Tonantzi “Tona” Bedford never saw herself as a missionary. Yet today, she fills several vital roles. Recently she told me about her journey. The following interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity.
How did you meet Jesus?
I grew up in a Christian home. I attended church every Sunday and during the week. Every year I went to VBS [Vacation Bible School] and to camp. I was surrounded by the teachings from the Bible and the Gospel. My mom was very active. She was always serving in every activity, and in the school, my grandmother as well. I spent a lot of time with both. Since I was young, everything I knew was about Christ and God. I accepted Christ at camp when I was around six or ten. But when I went to high school and during my teenage years, I wasn’t following that. When I was around 12 or 13, I went to camp, and somebody shared the gospel again. It hit me, so I raised my hand. For me, that was the time when I accepted Christ.
When I was 17, my mom sent me to a Christian college. After two years, when I was 19, we were studying missions and involved at the local church as well. One Sunday, the [speaker in church] asked, “Do you know that heaven exists and hell exists?” That was very interesting because I always wanted to serve, and I always wanted people to know Christ and the Gospel. At that time, I used to pick up some kids every Sunday early in the morning to bring them to church. I had these five kids sitting right next to me, but when the speaker shared the gospel, I knew that I wasn’t walking with the Lord. I really wanted to obey and follow God sincerely. So, we were praying, and the speaker said, “Raise your hand If you want to accept Christ today.” I did it twice before, but that day God was asking me to confirm my faith, so I raised my hand. I thought many other people would be doing the same thing. So, when I peeked, it was just me! I had the kids that we’re not Christians, just guests. But it was me who confirmed my faith. I started really trusting the Lord.
Making the transition from being a believer to living as a fully surrendered disciple is a separate step for some people.
I attended church every Sunday, and Christian life was all I knew. I knew the Bible. I knew all the books from the Bible. I knew everything. But I wasn’t really obeying or following God. Through the years after I left home, I had to experience being alone and a hard life. I knew that I really needed Jesus. God doesn’t have grandkids. I needed him to be my father, so I could live as his daughter.
What was your childhood like?
I was born in a very small town called Tamazunchale in central Mexico. I lived there for 17 years until I went to college. I was surrounded by family. As you know, Mexicans, especially in small towns, are all together. Everybody’s your uncle, and everybody’s your aunt, your cousin. So yeah, I grew up surrounded by family. I had a very happy childhood, surrounded by people from church. That’s all I knew until I went to college in a bigger city. That’s where the challenge started for me.
Where did you go to college?
I went to Universidad Cristiana de las Americas in Monterey in 2003. I graduated in 2008, but Tim and I married in 2007, so I finished my last year married.
You certainly had a full plate. What did you major in?
Applied linguistics, directed towards teaching.
How did you and Tim meet?
I met him at camp when I was 17 years old. In 2003, mission groups came with lots of Americans. Tim was with them and, although we dated some, I really didn’t think that he was going to call me when I went back to my hometown. But he did. At the time, I didn’t speak any English, and he didn’t speak any Spanish. I returned to school in Monterey. Then Tim moved as an exchange student for 18 months to another college in the same city. Four years later, we married.
He’s from Lake Dallas, TX. That year he was going with a group to China. But SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) happened, so they told him, we’re not going to China anymore. Our mission trip this year is going to be to Mexico. He wasn’t very happy about it because he really wanted to go to China. But he already paid for the mission trip, so said, “I’ll go.” That year God called him into missions. And we met. I guess God was directing him.
So where have your kids grown up?
Our first baby was born in Texas, but he grew up in Mexico. My other two kids were born here in Querétaro. They’re surrounded by this culture, but still with half American culture and half Mexican culture.
How were you called to ministry?
God gave me a heart for serving others. I always wanted to be bold and serve others, like, cleaning places for people, cooking for people, or helping with kids. But I didn’t feel like I was called to do missions. Then, before I married Tim, we broke up for a couple of months. When we got back together, he said. You know what? I want to be a missionary. If you really want to marry me, we’re going to do missions. So, I said, OK, fine. But even though I was surrounded by missionaries my whole life at church, I wasn’t sure what being a missionary was like. I said, I’ll follow you, let’s be missionaries. So, we got married.
He did one year of training at MTI in Denton, TX. After that, we came to Querétaro, Mexico, and started serving at a local church. It was a challenge for me because I never had an idea or never felt like I was called to be a missionary. I was following Tim. But with time, I knew that God wanted us just to serve His church, to serve others. And, we’ve been here doing that, serving in any area that they need us. I’ve been homeschooling my kids and work as a stay-home mom. I’m also involved in church with worship ministry, and teams from Texas that come and visit. So I’ve been sharing God’s love everywhere I can, with our neighbors or friends that we meet.
How did you transition from following your husband’s call to answering your own call?
With time, I grew to understand that God calls everybody, all his children, to serve. So, I made that call my own. I knew if God pulled me through where I was before, it was for a purpose. I knew that God wanted me in the mission field. Because obviously I was married to a missionary, but also to be open to share the gospel and train and serve others. I knew that God was calling me to serve as a missionary. So. I know I have a call as a missionary as well. And I know that His children all need to be obedient to that call. We all have different areas where we can serve. Right now, this is where God has our family. Wherever we go, we’re going to serve. That’s what we want to do, Praise God and obey his call to serve others.
How did you come to Paraclete?
At the beginning of 2020, Tim was active as the missionary, and I was at home with the kids. I was going through depression for a couple of years, so I didn’t really want to be very involved. I just wanted to take care of the family. Obviously, God had other plans for me. I continued getting involved in everything I could. And then a few months ago Tim mentioned that the assistant to the CEO position was open. He encouraged me, “Why don’t you try it? You can do that now that the kids are older. We can get some help around the house. You can apply for this job and still take care of the kids. So, we prayed about it. I wasn’t sure. I was nervous because my first language is not English. I wondered, “How am I going to do this? I have no experience.” I was very nervous, but we were praying, and my mom was praying. Then, God gave me the job. So now, I’m the CEO’s assistant. I go through documents, look for and correct errors, email people, set up meetings, ask people for photos and upload them. I help Glenn with anything he needs me to do.
Your English is quite good. where did you learn it?
Thank you. I like music with English lyrics. I always wanted to know what I was listening to. Since I was young, my mom told me don’t sing something [if] you don’t know what it means, so be careful. She always asked me to do research and try to understand what I was singing about. When I listened to music, I looked for the lyrics online and started translating word by word. That’s how I started learning. Then I went to college for applied linguistics, and that really helped me. And marrying an American also helped. I was very shy when it came to speaking English, but when we were in the States for that year of training at MTI, he left me alone with his mom. I needed to communicate, so I had just to try and do it. Little by little, it helped me to learn to communicate better in English.
What would you advise someone considering full-time ministry?
Well, I would tell them to pray about it. Then, ask somebody to pray for you as well. And if you feel you need to go somewhere and serve, just do it. If you’re being obedient, God will help you through it and provide. That’s what happened to me. I was scared of the name of missionary, of being in ministry, I was scared of that. But really, it’s just obeying what God wants us to do to serve others for his Kingdom. Whatever you feel called to do and wherever you feel called to serve—China, Mexico, the United States, wherever—that’s what we were created for.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love music. I don’t know theory a lot, but I love writing songs. If I feel inspired to write something, I’ll try to do it when I’m free. And yeah, I love singing. I don’t play instruments, just the ukulele and a little bit of guitar. But I love making music. I have lots of songs written already. Sometimes, I send them to my friends who are music producers, and they will do their thing. But music and spending time with the kids are my favorite things to do. We love playing board games, watching movies, going for walks, and playing with the dogs.
I understand you really like dogs.
I love dogs, and I love rescuing dogs. if I see a stray puppy outside or a dog, I will try to bring him home.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
It’s amazing the way God works, how he works for His glory. Tim and I had different plans for ourselves initially. And then God put us together when we were not planning that. We each wanted to do our own thing. I never saw myself as a missionary, but here I am. He will use you for his glory if you are willing. Just trust him.