacation Bible School. During a Sunday sermon on missions, “the Lord kept talking to me. He seemed to say, ‘Wilma, you’ve got to decide. Are you going to be a missionary or not?’” In the basement of that church after the service, she answered His call with a confident “yes.”

Wilma began attending Marion College (now Indiana Wesleyan University). She believed she should major in a foreign language, but at that point, she didn’t feel God’s call to a specific field. She later wrote, “I breathed a prayer to the Lord for guidance and I believe He led me to take Spanish.” She trusted God’s leading and chose to major in Spanish and minor in Bible. While in college, Wilma rededicated her life to God during Youth Week services.

In 1951, she graduated with a BA degree and the requirements for teaching high school, an area of study she added as a junior after deciding to train for a definite profession. That fall, she took a job teaching high school students at Mount Carmel High School in Lawson, Kentucky, but dreamed of missionary work in Latin America.

That dream became a reality in 1955, when World Gospel Mission appointed Wilma as a missionary teacher on the Texas/Mexico border. She served there until 1974, teaching a variety of subjects in both English and Spanish in several different high schools and Bible schools.

Just after Christmas in 1964, Wilma had visited the local jail and talked with two women who she described as “spiritually hungry.” The Spanish-speaking women only had an English Bible, so Wilma left her own Spanish Bible with them. She returned on New Year’s Eve to find that one of the women had already made her way through the first third of the Bible. Wilma gave a short devotional and gave each woman a Spanish New Testament. When she asked if they would like to accept Jesus as Savior, they smiled and answered, “We already have.” Encouraged by the testimony of these women, Wilma celebrated New Year’s Day with new enthusiasm.

In 1974, Wilma moved across the border into Mexico and became a self-proclaimed “missionary-teacher-preacher-church planter” in Concepción del Oro, Zacatecas. For four years, she conducted church services, children’s classes, and jail services in six communities.

Wilma also pursued in her love of music, teaching lessons in various musical instruments and choir, as well as music theory classes. She learned to play the guitar during her time in Concepción del Oro and later taught guitar lessons.

In 1980, she moved to Coahuila, Mexico, teaching Bible classes, Christian education classes, and music lessons at the Life and Truth Bible Institute in Torreón. While there, Wilma met José Trinidad Salazar, the pastor of an Evangelical Methodist church in Juarez and the superintendent of the northern Mexico EMC churches. They were married in 1983 when he was in his early 60s, she in her mid-50s.

Ordained in 1984 by the Evangelical Methodist Church, Wilma spent five years at the Bible Institute assisting Trinidad in pastoring a church. Aside from four years serving as a pastor’s wife in other areas of Mexico, Wilma continued teaching in Torreón until her retirement from WGM in 1994. She went to be with the Lord on March 12, 2021.

Wilma gave countless salvation reports from her time as a missionary to Latin Americans. She wrote dozens of articles for The Call during her service with WGM, recounting stories of revival and of souls won, discipled, and sent. In one article from 1968, she commented that to her, “Viva Mexico” is not just a patriotic cry, but a call for spiritual awakening, asking God to bring His eternal life to the country she served for 39 years.

Wilma first said yes to God’s call to missions in the basement of her aunt’s church when she was in her late teens. She wrote years later after a lifetime of service, “that call has never grown dim since.”

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