Mary Bower Gunn, a 1962 graduate of Moody Bible Institute and missionary with Wycliff Bible Translators, was named the 2013 Alumna of the Year by the Alumni Association. The award was announced at The Moody Church during the Tuesday, Feb. 5, evening session of Moody Bible Institute's annual Founder's Week conference. The annual award honors a graduate who has "demonstrated loyalty to the Kingdom of Christ through honorable character, ardent service and accountability to the Word of God."
"The Moody community is grateful to Mary and her family for their ministry to the people of Central and South America," said Dr. Paul Nyquist, president of Moody Bible Institute. "Her humble obedience to the call of Christ to serve is a worthy example to follow. God has used Mary and her family in extraordinary ways and our prayer is that their work would continue to yield fruit for generations to come."
Mary was one of six children born into a missionary family in the rural town of Bagley, Minn. She dreamed of becoming a missionary nurse. The Lord, however, had other plans for her. While at Moody, she met fellow student, Bob Gunn. They were married on Aug. 24, 1962, and both committed to serving the Lord on the mission field.
After completing education degrees from Sterling College in Kansas, they accepted an appointment to serve with the Wycliffe center in Ixmiqulpan, Mexico, teaching the children of missionary families. They only had six weeks to prepare, Mary was eight months pregnant and they struggled with college debt. Within those six weeks the Lord provided all the funding they needed and their son Steve was born.
That first year, Mary taught, helped with construction projects and along with her husband, prepared to become a Bible translator. They eventually moved south to the Mejungle Training center where they welcomed another son, Dan.
Once their training was complete, they moved to Colombia to serve as Bible translators. Several months later, In the summer of 1970, they moved further south to Rio Luis to work among the Buglere, a primitive and isolated people group.
During a whooping cough epidemic, the Lord opened doors for them to reach out with love, compassion and medical care to those who were affected. Mary and her husband started to develop an alphabet for the oral language of the Buglere and after several years the translation work was able to begin.
Due to an unstable political climate in Rio Luis, and the ministry being falsely accused, they were forced to leave. They returned one year later. Returning to their original place of ministry, though, was not possible. They settled in Panama City where they continued their translation work, along with discipling new believers. After 18 years of hard work, the first printing of the Buglere New Testament was presented by Mary and her family to believers of Rio Luis on July 10, 1988.
In 1989 they decided to move to Huntington Beach, Calif., where they served on the leadership team of the Wycliffe U.S. home office. When possible, they visited the church in Rio Luis to serve as an encouragement. Eventually, the Lord called the couple back to Rio Luis in 1994 and they settled in Panama City. They have since developed a hymnal and are continuing to help the church become stronger and more confident.