By Denise M. Summers
Southsider Voice editor
Tony Speziale is preparing to move halfway around the world from Beech Grove to Papua, New Guinea, a series of islands 150 miles north of Australia, to work as a missionary for the next three years with Wycliffe Bible Translators USA.
He has gotten rid of his car and classic motorcycle and is in the process of selling his home.
The sale of his beloved motorcycle, which he had owned his since high school days at Roncalli, made his position on moving perfectly clear to all who know him. The money will help fund his missionary travels.
Becoming a missionary wasn’t anything Speziale expected to do
Three years ago his life was in crisis: He was going through a divorce and about to lose his job at FedEx; his drinking was out of control; and he was emotionally and physically tired. FedEx was there for him by recognizing his problem and giving him a six-week medical leave for him to get help with his drinking.
He went to Valle Vista Hospital in Greenwood for treatment three times a week. But the problem with the classes was that all discussions focused on drinking. By the time sessions ended, he was ready to drink. And drink he did ... buying a fifth on the way home.
It was during this difficult time that he cried out to a God who he hoped was listening and would help show him the way. With that plea, Speziale was transformed. After 28 years of drinking every day, he hasn’t had a drink since Valentine’s Day 2011. He says he doesn’t feel like he has ever drunk and doesn’t crave alcohol.
With his faith uplifted, he began attending the Vineyard Community Church and became involved in a small group that studied the Bible. He made friends with Adam and Christy Derloshon, missionaries who just returned from a year mission in Ethiopia.
When a missionary, a bush pilot for Wycliffe in Papua, addressed the group, he spoke of a job opening there working with planes on the logistical side of maintenance, and Speziale realized it sounded like duties he had performed at FedEx. (Despite the name, not all members of Wycliffe work directly on Bible translations. Many missionaries are part of a larger team that works to support translators.)
With no wife and no children to consider, he said he felt a peace in his heart to become a missionary.
Speziale talked to God and said, “If this job is for me, open the doors and I will walk through them.”
Well, the doors opened.
He resigned from FedEx in April and is now working full-time in partnership development, talking to people, churches and groups to help him raise funds for his work in Papua. He can’t leave until he is fully funded, so he is working on finding people who will become prayer and financial partners.
In October he will leave for Waxhaw, N.C., for seven weeks of intercultural courses. After that, if his ministry budget is at 100 percent, he is free to head to Papua. His monthly budget – determined by previous missionaries in the city – will be about $2,800. He has raised 25 percent of his needed funds.
Speziale said he would love to be there for the new year to begin his new life.
Once there he will spend the first three months in an orientation course to learn about the culture and language. Papua, he found out, is culturally diverse with more than 800 languages spoken; 300 of them do not have a Bible translation.
He will live in Ukarumpa, a mountainous town that’s about 5,100 feet above sea level and away from the tribal regions. The community has been described like living in rural Appalachia. There is one store and a clinic. The temperature remains a fairly constant 75 degrees yearround.
The natives of Papua, Speziale shared, live like they did 500 years ago ... with no electricity and no alphabet. It was only in 1950 that they outlawed cannibalism.
The Vineyard, 512 S. Madison Ave., Greenwood, will host a fundraiser for Speziale from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21. He will present a video and share his vision. Follow him on Facebook at Path to Papua. For more information, including how to donate, visit www.wycliffe.org/Partnership.aspx?mid=21B61F.