For the last four years, GRACE high school students have had the privilege of learning Spanish from Señora Welch. As a teacher, Paula desires to encourage her students to know God and His written Word better and to make Him known to others in a way that is relevant culturally and linguistically. Paula and her husband, Larry, spent 20 years living in the Republic of Panama working with an indigenous group on the northwest coast as church planters. Paula and Larry met at in the cafeteria at what is now Liberty University, have been married for 36 years, and have three daughters and two granddaughters. Because they married right out of college, Paula has never lived alone. Fun fact – the first time Larry met Paula, he told her his name was George!
When asked about her primary and secondary school years, Paula recalls when she was the speaker at the 1978 South Carolina FFA (Future Farmers of America) State Convention. Paula was representing the Future Homemakers of America (FHA) as it was customary for the two groups to send a representative to each other’s state convention. At that time, the associations were very gender specific, and Paula remembers being the only girl in a group of hundreds of young men.
There are many passages of scripture that are special to Paula, but one verse that she frequently comes back to is Proverbs 3:5-6. This is the passage that God used to get her attention when she was a senior in high school. God used these verses to help Paula realize that if she trusted and obeyed Him, she could quit trying to figure out how to make things work, and instead allow Him to direct her path. It was, she recalls, the beginning of her learning to walk by faith that has truly been a way of life for Paula through all of phases of her life. Paula shared that there have been times in her life when she was trusting and times when she wasn’t and, looking back, she can recognize that there is a definite peace that comes with trusting Him.
Before being a missionary and teacher, Paula had a number of unusual jobs including working on an assembly line sewing clothing. She has been a member of several choirs and remembers singing Christmas carols at Disneyland and singing as part of the Bible Aflame Singers while attending Liberty Baptist College (now Liberty University).
When asked to share what she loves best about GRACE, Paula was quick to say that she enjoys how the faculty, staff, students, and parents form a loving community that is quick to step in and support each other in every area of life. When the Welch’s moved to North Carolina four years ago, they did not expect to find a group of people that they would enjoy as much as the community they left behind, but GRACE changed that. Paula states that it is a testimony to the fact that God provides fellowship for His people where ever He calls them.
Over the years, Paula has been involved in every church ministry you can imagine spanning from the nursery (where she serves now) to ministries benefiting senior citizens. She shares that the ministries changed over the years based on location and need, but she has never been involved in a ministry that she didn’t enjoy. In the nursery, she enjoys spending time with children who are the same age as her granddaughters, Ariana and Annalise.
Paula does not enjoy participating in sports, but she is an avid fan. If you are a varsity athlete at GRACE, you have likely seen Señora on the sidelines for many of your home games. In addition to the Eagles, Paula enjoys following professional baseball, and because she married a boy from Southern California, she is an Angels fan.
When asked about major influences in her life, Paula shared that serving and living among the Buglere people of Panama for twenty years had a profound effect on her perspective. Her time in Panama helped her understand what true physical and spiritual poverty looks like and it also helped her realize the power of the gospel to change lives for the glory of God and to bring unity where opposition and dissension once ruled. Living as a missionary among the Buglere people taught Paula to trust God more deeply and gave her opportunities to experience His faithfulness in ways she never had before.
In closing, Paula shared a phrase that bears witness to the confidence she places in the ability of our Sovereign God to be glorified in any situation. She doesn’t remember where she first heard it, but she views life in agreement with the statement, “the bigger the minus the bigger the plus.” She has been able to see in her life that quite often, the things that seem so negative become a positive thing in some way and the more negative it seemed originally, the more positive it becomes in the end.