On January 18, 2022, in Manta, Ecuador, Rosedale International (RI) worker Sheryl Hostetler passed away after a battle with COVID-19. At the time of her passing, she had dedicated over twenty years of her life to the people of Ecuador, serving as a nurse, a teacher, a mentor, and an advocate for at-risk children.
It seems an impossible task to neatly sum up the life of a woman who left deep footprints in the path of all she crossed. How to honor the fierceness of her care for others, the dedication to her calling, the impact of her spiritual motherhood? This is perhaps best accomplished through the words of those in Ecuador who called her sister, mother, and friend.
“I learned from her to love God with passion and dedication. She was a woman of integrity, honesty, and faithfulness, dedicated with all her heart to the service of others. She was a ‘lioness’ championing the cause of those she loved, a mother supporting and loving those in need.”
Over and over again, the words Sheryl’s community used to describe her were dedicated, faithful, passionate, and persevering. They spoke of her constant care for those around her—she never failed to buy food or medicine for people begging on the street; she called out the gifts she saw in others; she invited young people into her home for food, a movie, and conversation about Jesus.
They shared how she made each person who interacted with her feel known and loved. “I would describe her as the most faithful person you could meet,” wrote Ivonne, who worked alongside Sheryl at the Shekinah Foundation. “Sheryl was a 24/7 person. Tired or not, there she was for whoever needed her. She was always willing to help; she had a mother’s heart.”
Thelma, a former RI worker in Ecuador, spent over ten years working with Sheryl. To her, the memory that stands out as most representing Sheryl’s heart is the night in April of 2016 when an earthquake rocked Ecuador’s coastal region. As buildings shook and strong aftershocks continued through the night, “Sheryl sat on the street outside the Foundation with children all around her. She sang an English lullaby to them over and over, and as young children can do, some fell asleep while Sheryl kept watch. She was God’s guardian angel to the children of the Shekinah Foundation during that awful night, knowing she had to stay calm in the face of the fear and chaos going on all around.” That night, just as she had always been, Sheryl was a needed rock and source of peace.
“She was in God’s grip, and she gave herself and her life to those he led her to serve.”
When she joined RI staff for a prayer meeting in early 2021, Sheryl spoke of the joy she found in nurturing spiritual growth in those around her. This investment of time, patience, and love was evident as her community shared the impact she’d had on their lives.
“When I began to learn about God’s plan and his love for us, he sent Sheryl to help us be free from guilt and condemnation,” shared Juan Cedeño, now a pastor of his own church plant. “I found in her a person who was not going to judge me, and it gave me confidence to confess things that had me bound.”
“All the young people that she touched with her life, young people from the churches in Manta and Guayaquil, today are the pastors and leaders of the Mennonite churches in Ecuador,” wrote Graciela, Sheryl’s longtime friend and mentee. “I know that I am a better person and daughter of God for what Sheryl invested in me.”
This is the legacy that Sheryl left behind. As Thelma aptly concluded, “Sheryl always signed any note or email, In His grip. She was in God’s grip, and she gave herself and her life to those he led her to serve.”
So while we grieve this great loss, we can also rejoice, knowing that Sheryl has entered into the joy of her Savior. She fought the good fight; she finished the race; she kept the faith. The blessing of her life will have a lasting impact that far outlives her time with us. “I thank God that I knew her,” Graciela reflected. “She was a gift from God for my life and for Ecuador. She knew that—I always told her.”