It was the Day of the Dead in Mexico, and a typical day of ministry for the Anthony and Silvia Gaffney: they were handing out Spanish Bibles and giving away CDs at the festival. The event is filled with flavorful food, flowers, and thousands of people. It was buzzing outside of Gilgal Bible Institute, which happens to sit near two cemeteries.
The area is surrounded by mountains and it reminded Anthony of Psalm 125:2: “Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, both now and forever.” The community had been struggling through a time of unrest and fear, which prompted him to speak about the topic at the Bible Institute. This lesson is what was on the CDs they were passing out.
They gave the items and witnessed to a mother, a daughter, and two sisters who were selling tamales.
The Gaffney’s witnessed to many people that day, but a year later at the same festival, a young woman would approach them excitedly. She tells them that she was a part of that family who they witnessed to and that shortly after that, her mother passed away.
Before she died, she was reading the Bible they gave her and was listening to the CD. In those moments, she gave her life to Christ. On the week of her passing, her request was to hear the CD recording with Anthony preaching one more time. She did not want to be scared of death.
The mother looked at her child and said “I will pass. On the Day of the Dead next year, when you go to sell tamales, look for that couple and tell them that I received Christ.”
This moment is etched in the hearts of the Gaffneys; and is a story that motivated them to continue and still motivates them to this day.
The Gaffneys are a dynamic duo: Silvia is a licensed dentist and Anthony is a former mechanic. The two met and were called to missions later in life, and look back in thankfulness for the way God orchestrated each of their steps.
Anthony got saved in 1980 and missions was almost immediately placed on his heart. It wasn’t until he was 50 that he knew it was time to go on a missions trip. This first trip happened to be to Mexico, where he would meet Silvia, who was translating for the group.
Silvia was working as a dentist in Mexico and had been involved in church since 1981. She had volunteered to do missions at the church, but was never called upon because they would rather use men in Mexico. When she met Anthony and knew he wanted to do missions there, she helped him with the translation. Six months later, the Lord spoke to her that she would also be doing missions work and that God was going to use her dentistry training to minister to people.
“Inside me, I felt that the only way I will be able to do it is if I do it with Anthony,” she said.
As a dentist, and being very rooted in Mexico, she never thought that she would be able to marry a minister – especially not one from somewhere outside of Mexico. She was settled there and never thought she would move. The Lord started speaking to her and showing her what she was called to do.
Anthony recalls her telling him that she didn’t think she could get serious and marry a minister.
“I didn’t say anything to her, but I told God that it’s in His hands and I wasn’t going to worry about it,” he said.
They would soon be engaged and making wedding preparations. Silvia moved to the States on the day of their marriage and she continued to travel to Mexico for months at a time to do dentistry. Anthony would travel back with her as often as possible to minister.
It did not take long for them both to realize that the Lord joined their ministries, along with their hearts.
They had a vision about filling a camper with dental supplies and taking it to people who needed care. God provided this for them, along with the supplies.
The two got into a natural rhythm of working together: when on the field, Anthony sets up the tools every morning for her to do the dental work and he sterilizes it all at the end of each day. If something breaks, he fixes it. Silvia helps people who need dental care and also tells them about Christ. Some of the people she works on go years without seeing a dentist and come in with serious issues. When in Romania, they teach the people there how to care for their hygiene, as many are never taught and end up losing most of their teeth. They also preach and do dental-themed puppet ministry.
“One person finding Jesus Christ is worth every trip we go on,” Anthony said.