Guin couple top 70 missions trips in 34 yearscomment (0)
May 29, 2008
By Darla Brantley
The couple’s record-setting missions streak originated from tragedy. In April 1974, a massive tornado devastated the entire town of Guin, causing significant damage and several deaths. During the following months, the Butlers experienced several deaths in their own families.
As the couple prayed during the weeks following the tornado, they felt God calling them to give their summer vacation to missions. At the time, Gilbert was teaching agriculture at Marion County High School in Guin and had two weeks of vacation.
Marguerite recalls what she felt God telling her in light of their recent losses. "We need to find something to help our children realize that there is something we could do with our time, our energy and our money that would not be blown away by a puff of wind," she said.
They called the North American Mission Board for assistance and began a family tradition that has lasted for more than three decades.
The Butlers took their three children with them on the early trips, and an empty nest has only spurred their travels. At present, they have visited every continent except Antarctica. Their travels have included visits to Barbados, American Samoa, Aruba, West Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, Spain, China, Venezuela, Poland, Turkey, Guatemala and several U.S. states. The length of each trip has ranged from one week to more than one year.
They have performed a myriad of tasks and have assisted with many ministries during their travels. They have scrubbed toilets, walked for miles in the bush and up mountains delivering Bibles, helped with construction projects and participated in medical/dental missions trips. The Butlers have taught English as second language classes in China and worked in radio and prison ministries in Aruba, and Gilbert taught a veterinary medicine course at a university in Guyana. "I learned along with them," Gilbert laughs, referring to his lack of experience in the subject.
The Butlers have also had many unique opportunities to share the gospel. They shared their testimony in Ukraine at alcoholic rehabilitation centers, and 150 people responded to their message. "The folks there were so eager for hope," Marguerite explained.
They also accepted an invitation to visit with a village chief in West Africa. The chief’s son was a guard at the place where the Butlers were staying. The guard prayed to receive Christ after watching the Butlers teach and visit with the people of the village, but he knew his father would have him killed for his decision. The Butlers would find out later that the guard died of unusual circumstances.
The Butlers remain excited about future missions opportunities and typically travel with Marion Association each year. "We have been on all the association trips except the ones with conflicts [with our other travels]," Marguerite explained. This summer marks 20 years of missions trips for the association.
Mark Gallups, director of missions for Marion Association, remains inspired by the Butlers’ unending energy. "I always say that when I grow up, I’m going to be Mr. and Mrs. Butler," he laughed. "They not only have a lot of energy; they have good hearts."
The Butlers’ pastor admires their strength to continue such demanding work. "Their love of the Lord, love of their church and their love of missions is their life," Stokes said. "As long as they can move they will be doing this work."
Gilbert and Marguerite Butler may hold the record for the number of missions trips made by a couple. They have been on more than 70 trips in 34 years and at ages 85 and 83, respectively, the Butlers show no signs of slowing down.
"They are not even thinking about stopping," said Scott Stokes, pastor of First Baptist Church, Guin, in Marion Baptist Association, where the Butlers have been members for nearly 50 years. "They are like the Energizer bunny," he laughed. "They just don’t quit."
The Butlers remain active in their church as well. Gilbert serves as a deacon and leader of the church’s missions team. Marguerite teaches a ladies Sunday School class, and they both serve for Vacation Bible School every summer. "Just because you get old doesn’t mean you have to give up all your pleasures," she explained.