Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2011, 9:20 am

Davenport natives sell everything to serve Guatemalan natives

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By Leon Lagerstam,

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Photo: John Greenwood
Vickie and Norman Sutton, former Quad-Citians, serve as missionaries in Guatemala and were in town to participate in a mission festival co-sponsored by eight local Baptist churches. Both are Davenport West graduates, and Mrs. Sutton also is an Augustana College graduate.
BETTENDORF -- Selling all their possessions to help the poor is more than just a Gospel story to a former Davenport couple.

Norman and Vickie Sutton, now of San Andres, Guatemala, sold their Omaha, Neb., home on Aug. 21, 2009, and went to Costa Rica for missionary training and Spanish lessons.

They also sold a car, minivan, motorcycle and most of their possessions, except for a few family heirlooms, before winding up in Guatemala on May 1, 2010.

The Suttons were in town to participate in last weekend's first Quad-Cities Mission Festival, hosted by eight local Baptist churches, including Grandview Baptist Church in Davenport, where they once belonged.

''On my first day alive, I was at Grandview,'' Mr. Sutton said.

The festival also gave the Suttons a chance to visit their two children, Heather and Ryan Sutton, and other family members and church friends, and to discuss their missionary work at a Guatemalan orphanage.

However, they quickly started missing the kids they left behind in Guatemala.

''We're like the aunt and uncle for about 30 kids between the ages of 9 months to 18 years old,'' Mrs. Sutton said.

Mr. Sutton's loyalties were obvious. He was wearing a T-shirt bearing the words ''Hagar De Vida,'' Spanish for ''Home of Life',' the orphanage's name.

Mrs. Sutton said some people have said they are crazy, while others wondered why they didn't decide to become full-time missionaries sooner, after all the trips the family took to Guatemala.

It started 12 years ago, when mother and daughter took the first trip.

''My son and I stayed home,'' Mr. Sutton said. ''But when they returned, we listened to all the stories they sharedand decided it sounded like something we could do as a family. So the following year, we all went together.''

And for the next six years after that, Mrs. Sutton said.

''But every time we left, it felt like leaving a part of our hearts there,'' Mr. Sutton said. ''So after we hit the empty nest, we flew.''

They'll fly back to their Guatemalan nest on Monday, Aug. 22, just in time for Mr. Sutton to have rotator-cuff surgery.

Mrs. Sutton compared their decision to become missionaries in Guatemala to the Biblical story of Peter climbing out of the boat to join Jesus.

''We finally got out of the boat, got in a little over our heads at first, but have found it to be more rewarding than anything we could have expected,'' she said.

She and her husband draw inspiration from the words of Joshua 1:9, which reads: ''Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of great courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you, wherever you go.''

Mr. Sutton said it also gives him a chance to ''live like the pioneers did,'' something he always wanted to do. ''If you needed something, like a dining room table, you made it by hand. And when you're in Guatemala, you just can't run down to Lowe's or somewhere. You have to make do with what you have.''

''You have to rely on God a lot,'' Mrs. Sutton said. ''But you learn that if God wants you to do something, you'll find a way.

''No matter what God has plans for you to do, remember He will equip you for it,'' she told mission festival participants. ''And you're never too old.''

''If God puts it on your heart to take action, listen to Him,'' Mr. Sutton said. ''It will result in an awesome experience, and the doors that will open for you will be amazing.''

And just as it reads in the Bible stories of people selling all their possessions, treasures to be found when walking through heaven's doors will never fail.

As Luke 22:34 puts it: ''For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.''

Vickie Sutton

Address: San Andres, Guatemala.

Birth date: Feb. 28, 1962.

Occupation: Missionary.

Education: 1980 Davenport West High School graduate; 1984 Augustana College, Rock Island, graduate, majoring in accounting and business.

Hometown: Davenport.

Family: Husband, Norman; daughter, Heather Sutton, 24, Omaha, Neb., and son, Ryan Sutton, 21, Chicago.

Favorite Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11.

Favorite Biblical character I'd like to meet: Jesus.

Hobbies: Reading, scrapbooking.

Peak experience: Giving birth to my children.

One thing I feel strongly about: ''That everyone should take a step out of the U.S., and see other cultures.''

I wish I knew how to: Sing.

Norman Sutton

Birth date: Dec. 9, 1963.

Occupation: Missionary.

Education: ''School of Hard Knocks.''

Hometown: Davenport.

Favorite Scripture: Joshua 1: 8-9.

Favorite Biblical character I'd like to meet: Moses.

Hobbies: Woodworking, sports.

Peak experience: ''The birth of my children. Being present for it was amazing.''

One thing I feel strongly about: ''Serving others.''

I wish I knew how to: ''Fly an airplane.''