TAHOE CITY, California – “I want to make a difference,” Debbie Wohler says. “The world comes to Lake Tahoe. That’s why I’m here as a missionary; it is because this is where the world is.”
Each year 12 million people from around the world visit the Lake Tahoe area. Some take Christ home with them.
Debbie, who serves as a resort ministry field specialist for the California Southern Baptist Convention’s Healthy Church Group, majored in physical education at Eastern Illinois University. It was there she began to explore a call to missions.
“I had no idea how He could use me because I loved to play. I certainly didn’t want to be a nurse in Africa,” Debbie laughingly recalls. “I felt God tugging at my heart, so I signed up to do summer missions. That summer back in 1975 changed my life.
“God sent me to Lake Tahoe, and I realized that God could use me like He made me. He knew all about those desires to play – and so He sent me to America’s year 'round playground. It was just as if a light-bulb came on. I didn’t have to be Lottie Moon or Annie Armstrong. I could be Debbie Wohler, and God could really use me to talk to people about Him. I could, you know, be myself.”
Upon graduating from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in 1979, Debbie returned to Lake Tahoe as a CSBC missionary. “I was 24 years old,” Debbie related, “and I was kind of clueless. But one thing somebody told me about starting mission work stuck in my mind: look for the felt needs of non-Christians. When you meet the felt needs of people, you get an opportunity to meet their real need, which is a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Debbie began dreaming big for God. Living and working in a transient area, Debbie and the folks at First Baptist Church of Tahoe City reached out to the children of their community. Childcare was a major felt need they could provide.
“Everybody wants to live in paradise,” Debbie said, “but then they get here and find out that it costs a lot of money and it snows a lot. Both parents end up having to work. We’ve taken care of their kids. We’ve loved their families, and as a result we are seeing moms and dads, boys and girls come to know Jesus.”
Debbie said she is one of those “pathetically consistent people.” That consistency and stability have given her a voice in the community. “We have about 100 kids a day that I get to influence for the Kingdom. We add stability to their lives,” Debbie commented. “I get to love and serve the kids, and help to develop their character and spiritual foundation so that as they get older they can become Christians. That is what my mom did for me. Last year we touched 17,000 kids. About 80 percent of the people that come to our ministries do not go to church anywhere.”
Debbie directs a Big A Club, Parents’ Night Out, and chaplains at seven different ski areas. She tutors at the A+ Before and After School Ministry, recruits college students and adult volunteer groups, helps with My Morning Out, and coordinates the Empties 4 Cash program. Check out www.tahoeministries.com for ways you can participate in this vital California ministry.
Another place Debbie spreads the gospel is at the Olympics. She was in London this past summer telling people that a relationship with Jesus is worth "More than Gold." Debbie has been to 12 Olympic games.
Debbie’s message to California Southern Baptists:
“Dream big for God. Don’t get discouraged when it seems like something is not happening, because God promises that His Word will not come back void. Keep being faithful, and keep being creative. Stop and talk to non-Christians, and ask them what it would take to get them in to start a faith relationship with God or come back to God.
“Thank you for what you give to the Cooperative Program, the California Mission Offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. Do you wonder if it does any good? Well, it is helping right here in California. Are people becoming Christians? "Yes" they have and wil!. People are becoming Christians in California because of your gifts, your prayers, and because you cared enough to send and support a missionary.”
Pray that people will respond to God's call to missions. It takes a lot of volunteers to do all these outreach ministries at Tahoe.
Pray for the volunteer ski chaplains who go and lead church serves at 7 ski areas.
Pray for safety for the chaplains and open hearts for the people they meet.
Thank you God for lives changed for Your Kingdom this past year.
Debbie’s contact information
P.O. Box 7452
Tahoe City, CA 96145