Couple has been spreading God’s Word in Mexico since 1978
By CARLIENNE A. FRISCH
After spending nearly a half century in Mexico with the Navigators ministry, Sam and Randi Edelstein have settled in Minnesota, the state in which Randi (pronounced Ron-dee) grew up as the daughter of a Mankato physician. This is the first extended sabbatical for the Edelsteins in their 44 years in Mexico. Sam pointed out that the sabbatical is neither retirement nor a vacation, but a specific and structured repositioning, with future plans that may include return visits to Mexico.
While currently living in Minneapolis, the couple is enjoying opportunities to visit with their children and families. The Edelsteins are following the five-step sabbatical guidelines in a book provided by the Navigators.
“We have completed the first stage—release and relinquish,” Sam said. “At the present time, we are in rest and recovery.” This part of the process is necessary because in Mexico, the couple was finding it difficult to say ‘no’ to too many possible involvements with people.
Sam explained, “The next stages are reflect and refocus in January and February, realignment or reassignment in March and April, and re-entry and re-engagement in May or June.” The couple hopes to continue on with the Navigators. Their work has been focused on developing disciples and laborers to continue the outreach, one person at a time, and encouraging spiritual growth in each person.
Randi’s childhood, first in Good Thunder and then in Mankato, where her father had a family medical practice, involved ongoing experience in a church where she regularly studied the Bible and learned many Bible verses.
Sam’s experience was quite different. His father was Jewish, and his mother a nominal Christian.
“I grew up confused.” he said.
Sam also grew up well-traveled. His father’s Naval career took the Edelstein family to a variety of locations, including to Puerto Rico for three years, where Sam learned Spanish from local youngsters.
“When I became a believer in Christ, I had to give up half of my Spanish vocabulary,” he said.
In 1966, Sam began his college studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry. He later earned two additional degrees—a master’s degree in College Student Personnel Administration from the University of Colorado in Boulder (where he met Randi), and a master’s in Biomedical Engineering from Arizona State University in Tempe. He later taught biomedical engineering in Mexico City, and taught high school physics for several years in Leon, where the Edelsteins spent much of their missionary time.
‘I stand at the door and knock’
During Sam’s first year at the University of Washington, he had a life-changing experience when two Navigators knocked on his door.
“They presented the gospel, which was all new information to me,” he said. “They used questions, like ‘Had everybody in the world sinned?’ I couldn’t speak for the entire world, but on my dorm floor we were doing a pretty good job of sinning. I couldn’t answer any of the Navigators’ questions. They showed me the Bible verse Revelations 3:20: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’ I responded, and Jesus came in. I thought that meant I wouldn’t sin anymore. Later I realized that forgiveness was there, but that didn’t mean I stopped sinning.”
Randi’s college experience was at North Park College in Chicago, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 1971. Although she wanted to work in the Twin Cities, she learned that many other nurses had the same goal. When she attended a wedding in Colorado Springs, she learned of nursing opportunities there and was hired to work on the medical-surgical floor of a hospital. The next year, she moved to Boulder, Colo., and met Sam.
Marrying the ‘last man on earth’
“I kind of pursued her aggressively for a couple of years,” Sam said, “but she wasn’t interested. She told me, ‘Sam, if you were the last man on the face of the earth, I’d never marry you.’”
But God had other plans.
“When God impressed on me that I should go out with Sam, I knew that I would marry him,” said Randi.
Three years after Sam and Randi met, they married in Mankato. Their first child, Amy, was born in Arizona, and after their move to Mexico in 1978, three more children came along—Sam Jr., Cristina, and Daniel.
The Edelsteins’ experience with Navigators missionaries in Mexico began with a year of language school in Guadalajara. Then they headed to Mexico City, where they say, “God grew our ministry for 17 years, and then with the people of Leon for 24 years.” Randi explained, “We exposed folks to the gospel or ‘good news’ of Jesus by introducing them into Bible studies, where they read the gospel of John, the book of Acts and other books of the Bible in an environment where they were free to ask questions and express their opinions. As they became committed, they learned how to lead similar studies and attended retreats with others who had similar interests.”
The Edelsteins have learned to never say “never.”
“One time we both said ‘never’ was when our family made a long car trip from Mexico City to the U.S. border, and we had to detour through a very dusty, stinky town—about 30 years ago,” said Randi. “We both said we would never live there. It turned out to be Leon. The stench was due to all the leather tanning that is done in Leon, which is the shoe capital at least of Mexico, if not the world. Neither of us has lived longer in any other place than Leon.”
“A year ago, God showed us that our time in Leon was ending by giving us unexpectedly simultaneous thoughts about leaving Leon,” Sam said. “We passed the baton in Leon to several trained Mexican leaders, and then visited friends in nine cities in Mexico. We sent suitcases and 10 boxes of books by Mexican mail to Minnesota. We continue online mentoring, and will make trips to Latin America as needed. Now, during the nine-month sabbatical, we hope to learn God’s plan for our next ministry.”
Adjusting to Minnesota
Commenting on the transition from life in Leon to living in Minnesota, Sam said, “A lot of things are more complicated here. We have a monitor on our car for the insurance company. Medical care is easier to arrange in Mexico and is less expensive. There, I didn’t need a prescription for blood pressure medication. We both had Minnesota driver’s licenses, so that’s one thing we didn’t have to do.”
The couple commented that experiencing the change of seasons is an enjoyable aspect of being in Minnesota.
“One of the blessings is seeing the fall colors changing,” said Randi.
“We drove back from Door County and saw all the colors.” said Sam.
The Edelsteins are also enjoying Minnesota food traditions.
“We ate at a fish boil, very typically Norwegian,” she said.