For the past 23 years, Dave and Cindy Bintz built a life in the Tampa Bay area, he as a respected athletic director and basketball coach at Christian schools, she as an assistant to pastors at a St. Petersburg church.
A few months ago, though, they decided to change course and announced plans to move to Spain as missionaries.
The decision took their three adult children and his elderly parents by surprise. But son Ryan, a teacher in Plant City, was supportive. So was daughter Julie, who lives in Alabama and immediately pledged $100 a month to their mission. Katie, the youngest, cried.
Acknowledging the difficulty of leaving family and friends and so much that's familiar behind, the Clearwater couple emphasizes they're simply following Jesus' call to evangelize the world.
For the grandparents of eight, their particular spot will be in northern Spain, where they'll work at a camp for children ages 7 through 18. Dave, who has coached for 37 years, most recently at Odessa Christian School and before that at Calvary Christian, Northside Christian and schools in Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, will teach basketball and expand the athletic program at the camp. Cindy will contribute the administrative skills she has honed at Northside Baptist Church and its school over more than two decades.
"The Lord has allowed us to influence the lives of young people over the years, and now the Lord is changing our ministry's focus," Dave said.
"For me," his wife said, "I never thought I would ever go over the ocean."
Their pastor at Northside Baptist has mixed feelings about seeing them leave.
"I love them, and there's a little bit of sorrow that they are not going to be here with us but a whole lot of joy," Pastor Timothy Kroll said. "These are people that are significant to us. These are people we love. These are people that have had a ministry and leadership at Northside, and yet we are excited to see God take them to a new area where there will be that same ministry and leadership in an area that needs it."
The couple recently returned from five days of orientation in Tupelo, Miss., at Global Outreach International, which serves as a base for more than 200 missionaries around the world. Neither speaks much Spanish, though Dave has been spending evenings studying the language with Rosetta Stone software. They plan to take Spanish classes when they settle in Spain, which they have visited as short-term missionaries for the same camp they will head to permanently.
"The first summer I went over, the place just gripped my heart," said Dave, 58.
They hope to move there next summer, sooner if they raise enough money. The plan is then to return to the United States after a few months to apply for residency in the European country. The Bintzes said they hope to settle in for good by the spring of 2014.
Fundraising will be a big part of their preparation. They're still estimating how much money they will need for housing, health insurance and other expenses.
"We just really feel the Lord's leading and he's going to supply," said Cindy, 60.
In coming months, her husband will travel across the country trying to recruit coaches to volunteer at the camp during the summer, and he plans to contact friends, former students and churches to solicit financial and prayer support.
"We have a lot of contacts around the country," he said. "We've sent out letters to everyone. We've had a lot of positive feedback."
Donors will be asked to send contributions to Global Outreach International, which will dispense all of the money raised to the couple, spokeswoman Barbara Gibson said. In turn, the Bintzes must account for everything they spend, she said. Gibson said her organization, a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, sends quarterly and annual statements to donors for all missionaries under its umbrella.
"We are here to get them to the field and help them to remain there and to be their support base spiritually," she said.
L'Arcada Camp and Retreat Center was founded 30 years ago by an American couple. Besides basketball, the camp offers sessions with American Indian and English themes. Dave hopes he can build a sports program that will attract more kids to the camp "to hear about the Lord."
Kroll explained why he thinks the Bintzes are particularly suited to their new endeavor.
"I'd have to say it's their love of people, and in this case, God has given them a passion for the young people of Spain," he said.
Northside Baptist will help the new missionaries financially, with prayer and with volunteers who will travel to Spain on short-term missions, Kroll said.
The Bintzes, who met in high school and have been married for 40 years, plan to return to the States each year for months at a time. The cancer survivors — he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001 and she with breast cancer in 2005 — are at peace with their long-term commitment.
"We figure we will serve the Lord until he takes us home," Cindy said.
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at (727) 892-2283 or [email protected]