If she ever gets the chance to travel to her tiny Caribbean namesake, Elaine Bonaire likely will get a VIP tour of the powerful transmitter site from which TWR broadcasts the Gospel to much of Latin America...
The Michigan woman, you see, shares her surname with the transmitter site’s home, Bonaire, which is part of an island group informally known as the Dutch Antilles. And that shared name isn’t just a random coincidence but a bond that tightly links Elaine’s family story to the island and to TWR’s 50-year presence there.
In 1970, Elaine headed south to study at the University of Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia. At a local church, this bilingual coed whose father once served as a YMCA executive in South America got to know her future husband, Jose Anselmo Muñoz Barajas. After the two married, Anselmo, as his family called him, was the pastor of a church before they relocated to Michigan, where Elaine’s family lived.
“After coming to the States, people wanted to call him Jose, which was easier for them than wrapping their English-speaking tongues around ‘Anselmo,’” Elaine wrote in a letter to TWR. “He had trouble being called Jose – [it felt] like people were talking to someone else. He got tired of the Jose jokes, too.”
“Jose jokes” apparently involved quips using the phrases “No way, Jose!” and “Jose, can you see” – the latter sung to the tune of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“Muñoz” also presented pronunciation and spelling problems for many of his new countrymen, so when he decided to become a U.S. citizen and was asked whether he wanted to change his name, he was ready to take the plunge. Elaine helped out, doing some research and compiling a list of Hispanic surnames that English speakers would find easier to spell and say.
In the end, though, Anselmo picked a name that wasn’t even on the list: Bonaire. Why? Because that 114-square-mile island off the coast of Venezuela was the point of origin for TWR Gospel broadcasts that helped lead his family to Christ when he was a boy.
“I married Jose Anselmo Muñoz Barajas in Colombia and buried Ariel Anselmo Bonaire in Michigan,” wrote Elaine. “I’ve had one husband. He was pastor of a church in Medellin, Colombia, during the first year we were married. Later he was pastor of the Hispanic congregation of a church in Holland, Mich. His calling to be an evangelist was cut short by his death in January 1995.”
Anselmo felt called to serve as an evangelist and was working at an automotive-parts manufacturer in Traverse City when he suffered a fatal heart attack.
With her letter, Elaine included a donation and the words “Que Dios bendiga el Ministerio de TWR” (“May God bless the ministry of TWR”). She closed with a P.S.
“I understand that the island of Bonaire is very pretty. Should I ever have the opportunity to visit, I would like to visit TWR.”