This is one of those stories that serves no real purpose other than to share the many challenges missionaries face, and perhaps to bless one with a good belly laugh. I have told this story many times through the years, however, I have never put it in writing. Most of my friends feel that this is the kind of story that “Stasia just needs to share with you because she becomes so animated.” Unfortunately, I just get a bit too embarrassed and laugh just a bit too hard while sharing it, so I will endeavor to put this {very personal} experience into a format that you can enjoy.

~~Warning, this story contains some graphic content that may be unsuitable for the non-missionary~~

There were no “How To” guides for being a missionary when we stepped onto the mission field in the early 80’s. As a matter of fact, the missions movement of the new millennial would not happen for the first 15 years of our time on the field. Our resource books consisted of the Bible and paperback biographies of those saints who blazed a trail before us. Heroes of the faith such as Hudson Taylor, David Livingston, Saint Teresa of Avila, Gladys Aylward, William Carey and Jim Elliot kindled into flame the desire to carry our faith to the lost and hurting of the world.

We never felt quite prepared for what lay ahead of us, but we knew that we could handle anything that came our way by God’s grace, mercy and love. We have always known that we were the least of those who are called for such a task and have always been willing to do whatever is needed for the kingdom of God to advance. Our greatest desire in missions has been to invite souls to relinquish themselves into His extravagant Love and be forever spoiled for the Extraordinarily Divine.

We simply jumped in with both feet and our newborn baby and began to serve the people in a small village outside of Mexico City. We lived in a gutted out old house, with nothing. We had a baby cot, a crockpot and two small travel chairs. I washed over a stone in the back and gave bottles full of formula and milk to a precious neighbor four doors down who owned a fridge and stored it for us. No stove, no nothing, we were roughing it.

24746582_sWe lived in a rural area where the villagers raised the Toro’s for the bullfights. These were fierce creatures that had to be walked daily or they would break their pens and gore their owners. There were old huts, shacks, chickens and pigs. It was so dirty where we lived that you never saw a blue sky. School children’s art were grey colored skies without a sun. The pollution was horrific. We took small wet towels to clean our hands and eyes whenever we went out. No hand sanitizer, no baby wipes; this was a different era and a completely different world.   It was absolutely marvelous.

We had become ill, very ill. We had taken every precaution we knew of to keep healthy, yet we were losing weight and struggling with severe diarrhea on a regular basis. It was really no wonder we were sick, what with the diet that was available to us. There were no fresh vegetables nor fruit and the livestock was anything but healthy. We ate lots of tortillas and drank soda. The water and sewage systems were so close in proximity that we tried to search for purified water whenever we could. We had no vehicle so we simply lived just like everyone else did.

There were many rats. One big fellow had taken residence in our home and nothing we did could get it to leave. The thing was fearless. Worried that it might do harm to our baby, we found a cat. One night there was a horrible fight in the living area. Hissing, banging, scratching and knocking about, the two of them fought through the night. Our cat was an excellent mouser, but once thrown into the ring with this Godzilla of a rat, he either fled for his life or was eaten by the horrid monster. I carried a stick where ever I went in the house.

We had found a young man near to our home who sold purified water in 5 gallon bottles. We regularly purchased water from him, so we never suspected that we could have gotten a parasite from the water. Little did we know that the water we were drinking came from a broken water pipe down the street and was bottled by this young entrepreneur who saw an opportunity in naive young missionaries who were paying him for water that was free everywhere else.

This is why we were sick. After living like this for many months, our bodies were so depleted that we just succumbed to the parasites. We had no idea how very ill we were. Until that day, that horrid day, that will be forever sketched into my memory.

John and I both woke up in a profuse sweat in the middle of the night. Diarrhea and nausea hit us in waves. John rarely vomits, but once I get started I cannot stop. Dehydration happens quickly when one is that ill. John took to his place in the bathroom for some time, while I lay awaiting my turn. We took turns like this, one after the other all night long. The only difference being that John, although very nauseated, never vomited.

After some time, John crawled back into bed looking as white as a sheet. I gathered myself up and headed for the bathroom. Our bathroom was a tiny tiled room with a slanted floor. A shower-head dangled overhead above the drain next to the commode. As we did not own a bucket or even a bowl big enough, I simply vomited down the over-sized drain while sitting rather uncomfortably on the toilet seat. Every fiber of my being ached as I intermittently cried between retching and emptying my bowels. I felt as if I would die soon. There are no words for how you feel when you are that sick, in another country, with no help nor comforts from home whatsoever.

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John and a young boy showing Brittany the fish.

I have endeavored to keep my life as clean as possible, even when we traveled and were sick. I would get up and turn the shower on to rinse the contents of my stomach that had just been emptied upon the floor near the drain. Just when I felt there could be nothing left within me, it hit again from both ends. The horrible cramping, the flashing of fever, the heaving down the drain while tears squirted from my eyes. I prayed for it to stop. 

Just then, I heard a scritch scratch scritch scratch sound. In my daze of fever I looked about. Nothing. Then a few minutes later, scritch scratch… scritch scratch… and my eyes focused toward the sound which was coming from under the drain. The over-sized drain was held in place by two rusty old screws, Scritch, Scratch…

Scritch! Scratch! Bang! Clang! Something clanked, then some kind of swirly noises and finally the drain popped out of place. Out crawled the most enormous rat I had ever seen in my life either before or since. He was as big as a medium sized cat and had his nasty tail curled around him. He was a dirty brownish grey and showed his teeth at me. He was blocking me from the door, and I was too sick and stunned to move anyway. He reeked of diseases.

He immediately looked about the room as if he were some Famous General about ready to make war on a small vulnerable country. Grabbing a rather large chunk of the contents of my stomach that I had just retched out near the drain, he tottled over to the corner and began eating it right before my very eyes! I am not joking! He sat there staring at me while eating what I had just wretched onto the floor!.

I cried out, “Lord, I am from California and you did not prepare me for this!” Shock, horror, and fear for my feet took over. I pulled up my legs on either side of the toilet, as I was not yet finished with what I was needing to do there, and held them up with my weary arms.  Now I was cramping in my stomach, legs and arms.  Dizziness was beginning to overtake me, and I feared passing out in the bathroom where the rat could possibly bite me.  I was too sick to even think but I had to do something.

Back and forth he waddled, to and fro, grabbing the bits and pieces of what I had just deposited near the drain and eating them right in front of me. He was not in the least bit quiet about it either.  He kept his nasty beady eyes on me while slurping, chewing and nibbling on the chunks of upchuck he held between his two front paws.  He hissed at me whenever I moved an inch. I had to get out of there. I called for John, but he was too sick to hear me. When he finally did open the door, the vermin hissed at him. John could hardly stand and he passed out on the floor as he was trying to get back to bed.

I finally got up enough strength to move a bit. My legs had become numb from hiking them up while sitting there for so long. Just being in the same room with that creature was making me sicker. I prepared myself for when he grabbed another piece of his meal. I figured that I could just make it to the door where my stick awaited on the other side when he went for his next bite. As he did, I feebly went for the door. He was so absorbed in the meal that I had provided for him that he wasn’t bothered by me leaving. I slammed the door and then the room began to swirl about me. Reaching for thin air I turned and fell to the floor. I awoke in the hospital the next afternoon.  Apparently friends we had been ministering to were concerned and came looking for us. They took us to the hospital and promised us that they had taken care of the rat. We never saw it again.  



Stasia is mother to six beautiful children and wife to a dedicated, loving husband.  They have served as a family together on the mission field on four continents for nearly 30 years.  Stasia’s passion is to share in true colors the grace of God in her life.  You can read more about her and the ministry of the Women’s Bible Cafe here.  If this article has blessed you in any small way, please consider showing your support by clicking subscribe in the upper right corner.  Copyright© 2015 Stasia Nielsen All Rights Reserved