One Step at a Time: The Floyd’s Journey
“… Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 20:17
When considering long-term missionary service, it’s likely that anyone would be intimidated by the thought of the next 10+ years. A lot can happen in that chunk of time. But just one small faithful step at a time – even faith as small as a mustard seed – can bring missionaries to a place of fruitful reflection.
For Global Partners missionaries Cheri and Don Floyd, it’s been these small, faithful steps that have brought them to their current stage of life, serving in Papua New Guinea (PNG). From “small” beginnings just six weeks into marriage, to experiencing the faithfulness of God time and time again as they prepare to send their youngest son off to college about 30 years later.
Their story demonstrates a deep understanding of this mission that matters, a love for their Papua New Guinea friends and community and a commitment to what God has called them to do.
Both Don and Cheri grew up around mission-minded people and felt called early on.
Cheri’s journey into long-term missionary service took flight during a summer cross-cultural internship in Papua New Guinea, where she experienced miraculous confirmation.
“I prayed on a Monday that God would help open my ears to hear what people were saying in *Tok Pisin, and that he would open my mouth to start to say the words, and by that Sunday I could hear and speak the language,” she recounted.
Though Don grew up in Australia, his grandmother served as a missionary in Tonga, his mother served as a mission nurse in PNG, and
his parents met in PNG. When he began working as a carpenter and heard of work teams that went on mission trips, he decided to participate in one, which led to two more extended visits – one of which where he met and worked alongside Cheri. Eventually, after some long-distance dating, the two got married and returned to PNG full-time a mere six weeks later.
The two of them began their ministry as lay missionaries and have stepped into a variety of roles as time has progressed.
For a while, Cheri dedicated a lot of her time to the education of their three sons and provided health and literacy education for women in PNG. Five or six years ago as the transition to become “empty nesters” rapidly approached, she said she heard God start to speak to her about completing the courses she’d need for ordination.
Along with completing those necessary courses, she also obtained a masters in adult education and is now working at the Wesleyan Bible College of PNG — at the college’s invitation. Additionally, she began her journey as the Pacific-Southeast Asia Regional Director nearly one year ago.
As she has stepped into leadership within Papua New Guinea, she said the transition has gone smoothly.
“I wondered how it would be because they’ve known me for a long time, they think of me as their kid because they knew me before I was married,” she explained. “I also am well aware of women being second class citizens in this culture and I wondered how that would be too … the male leadership has been very affirming and willing to work with me.”
She noted that the genuine respect male leaders have for her is a result of working to build deep relationships for years.
Don’s journey began as “the maintenance guy,” and has led him to teach practical classes such as computer skills, building and carpentry classes at the college.
He said oftentimes, when bible college students graduate and return to their home districts as a pastor, their churches often look to them as the “expert.”
Equipping them with practical skills in addition to pastoral training prepares them for life after college — building a church, maintaining the building, helping congregations with their needs and so on.
“Don has been working with the Papua New Guinea leadership for a long time, and he’s all about empowering them and setting them up to look good,” Cheri added.
Though their roles have changed and evolved over time, they credit this to the importance of knowing when to hand things off to other people. “To be honest, if you’re doing the same thing after 30 years you may have not been handing things over like you should, or training people,” Don said.
Empowering and equipping local leadership is both essential and powerful. This changing of seasons (along with the fact that there are 850 people groups and languages in PNG) is also what keeps ministry interesting and exciting, as the Floyds have continued to build resilience and a desire to stay on the field.
But it didn’t happen overnight. Cheri said she remembers Don writing her a letter during their season of long-distance dating. He wrote about a chapel speaker who said, “if God calls you to be a pastor or a missionary — it’s a lifetime.”
Cheri recounted, “Don was saying ‘I don’t know, I just know that God is calling me right now!’” And as long as they feel that call at the end of each year of serving in Papua New Guinea, they will plan to continue to serve.
Taking it all a faithful step at a time was also just plain necessary. “I would have been scared spitless if you told me 30 years ago that this is what I’d be doing,” Don said with a laugh.
When Cheri and Don entered into missionary work, they said they had a lot of long-term missionaries setting great examples. “We were kind of in the tail end of that era of missions where people did stay a long time, it was pretty common that it was your career. So we had some good examples,” Cheri said.
The families who had been in Papua New Guinea for years ahead of them gave advice that has stuck with them all these years, too. They were told that although they will make friends with fellow missionaries, it’s necessary to connect with local individuals.
A fellow missionary told them, “At the end of the day, missionaries come and missionaries go but the Papua New Guineans will always be there, invest most of your relationships with them.”
“And he was right,” Cheri said. Now, they have a big church family surrounding them.
None of Cheri and Don’s journey would have been possible without remaining faithful and devoted to what God was calling them toward. They continue to grow, to learn and to respond to the call God has placed on their lives. And there are so many exciting things yet to come!
Footnote: Tok Pisin is a widely spoken language in Papua New Guinea.