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We have recently received word that Gustavo Eugenio Wilson, American Baptist Foreign Society (ABFMS), and American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS) alumnus passed away on June 19, 2020 in Managua, Nicaragua at the age of 106.
Gustavo was born on December 28, 1913 in the Miskitu Indian Village of Quamwatla in Nicaragua where his parents, Newton Wilson Hodgson and Franzella Elizabeth Bateman, were serving as pastors of the Moravian Church. Registered in the old family Bible, Gustavo’s name was last on the list; thirteen names preceded him. Gustavo wrote about his childhood, “I was brought up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” which included ‘spare the rod and spoil the child.’”
In 1926, when Gustavo was twelve, he left home to study as the Moravian School in Bluefields. It was while he was in Bluefields that he first saw Boy Scouts and was captivated by the elegance of the boys’ uniforms, the pride with which they carried themselves, the order in which they entered the temple, and the discipline they showed at all times. He joined them at a campfire and stayed. Gustavo joined the Colegio Moravo Troop 1, the first Boy Scouts troop formed in Nicaragua, started by the Rev. Joseph Harrison of the Moravian Church. Years later Gustavo would go on to be elected president of the Boy Scouts of Nicaragua.
When Rev. Charles B. Scott, the then Baptist General Missionary, and Rev. Arturo Parajon, visited Nicaragua in 1932 Gustavo heard about the Colegio Bautista, which was started by a missionary in 1919, and decided to attend. At the close of the first year in Colegio Bautista an Evangelist, Mr. Joaquin Vela, visited Managua for a series of services. The messages became more real and more personal to Gustavo each night. He went forward in testimony of having accepted the Lord as his Savior. When he returned to Bluefields for his vacation, Gustavo attended Bible Studies for candidates and was confirmed on Palm Sunday, 1933, by Bishop Kenneth G. Hamilton of the Moravian Church.
Gustavo often discussed baptism by immersion with Rev. Parajon. Dr. Hayman Appleman, a Jew converted to Christ, led a campaign in Managua. Gustavo wrote, “He [Dr. Appleman] more than anyone else was able to explain to me the real significance of adult baptism by immersion.” Early in 1955, Gustavo was baptized by immersion by Rev. Jose Antonio Corea.
When Gustavo finished his studies at Colegio Bautista in 1937 with a B.A. and B. Sc., he remained to help with the boys’ dormitory and teach a few classes. He continued his education by earning a degree at the School of Education in the National University of Nicaragua. In 1939 he married Lucrecia Aurora Narvaez, a nurse, by profession. In the 1940’s they welcomed four children, three daughters, and a son. Gustavo was a deacon, church schoolteacher, and choir leader at the First Baptist Church of Managua. He served on a number of national boards and committees and as convention president. Gustavo was also a leader in Nicaragua’s Boy Scout movement. Through the years, as Colegio Bautista grew, Gustavo grew with it taking on more and more responsibility. By 1959 there were over a thousand students. Gustavo assumed the leadership of Colegio Bautista in 1966, being the first Nicaraguan to hold such high academic responsibility, in addition to cultivating a very special relationship with the school as a student, teacher, inspector, and national Scout leader.
On May 5, 1966 Gustavo was appointed by the American Baptist Home Mission Societies to serve in Latin America at Colegio Bautista in Nicaragua. Concerning their work at Colegio Bautista, Gustavo and Lucrecia wrote: “We are not newcomers as far as the work here is concerned, yet we consider ourselves to be pioneers, for we have been chosen to assume a responsibility which had always been reserved for ‘foreign missionaries.’ We are thankful to be a part of this program and with your prayerful support, we shall carry on for His honor and glory.”
In January 1973 there was a transfer of the Latin America fields from National Ministries (formerly Home Missions) to International Ministries (ABFMS). In the Wilson’s first missionary newsletter with IM they told of the strong earthquake in Nicaragua on December 23. Though there was tremendous damage to the buildings and homes, there was no loss of life of the Colegio Bautista personnel. After the earthquake, Gustavo surveyed the shambles but still wrote, “God be praised for the spirit of human solidarity made manifest to us in these days of suffering…From where we stand, the future seems uncertain; yet we are confident.”
A friend of Gustavo’s wrote, “He [Gustavo] was a teacher devoted to quality education, rigorous, ethical and with a high personal discipline. He was one of the pioneers of the Caribbean who, in the field of education, music and theology, stimulated dialogue, exchange and cooperation towards the objectives of national integration. His educational mission fostered the dialogue of knowledge, interpreting the history, culture, identity, dignity and mystique of the people of the Nicaraguan Caribbean.”
At the end of December 1978 Gustavo retired. They lived in Kansas for some time, not far from daughter, Norma. Gustavo was a Sunday school teacher (Spanish adults), and a deacon at the First Baptist Church in Liberal, Kansas.
Gustavo is survived by children: Norma Florencia, Jeanine Ivonne, Franzella Elizabeth, Gustavo Eugenio and Freddy Eusebio.