Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Latin America Mission honors Liz Isáis, pioneer of Evangelical publishing in Latin America
Mexican church leader dies at age 86. A remembrance.
By Kenneth D. MacHarg, Missionary Journalist
Special to ASSIST News Service
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO (ANS) -- It was always instructive to observe Liz Isáis — the consummate teacher and encourager—in action.
“At one of those workshops, Liz sat at a table with a book and felt pen. I noticed her marking many sections of the text, and asked why. ‘This Spanish translation is really bad,’ Liz said, a look of real pain in her eyes. ‘If publishers are going to translate Christian books from English into Spanish, they had better do a quality job,’ she explained.
“The incident typified Liz’s pursuit of excellence in Christian writing and publishing as a testimony to the Lord.”
Mrs. Isáis, who served with the Latin America Mission for 61 years, died in Mexico City on July 6 at the age of 86. She and her late husband, Juan, served in ministries in New York City, several locations in Latin America but mostly in Mexico. Mr. Isáis, a well-known evangelical leader in his native Mexico and Latin America, died in 2002.
Liz Isáis became known throughout the evangelical church in Mexico as a prolific writer of newspaper and magazine articles as well as a publisher of newspapers, magazines and books that serve churches throughout the country and beyond.
“I would always load up on as many Prisma magazines, books for men, women and children as I could carry and afford to give as gifts back in Tijuana,” remembered LAM missionary Kathy Saracoff who serves with her husband Greg in Baja California Norte.
Mrs. Isáis’s ministry went beyond the confines of her adopted country of Mexico, remembered Jeff Sellers, former editor of Compass Direct, a news service that focused on religious oppression around the world. Liz Isáis regularly wrote news stories for the organization.
“Before all else Liz was a soldier for the gospel,” Sellers said. “She was a soldier in the sense that she always had the sense that she was in a spiritual battle, and she developed the hard-edge necessary to survive when you've been on the front-lines that long.”
“In ways that we will likely never fully know, the Lord used her considerable energies and talents to further His Kingdom in a land long hostile to the gospel,” Sellers commented.
Mrs. Isáis had the reputation of an aggressive, intense worker for the Lord while at the same time as a compassionate Christian who was concerned for others.
“She was a delightfully quick-witted lady, and I surmised that she was somewhat of a firebrand,” Sellers remembered.
John Maust, currently the president of Media Associates International, a Christian publishing training ministry, remembered another side of the missionary. “Liz could come across as no-nonsense to those who saw her only in the office. But those close to Liz know how deeply she cared about the people around her.”
“Once while staying at Juan and Liz’s home on a reporting assignment for LAM, I didn’t get back to the house until about 11:30 p.m. Juan surprised me by coming to the front door in his bathrobe. ‘Liz was worried about you,’ he said. ‘She’s been staying up until you got home OK.’”
“I was inspired by Liz's example and dedication to serving God in Latin America,” said Wendy Der, an LAM missionary who serves with the mission’s Spearhead program in Mexico City. “Being with her family at the funeral made me really think about what kind of legacy I want to leave whenever I go to be with the Lord.”
The testimonies of the people she went to serve reflect best the impact that she had on so many lives.
Saul Montes remembered taking a journalism course that Liz Isáis taught. “It was a delight to hear and receive her teachings. What blessed my life was her desire to develop books written by Mexicans for Mexicans. Thank God for this effort in word and written and printed heritage.”
“Even without knowing who she was, her presence radiated the light of God,” remembered Claudia Garcia Leal. “I had the opportunity to sit beside her and share my feelings of inferiority while with people ‘as important’. She shared kind words and encouragement to me. Who would have known that a few months later I would be in her house to take my manuscript of what became my first book "Marriage, a project of life?”
Yaribel Garcia Maranda reflected, “What attracted me to this 80 year old woman was her passion for the written word, her advice, and the time she took to listen. She motivated new writers to keep writing and not to give up hope or be defeated. She sought to improve our writing and she was always attentive to new writers. “
Elisabeth Fletcher Isáis was born on July 21, 1925, in Terre Haute, Indiana. She graduated from Wheaton College with a BA in English Literature. After working for the Moody Bible Institute for two years, she obtained a master's degree in journalism at Ohio State University.
She married Juan M. Isáis, who she met while working with LAM in Costa Rica, in 1955. They lived in New York for several years where they operated a Christian bookstore, ran a correspondence course and a summer Bible school. The couple returned to Latin America to work with LAM’s Evangelism in Depth program before settling in Mexico in 1964.
There, working with her husband, she began publishing a regular newspaper column about the evangelical churches in Mexico that ran until the demise of the newspaper in 2003.
Among other activities, she led several weekly Bible studies throughout her life. In 1965 she was one of the founding members of the AMEN choir and the first choir festival in Mexico. That same year she began teaching journalism in the Evangelistic Institute of Mexico.
She also taught journalism and biblical principles of marriage at the Latin Theological Institute for thirty years. She also wrote for Baptist journal Verbo in the 1960's.
From 1969 Mrs. Isáis began publishing the magazine Prisma, which continues today as a general Christian magazine circulated among believers inside and outside of Mexico.
In 1969 she began teaching courses in Christian journalism with the participation of writers and journalists in Mexico and elsewhere.
In 1970, under her direction, Milamex News was begun as a monthly newsletter. From 2000 it became tabloid newspaper and since January, 2010 it has been published as an online newsletter (www.noticieromilamex.com).
In 1973, Juan and Liz started camp Kikotén near Mexico City and later the Kikomar camp on the Caribbean coast of Mexico.
Mrs. Isáis also helped form the Christian Journalism Association in the 1980's with the participation of 45 students who attended a Christian Journalism Institute that she organized and directed.
In 2002 she opened Milamex Editions, with the vision of supporting the production and dissemination of books by Latin American Christian writers. To date the publishing house has published over 40 books.
In the last months of her life she completed a biography of her late husband Juan. While the English version is under consideration by publishers, the Spanish edition has been published under the title Nuestro Matrimonio Prohibido en el Servicio del Seńor. It may be ordered at: http://www.milamex.com/libros/.
Liz Isáis is survived by three of her children: Raquel de Miranda, Sally Isáis de Ramírez and David Isáis (all of them in full time ministry), ten grandchildren and one great granddaughter. She was buried in Mexico City.
For more information, please contact:
Kenneth D. MacHarg can be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is: www.missionaryjournalist.org
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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.