When the Wendel family, missionaries to the Czech Republic, returned after a short furlough stateside, their six children were heartbroken that they had to leave their beloved cat, Rocky Road, behind.
After a brief discussion, the family decided on the perfect new pet: a pug puppy.
They searched, but only found online advertisements for pugs that were located too far away for the Wendels to travel. After a month of looking, discouragement began to creep into their children’s hearts. Then, one day, the Wendels’ daughter returned home from school and excitedly announced that her classmate had pugs for sale. After calling, they headed over to her classmate’s home and returned with an adorable little puppy they named Annabelle.
The family was instantly smitten, but they never imagined how Annabelle would help further their ministry in one of the most atheistic countries in the world.
Shortly after coming to live with the Wendels, Annabelle got loose and went missing for a day. Word spread throughout their neighborhood, and Annabelle was eventually found and returned safely by a neighbor. The Wendels had never met the man, but he knew them as the American pug owners.
“All of a sudden, these people would light up when they saw us. Annabelle really helped us gain a lot more acceptance in the community,” Steve Wendel said. “It’s a holdover from Communism. People still don’t trust other people, but you can trust a dog. No one would look at us when we would walk down the street, but everybody and their brother wanted to meet Annabelle.”
God also used Annabelle to help the Wendels develop a deep friendship with the family who sold her. Eventually Steve invited the family’s three daughters to help with a summer ministry camp and they accepted. Throughout the week-long camp, each girl heard the gospel message multiple times and one of the girls decided to give her life to Jesus.
“We were astonished just how deep of an impact this little pug made for the kingdom of God,” said Steve.
Sadly, after only a year with the Wendels, Annabelle became sick with an autoimmune disorder. Despite daily trips to the veterinarian for antibiotics, she succumbed to the illness. But the impact of her life and her ministry lives on.
“Losing Annabelle was terrible — as losing a family pet always is. However, Annabelle’s life actually served a great purpose in ministry. Of how many dogs can that be said?” said Steve. “Heaven was eternally altered all because of a short-lived and ornery pug named Annabelle.”