I went to my friend Carl’s memorial service last night. I’d known him since 1979 when we showed up at SIL in Dallas to take our first semester of linguistics courses. We took Evie Pike’s grammatical analysis course and studied phonetics under her sister, Eunice. We studied translation principles and discourse structure, and emerged three years later with MAs in linguistics. We met our future spouses, married them and went off to apply what we’d learned – me to Mozambique and he to Papua New Guinea.
John and I kept in touch with Carl and Jody all our lives. We rejoiced with them as God miraculously added three beautiful children to their family. We prayed as they endured the relentless heat and humidity of the Sepik River basin to bring God’s Word to the Yade people. We cried with Carl when he lost Jody to cancer several years ago. And we rejoiced with him as he ventured back to PNG this past May to live among the Yade once again and complete the work he and Jody had begun.
On May 22 I opened my email to find a letter from friends of Carl’s in Papua New Guinea. Carl had been doing a two-day hike through the jungle to attend a workshop with his translation team when he fell ill. His Yade friends had carried him to a nearby village, where he died on May 19, surrounded by the people he had served for 34 years.
As I read the email, I was overcome by the sacredness of the moment. The image in my mind of Carl entering glory surrounded by the Yade believers who loved him is one that will stay with me for a long time.
I don’t know how many years God will give me or John before our journey ends. But I do know that when that moment comes, I want to be found being about my Father’s business. All the stresses we have been facing with family, finances and health have tempted me, at least, to say, “We’ve done enough. I’m tired!” But then John goes to Brazil and is once again embraced by a group of people who desperately long for the Bible in their language – 800,000 Chibi speakers with little Christian witness among them. And the magic happens again – that joy, that challenge, that heart-breaking calling. And I’m all in again. For the long haul.
Thank you for being in with us, until all of us are called Home.
And Carl and Jody, your long hike is over. Keep cheering us on until we meet again.