The Bartletts served the Lord with NTM for forty one years, two and a half years as staff at the Modesto, California training center; over twelve years in Brazil; eight years at the Bible Institute in Jackson, Michigan; ten years in England, and ten years as the NTM representatives for the Pacific Northwest based in Baker City, Oregon. Included in their responsibilities in their various fields was contact and survey work on the field committee in Brazil, serving on the committee at the Jackson Bible School, and on the Bible and general committees in England. Both were born in 1929, Vern in Nebraska and Joyce in California. They retired in 1999.
The awareness of their need for Christ, as well as their introduction to NTM came about nearly simultaneously when New Tribes missionary trainees at Fout Springs were doing door to door witnessing. At that time numerous cults were also about the area, many of which had visited the Bartletts. Vern invited the NTM’ers in who came to his door (which amazed him after being so often targeted by other religious representatives). The NTM’ers repeatedly visited, and in 1953, both Vern and Joyce gave their lives to Christ. They began a regular Bible study taught by some of the NTM missionaries that lasted a year, after which time they decided to sell their home and join the mission.
Vern emphasized how important it is to mention here what a powerful influence the lives of the NTM missionaries made on them. “Here were people who lived in desperate circumstances, who chose to do so because they had a purpose. These people lived what they believed which was unusual, so when they spoke to us about giving our lives (to Christ) it was evident they had given theirs. That made a powerful impression on us.”
Their confidence that it was God working in them to become part of the mission came through believing Bible verses that spoke of not loving the world or the things in the world. They had been striving to have the good life, temporary things; now they firmly understood their love of the world would never lead them to anything of eternal value. This determination gave them the strength to stand firm amid opposition from family and friends who questioned moving their family into this new life of total dependence on God.
They stepped out in faith and began their training in February 1955 at Fout Springs. A major challenge early on involved the health of their daughter who had been born anemic and was under a doctor’s care, but there seemed to be no improvement in her condition. Taking her into this new life of faith caused the doctor to label them irresponsible. However, around their table in their little cabin at Fout Springs they prayed God would take care of her. On their next trip to have her tested, she was found to have no sign of the condition.
Once in Brazil they began contact work with the Vica Indians known to be aggressive and mean. Isolation was so deep that should the missionaries be killed, no one would know what had happened to them. But they set out in faith by canoe on the river with trade goods, eventually encountering Indians. This first contact proved to be life threatening causing the missionaries to move down river and set up a camp of crude huts which would be their base for future contacts where they planned to develop a relationship in order to teach the Indians how to trade for what they needed and thus get to learn the language.
After one particularly dangerous contact where a group of Indians became outraged, the missionaries left and moved down river to another tribe whose powerful chief was hoping to make contact with the men knowing they had trade goods. Their friendly behavior made it possible for the men to maintain good enough relations to allow for mutual respect to develop so they could finally begin studying the language.
Challenges met them nearly constantly during their years in the jungle. Vern faced life threatening situations; Joyce wondering how he was faring and when she would see him again. As they look back on those years, they realize continually the grace of God was deeper than they could have ever fathomed.
Their church thought they were foolish to be going to the field, so they would not support them, but two individual families did. Seventeen years later a church came on board. Joyce explained that prior to and up until seventeen years into their ministry, they had so little contact with other churches that it took a number of years for others to learn of their need for support. They are blessed to have faithful support even to this day.
Would they repeat their life in missionary work? Both agreed God taught them so much, and they saw how He faithfully met their needs, both financially and spiritually, that they know they would never have learned such valuable lessons any other way.