A LIFE-CHANGING TRIP
1959 was a year to remember. Revolutionist Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba, a young Senator named John F. Kennedy was busy running for President, and a new musical called, “The Sound of Music” made its debut on Broadway. The same year, Mattel introduced a new toy, which they called, “The Barbie Doll”, folks were filling up movie theatres to see “Ben-Hur”, and Alaska and Hawaii became America’s 49th and 50th states.
As 1959 drew to a close, a small wedding was taking place on a snowy Sunday night in the small town of Karlstad, Minnesota, just a few miles from the Canadian border. It was November 8th, and Clara Ost, the daughter of a Norwegian-American pastor, was marrying John Ost, a pastor and missionary to Mexico.
Clara had been working as a nurse in Thief River Falls, and had told her mother, “Mom, I will never marry a preacher!” Her Mom responded, “But what if you fall in love with one?” Slowly, God began to reveal to Clara that her destiny would be in full-time ministry. One Friday night, Clara was picked up by her dad to spend the weekend in Karlstad. On the drive home from Thief River Falls, Clara spoke from her heart, and said, “Daddy, I don’t know where or how, but I believe God wants me to be in full-time ministry.” Pastor Riveness patted her on the shoulder and said, “Clara, that makes me very happy.”
Several months later, Clara was set up on a blind date with John Ost, a preacher who was visiting from South Texas. Following a few dates and many months of letters, the two fell in love, and now found themselves standing at the altar vowing to be married “as long as they both shall live”. After the pronouncement of husband and wife, they sang the hymn, “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us”. As she sang in harmony with her new husband, Clara had no idea just how much her life was about to change.
The next morning, Clara packed all her belongings into John’s ’57 Chevy, and they began the 3-day journey to McAllen, Texas, where John served as pastor of Iglesia Bíblica. Gradually the pine trees changed to palm trees and the snow gave way to tumbleweeds as they made their way through Texas and into the Rio Grande Valley. Citrus groves and cotton fields stretched for miles in every direction, and Clara felt a little bit like she had arrived at the end of the world.
HUGS AND SMILES
Clara had now begun what for her would be a lifetime of ministry to Spanish-speaking people. And she began without speaking a single word of Spanish.
The easiest way to start was by playing the piano and the accordion, because most of the hymns were the same ones that she knew in English. Several times a week, John would bang away on his steel guitar leading the singing, and Clara would play right along on the piano. But since she spoke no Spanish, she communicated love the only way she could, by hugging the ladies and smiling. She also began teaching a small group of girls in Sunday school, who understood English.
Clara remembered her first trip into Mexico, to a wedding in Chicavazco, where she wore high heels, not realizing that she would be hiking quite a bit over dirt roads. “Just a few weeks removed from Karlstad, Minnesota, I have rarely felt so out of my element, but I just tried to stay close to John and smile a lot.”
After only 6 months, Clara was able to communicate in Spanish well enough to pray and converse with the ladies in the church. “It’s only by God’s grace that I can communicate at all in a language I never studied,” she would later confess.
A HAPPY HOME
As the years went by, Clara found her niche primarily by supporting and caring for John, making her home a happy place of refuge, and by loving her children.
Clara was always there when the children came home from school, and often had a creative game for them to play, a funny song to sing or a crazy joke to tell. The most common sound around Clara was always laughter.
Often John would show up at the house with guests for dinner, and Clara would quickly prepare a meal without complaining. Her abilities as a hostess were legendary. People would always leave with full stomachs and happy hearts.
Her hostess skills were given their greatest test the summer Clara had the bright idea to invite teenagers from Mexico to her home in Alamo, Texas for a week of camp in the early ‘70’s. Clara had been telling John how much she enjoyed camp as a little girl, and thought the Mexican teens should have one as well. They expected maybe 20, but when the bus arrived at the border, there were 70 teenagers ready for camp! “We had campers on the floor sleeping in every room of the house, and even a few on the roof!”, Clara later remembered. “It was so much fun!’
A HEART FOR PEOPLE
Over the years, whenever Clara has had the opportunity to share with groups of ladies, she has always ministered from her heart. When she served as South Texas area Women’s Aglow President, Clara would often pray for dozens of women, one by one, taking the time to hear their anguish and then combine her faith with theirs for an answer from God.
Through her letters to pastor’s wives, that she calls, “Coffee With Clara”, Clara shares practical advice and comfort from the Scriptures to encourage each pastor’s wife to keep going and not give up. Often she has expressed her desire “to take a trip and visit every pastor’s wife in our fellowship in Mexico, to encourage and bless them.”
This last year, Clara traveled to the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, teaching and encouraging ladies, and then spending time in prayer for each one, many times with tears.
For Clara, the ministry has been about sharing her life. She lives out the words of 1 Thessalonians 2:8 – “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”
JESUS, HOLD MY HAND
Clara walked through two deep valleys recently, with the loss of her husband, John, to cancer, and her son, Sam, to MS within months of each other. “At times, I thought I wouldn’t make it,” she said. “The heartbreak was so real and so painful, and the solitude was a very hard adjustment. But, when my life seemed to bounce around in the storm, God’s Word was my only anchor and Jesus was there to hold my hand.” Now Clara can minister the comfort of Christ that she herself experienced through those dark days. She remembers one of her husband’s last desires: “John wanted to visit the Mexican pastors one more time, and my feeling is that God has me here to finish that dream.”
THE ROAD AHEAD
In the last few years, Clara’s ministry has expanded to include a class for women, every Wednesday night, monthly women’s breakfasts, and many opportunities to share in other churches and groups as well.
The cry of Clara’s heart continues to be the salvation and discipleship of women. Clara often quotes Titus 2:4-5, “Then they (older women) can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
Clara plans to continue to travel and teach, to enjoy her 7 grandchildren, and is also working on a book titled “Coffee With Clara” that will contain daily devotions for women.
It’s been 50 years since that snowy night in Karlstad, but Clara still means the words she sang in harmony with her groom:
Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need thy tender care;
In thy pleasant pastures feed us, for our use thy folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us, thine we are.
We are throwing a celebration to mark my Mom’s 50 years in full-time ministry at 6:30 pm, the evening of Sunday, November 22 at Iglesia Bíblica, McAllen, Texas. If you will be in the area, come and enjoy special music, tributes, great food, a multimedia presentation and lots of fun and laughter!