Thursday, October 7, 2021

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path . . . .”


Lomalinda’s first settlers must have possessed a strong dose of genetic material passed down from their home countries’ hardiest explorers and homesteaders. Something—faith, courage, DNA—propelled them into the unknown to take on the challenge of it all.


Do not go where the path may lead,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” That’s what Lomalinda’s people had done, beginning with her first pioneers.


In Bogotá on May 25, 1964, six adults and one baby climbed into a couple of tottering old trucks loaded with supplies and building materials and set out for what would become their center of operations.


The journey, a hundred and fifty miles, took two days.


Full of energy and enthusiasm, they embarked on making their dreams come true—creating Lomalinda—while living in tents and cooking over a gas stove on the ground.


For bathing, laundry, and drinking water, they used lake water, warm and loamy.


They had dreams of building a school for the many children they planned to have and, since those doing translation work would also live in even more remote settings several months a year, they’d build a Children’s Home in Lomalinda to house school-age kids while their parents were away.


The new center of operations would be a place to base airplanes and pilots who’d fly those linguists to and from their work in isolated villages, and a place for radio operators who would keep in touch with them.


Translation personnel, working in those primitive (in some cases Stone Age) villages, would learn the indigenous languages and gather linguistic data.


After a few weeks or months of intense work, they would return to Lomalinda, reunite with their kids, catch their breath, and tend to medical and physical needs.


And while in Lomalinda, they’d analyze the data they’d gathered, meet with language consultants, work on their translation and literacy projects, and prepare for their next trip to those distant, primitive village locales.


Yes, Lomalinda was going to be quite a place.

Original temporary housing

And so, with those mighty dreams ever before them, and with more families joining them, they built six cabins, twelve feet by twenty feet each, with waist-high outer walls topped by screening.


With two families sharing each cabin, they put up inside walls to offer privacy, of sorts—they had a gap at the top that tall people could see over (but that didn’t seem to hinder anyone from making babies).

Sawmill used by Lomalinda pioneers

They fed their families by growing vegetables and hunting and fishing—even parrot showed up on dinner tables—though occasionally someone pedaled a bike several miles down the road to a small town to buy meat. Local farmers also sold sugarcane, bananas, and eggs.


By Thanksgiving, six months later, settlers had made progress on an office building, duplexes, and quadruplexes, as well as facilities they shared—a kitchen, dining room, and a bath/laundry house.


Twelve years later 

when our family arrived in Lomalinda, 

everyone lived in comfortable houses 

with running water, plumbing, and electricity, 

but her residents still possessed 

that can-do spirit—

self-reliant, steadfast, single-minded. 

Stubborn when they had to be.


They were just ordinary folks 

slogging along because of God’s grace, 

hearts on fire for what He called them to do. 

(From Chapter 15, Please, God, Don’t Make MeGo: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir)


Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Living fun new stories with new characters


Given our remote setting, the Lomalinda bunch didn’t have many worldly ways to relax and refresh.


As a result, we created events


skit nights,

parades . . . 


beard-growing contests . . . 

fancy hat contests,

office parties 

banquet events . . .

Karen and Linda on far left

surprise parties,

potluck dinners,

soapbox derbies . . .

fund-raising events,

talent shows . . . .


Remembering those events

and especially those dear people—

makes me smile.

Our family was writing fun new stories,

with new characters,

in such an unexpected place.


To paraphrase 1 Corinthians 2:9  (CEB),

God had gone ahead of us 

and prepared good happenings

that would never have crossed our minds.


(From Chapter 15, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir)


Thursday, September 9, 2021

God said, “Let there be critters and creepy-crawlies” and it was good

Lomalinda was home to fascinating critters and creepy-crawlies—spiders, cockroaches, moths, flies, bees, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, fleas, scorpions, and creatures I’d never seen before and had no idea what their name was.


(Did you know all bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs? And that millipedes, centipedes, scorpions, spiders, and ticks are neither bugs nor insects? That’s why I call them critters and creepy-crawlies. (Click on Bug vs.Insect: Is there a difference?)


God created them, and when we recognized that, we marvel at His  handiwork—their beauty and strength and purposes and intricacy.


Many of Lomalinda’s boys collected them. My son Matt’s collection included a rhinoceros beetle, another beetle that looked like a peanut shell, and cicadas.


Lomalinda was also home to butterflies, and Matt and his friends enjoyed hunting them. Especially exquisite were Blue Morpho butterflies, with bright, shimmering blue wings spanning six or eight inches.


Their beauty always took my breath away and, looking back now, I’m sad the boys killed them so they could add them to their collections.


What can I say about fire ants? Yes, God created them, but it’s easy to question why He did.

Recently I discovered they can be beneficial: 
Fire ants voraciously consume . . . fleas, ticks, termites, cockroaches, chinch bugs, mosquito eggs and larva, scorpions, etc. reports Galveston Master Gardeners. In a place like Lomalinda, those are beneficial indeed!

They're “extremely effective in controlling plant-feeding insects and arthropods. . . . Under some conditions fire ants keep the pest populations below the level of economic loss. . . .

“Fire ants can benefit . . . crops . . . because they aerate and break up the soil, making more water and nutrients available.

However, fire ants can inflict costly damage to agriculture, cattle, wildlife, and farm equipment. (Read more at Galveston Master Gardeners.)


They are tiny little red fellas—and aggressive! Before you knew what was happening, you could have dozens of them running up your legs and under your clothes and stinging you mercilessly—leaving you hopping around in misery, so desperate you might even strip off your clothes in public in order to swat them off your body. Fire ants have even been known to kill people and animals.

As anyone bitten by fire ants will attest to, Fire ants interrupt our God-given right to walk barefoot in our grass, say the Galveston Master Gardeners.

But in an attempt to see the glass half full instead of half empty, the gardeners also point out that Humans are not at the top of the fire ant food pyramid as long as we keep moving.  So true!

And then there were leafcutter ants, critters with sharp instruments for mouths. They were a common sight—long lines of them traveling to their underground nests carrying big chunks of leaves in their mouths.

Kurt Metzger photo


Leafcutter ants don’t eat the leaves, they bury them in order to grow a fungus, which they eat.


“After clipping out pieces of leaves in their jaws, the fragments are transported to an underground nest that can include over 1,000 chambers and house millions of individual ants,” according to Britannica.


“Deep within the nest, the ants physically and chemically cultivate subterranean ‘gardens’ of fungus that grow on the chewed leaves,” the article continues.


“The ants remove contaminants and produce amino acids and enzymes to aid fungal growth. They also secrete substances that suppress other fungal growth.”


Leafcutters can be beneficial for their surroundings. The Britannica article says “By pruning vegetation, they stimulate new plant growth, and, by gardening their fungal food, they enrich the soil. . . . A colony of A. sexdens leafcutters may turn over . . . 88,000 pounds . . . of soil in tropical moist forests, stimulating root growth of many plant species.”


However, leafcutter ants can also be destructive. According to the Britannica article, “The amount of vegetation cut from tropical forests by the Atta ants alone has been estimated at 12-17 percent of all leaf production.


“. . . One species, A. apiguara, reduces the commercial value of pasture land in Brazil and Paraguay by as much as 10 percent.”


In Lomalinda, we often experienced leafcutter ants’ voraciousness and swift damage to plant life.


Let me tell you about our first experience with them.


Beside our back door grew a shrub with delicate white flowers. One morning shortly after we arrived in Lomalinda, when I left for work the shrub stood five feet tall, but when I came home for lunch, I found only a few naked branches. Leafcutter ants had eaten all of that in four hours.


My friend Jon Arensen, working in the Colombian jungle for a few weeks, awoke one morning and found that leafcutter ants had invaded his duffle bag, chewing dime-size holes in his clothesall his clothes—leaving them in shreds.


Jon said, “My underwear was so bad that I had to wear three pairs to be decent. For the rest of my trip, I looked like a badly dressed bum.


“Those ants even ate holes in my leather boots,” he said.


But on the positive side, 

leafcutter ants made great mint-tasting snacks 

for Lomalinda’s kids

(from Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: 

A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir, Chapters 11 and 19)


God said, “Let there be critters and creepy-crawlies,”

and that is what happened,

and He saw that it was good.

(Genesis 1:20-25)


Thursday, September 2, 2021

“Happiness, not in another place but this place, not for another hour, but this hour.”


A sense of “place is significant—significant physically, emotionally, and spiritually,’ writes Marilyn Gardner at A Life Overseas.


“As humans, at our core is a need for ‘place. Call it ‘belonging,’ call it ‘home,’ call it anything you like. But all of us are integrally connected to place,” she says.

During my first months in Lomalinda, I often found myself picturing what would have been happening at
 my “place” back home in Seattle. I compared Seattle’s weather to Lomalinda’s weather. The tastes of Seattle’s food to Lomalinda’s. The way Seattle’s smells compared to Lomalinda’s. Seattle’s ease of living compared to Lomalinda’s.


I wrote in my memoir that Lomalinda’s odors made me long for familiar smells—the perfume of fir trees in the rain, the aromas of Puget Sound and seaweed drying on the beach.


I wrote: “I compared Lomalinda to everything back home—red-orange soil instead of my dark foresty earth in Seattle; heavy, humid air and triple-digit temperatures pressing down on us instead of cool, fresh Pacific Northwest air.


“I wished for a North American grocery store, well-known flavors, paved roads, and a warm shower. While our temps soared, I missed the anticipation of autumn’s chilly, crisp days back in Seattle. Folks back home would soon pull out wool sweaters and scarves and socks but, in Lomalinda, we were shedding shoes and as many clothes as was decent. (From Chapter 9, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir)


Later, I wrote:


September turned to October. Back in Seattle, people would be inhaling familiar scents of gold-emblazoned maple leaves and hints of smoke from fireplace fires, and they’d be bundling up in sweaters and jackets to ward off autumn’s cool temperatures.


“But in Lomalinda, summer didn’t turn into fall into winter into spring. We had only two seasons, hot and humid, and hotter and arid.


“And so it was that in October, the annual five-month rainy season ended after dumping a hundred and fifty inches. Temperatures rose and muddy roads dried. (From Chapter 14, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: AFoot-Dragger’s Memoir)


I wrote this about turning the next calendar page:


“November turned to December. Back home, Seattle would be a place of swollen clouds and rain, and frost once in a while. People would be wearing rain boots and raincoats and stocking caps and gloves.


“Family and friends would have recently gathered for Thanksgiving, a squally season when tempests stirred up wild seas and sent ferry boats bobbing and careening, when wind storms downed trees throughout the Puget Sound region, caused widespread power outages, left half-baked turkeys and pumpkin pies in cold ovens, and drew people together around fireplaces in homes perfumed by wood smoke.


“But Lomalinda was into the dry season with clean cerulean skies and hardly a wisp of a cloud. Daytime temperatures rose to over a hundred degrees in the shade—cruel, withering.


“The green scent of rainy season had given way to the spicy fragrance of sun-dried grasses. Immense stretches of emerald disappeared, leaving grasslands stiff and simmering under unrelenting sun.


“Muddy paths and single-lane tracks turned rock-hard and, with use, changed to dust. Yards and airstrips and open fields turned to dust, too.


“From sunrise to sundown, a strong wind blew across the llanos, a gift from God because it offered a little relief from the heat. On the other hand, we had to use rocks and paperweights and other heavy objects to keep papers from blowing away.


“Dust blew through slatted windows and into homes and offices and settled on our counters and furniture and in cracks and crannies and on our necks and in our armpits and up our noses.  (From Chapter 16, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir)


Yes, for the first few months, I compared my Seattle home with my new home in Lomalinda.


Looking back on that time,

I feel guilt over my too-slow struggle

to transition out of my Seattle life

and into my Lomalinda life.


But, given what Marilyn Gardner says next,

maybe I should extend a bit of grace to myself.


“When those places are taken away, we suffer from a ‘disruption’ of place,” Marilyn continues.


She gave words to what I was going through—

a ‘disruption’ of place. My battle had a name.


“The late Paul Tournier, a gifted Swiss psychologist . . . says that to be human is to need a place, to be rooted and attached to that place,” Marilyn says. “Many of us downplay this connection to place by over spiritualizing it or underestimating its importance.


We need not dismiss it,” Marilyn says, “we need not idolize it; we must only acknowledge it and recognize it as valid.”


Oh, how I appreciate Marilyn’s perspective.



If you plan to move to the mission field,

read Marilyn’s words again.

I hope and pray her message

and what you find here at my blog

will prepare you for a good experience.


I wish my family and I had had a better pre-field orientation than we did, and I wish we’d had a better orientation than we did upon arriving in Lomalinda.


As a newcomer, I wish I’d known it was okay to still feel an attachment to my Seattle home. I wish I’d known it was a valid feeling and experience.


But since I didn’t, I felt guilty and defective, and I blindly stumbled through culture shock and transition out of it.


Reading Marilyn’s words lifts a burden. It sets me free.


And now, looking back, I recognize

God was literally doing what

Romans 8:28 says He does:

God is able to orchestrate everything

to work toward something good and beautiful

when we love Him and accept His invitation

to live according to His plan” (The Voice).


He was helping me survive the ‘disruption’ of place—helping me gently separate from my most significant ‘place,’ my Seattle home—and He was making a way for me to find that sense of ‘belonging’ in Lomalinda.


Though hardly perceptible at the time, God was helping me become “rooted and attached” to Lomalinda.


He was helping me feel more comfortable in my new home.


God was leading me into new opportunities, offering me new perspectives, helping me grasp that there were other ways to do Life than I thought. He was offering me a new attitude. New goals, new joys.


God was gently, subtly doing a remarkable work

within and around me

during my initial weeks on the mission field.

A lot of good things were happening

that would eventually help me discover

Lomalinda was a good place to live.


God was helping me find “Happiness, not in another place but this place, not for another hour, but this hour.” (Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass)


Thursday, August 26, 2021

I worried: Would my kids suffer for living in such a place?

Since arriving in Lomalinda, Matt and his little buddies had spent hours upon hours playing softball on the field below our house but, by mid-November, athletes switched to the school’s soccer team and Matt was thrilleduntil he heard the crushing news: He couldn’t join them. Only those in fourth grade and older could play on the team. What a sad day!


But when Jim Miller, the dad of one of his friends, started a team for first through third graders, Matt’s joy bubbled over.

He also competed on a non-school team with his dad, older boys, teens, and men, often against local Colombians, in temperatures of 104 in the shade. How did they do it?


Back then, no one had yet invented sunscreen, and sometimes my fair-skinned boy got so sunburned that his face blistered, but he was having the time of his life.


Soccer filled Matt's thoughts and conversations. One week he talked non-stop about soccer shoes—he had to have the shoes with yellow stripes. The next week only white stripes were cool.


He wore his Seattle Sounders shirt to every practice and game. And for days on end, he talked on and on about the color and style of other soccer teams’ shirts.


One Saturday, Dave and Matt hitched a ride on a truck to Puerto Lleras with our school’s junior high team, and our team won. Matt was thrilled.


And then!—And then!—Dave took him to a little store in Puerto Lleras and bought him soccer shoes! He was overjoyed.


But it would get even better than that! Matt didn’t yet know about a secret. Mark Steen, one of Dave’s high school students, was soon traveling to a big city and while there, he’d buy a soccer ball for Dave to give Matt for his birthday.


One of my all-time favorite snapshots captured Matt after he opened his gift and found that ball.


The government allowed us to receive only flat parcels in small manila envelopes and my mom, a busy professional who also volunteered at church and in the community, somehow found time to buy, package, and mail us packets. She must have spent a fortune on the items and postage.


Matt got a kick out of the Seattle Seahawks sticker she sent, and when Karen received a picture of my dad at Hurricane Ridge, she squealed, “That’s my Papa Jerry! My Papa Jerry!”


My mom also sent books, games, toys, workbooks, and things for us to set aside for the kids’ birthdays and Christmas—and, it turned out, for their friends. One day Matt and Karen came home from school with invitations for a birthday party the next day, and I panicked. I wouldn’t have time to make gifts. What would I do? Then I remembered the stash of items my mother sent—Whew!


By mid-October, Miss Wheeler had moved Matt (a first grader) to second-grade readers and Karen (a Kindergartner) to first-grade readers.


Within no time, my kids picked up beginning Spanish, and Karen often sang little Spanish tunes.


She had trouble pronouncing the “R” sound but another teacher, Mrs. Gross, helped her for a few months until she said it correctly. To this day we are still grateful to Mrs. Gross for that special help.


It did take Karen a while to adjust to the way one classmate showed his affection—he placed a line of dead cockroaches across each girl’s desk throughout the school year. Perhaps that had something to do with her lack of interest in boys, but she had lots of sweet little girlfriends.


She also enjoyed climbing into our mango tree, sometimes with a friend, other times with her stuffed toys, teaching them to sing in Spanish, and sometimes alone, quietly enjoying worlds her imagination invented. In her own quiet way, she was settling well.


Before moving to Lomalinda, I’d worried

about my kids’ wellbeing.

Would they suffer for living in such a place?

The answer: No.

They thrived at school, at play, and at home.

And in their hearts.

I was deeply grateful to God for His care and provision for them.


(From Chapters 14 and 15,

Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir)


Friday, August 20, 2021

Everyone knew they heard strangers approaching from the sky


Decades before our family arrived at that little missions center, Lomalinda, Marxists had influenced the Colombian government and a segment of society against Americans.


Cuba’s Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul, keen on violence and everything anti-American, had circulated propaganda, brought Colombian guerrillas to Cuba, trained them, offered aid and weapons, and sent them home to carry out a revolution.


Over the following decades, Marxist harassment against Americans (not just against missions organizations, but against American corporations and other interests, too), remained somewhat restrained.


Nevertheless, disinformation and misinformation against Americans circulated—sometimes truly bizarre accusations.


Hostility against Americans began to increase a couple of years before our family arrived in Colombia, and it would worsen. (Click on “We mean business. Get out or you’ll hear from us again.”)


Let me tell you about one incident.


Keep in mind that Lomalinda was a hushed place. At our missions center, we had no throngs of noisy, bustling humanity, no traffic jams, screeching brakes, honking horns or sirens, no factories or trains.


Oh, we did hear noises, mostly each other’s motorbikes, just before school started and offices opened in the morning, and again in the afternoon when school dismissed, and later when offices closed.


We recognized friends’ moto sounds and knew who was arriving at our back door.


We recognized the hum and rumble of our planes and could distinguish between the Evangel and the two Helio Couriers.


Other than that, our center was a still place.


And so, back in May 1974, two years before our family moved to Lomalinda, everyone knew they heard strangers approaching from the sky. That was the day the military helicopter arrived.


It circled overhead but, rather than landing at the hangar, it set down alongside the dining hall and commissary.


A swarm of anthropologists and armed forces jumped out, among them two generals and a colonel. At the same time, a Navy truck full of frogmen roared up the steep, winding hill where the helicopter had landed.


Forrest Zander, our director at that time, approached the major general in charge, who, bristling, ordered Forrest to gather his staff for a meeting, opened sealed orders, and announced: You will open your doors for our inspection.” (Forrest Zander, “Invasion by Land, Sea and Air”)


Forrest complied.


In the Technical Studies Department, the investigators studied our linguistic files.


At the hangar, military officers demanded to see paperwork authorizing the use of planes and radios. They examined offices, filing cabinets, and the parts storeroom. They asked why the landing strip was so short. That was easy to answer. Since pilots used some of the world’s most dangerous airstrips—on precarious mountainsides or in dense, tangled jungle—planes were equipped, and pilots trained, to land on and take off from short strips.


The frogmen found their way to the lake and began searching for a uranium mine—for a long time some groups had suspected our organization of covert activities like mining uranium—a truly bizarre rumor.


Here’s how one of those outrageous rumors started: In Lomalinda’s pioneering days when everyone used a communal bathroom, the septic system clogged. A couple of men spent the day digging out waste and dumping it into fifty-gallon drums.


By the time they finished it was dark, but they kept working, loading the drums into a truck, driving to a pasture, and emptying them.


That should have been the end of the story, but soon the community faced accusations of mining uranium from the lake, storing it in drums, and flying it out at night in their planes. (Reggie McClendon, “Uranium from the Lake”)


Do you see how off-the-wall that accusation was?


Here’s another preposterous, laughable allegation: In Lomalinda’s early years, our missionaries had also been accused of plotting to launch missiles from three water storage tanks when the United States took over Colombia, using its three small planes and radio department in support of that effort. (Forrest Zander, “Invasion by Land, Sea and Air.”)

So, with the arrival of that helicopter and the frogmen, the government hoped to discover and expose our organization’s true reason for working in Colombia—or, rather, what they mistakenly surmised was our reason for working there.


Frogmen dragged the lake for several days, learning only that it held no uranium, no secrets of any kind.


The military’s other week-long investigation showed Lomalinda’s people owned no uranium mines or missile launchers, made no nighttime flights, and didn’t carry out hush-hush activities.


As a result, the Minister of Government stood up for our well-known global mission agency and charges were dropped.


Even so, in coming years, ongoing false accusations would threaten to bring work to a halt. (from Chapter 14, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir)

Looking back, it's clear to see

our times were in God's hands,

and that for another too-few years,

He would deliver us from the hands of our enemies,

from those who pursued us (Psalm 31:15).

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Surprise! Button AND Snoopy

I was heartbroken: I had no gift for my little Karen’s fifth birthday.


There in our new home in a missions community named Lomalinda, we had no way to buy her anything—except for something from our little commissary, like powdered milk or canned tuna or a loaf of very stale bread. And that just wouldn’t do.


But then—but then!we heard someone’s dog would soon have puppies, so we spoke for one for Karen.


But then—but then!—a week or so before her birthday, we got word the puppy we’d chosen might not be available after all.


My heart broke for my girl. We had to give her a birthday gift!


But then—but then!—one of Lomalinda’s families called and asked if we would like a kitten.


Yes!” I said. “Yes!!!


But then—but then!—a couple of days later, we learned we could have the puppy after all.


Dave and I talked it over. Should we give Karen the kitten or the puppy?


In the end, we decided to give the kitten to Karen and the puppy to her brother Matt.

Karen second from left, back row

We had kept Karen’s kitten a secret, but after her partysixteen friends, sweet and fun—Dave and I said to her, “We have a surprise for you.


Our new five-year-old looked up at us, curious, eyes twinkling. “We’re giving you a kitten for your birthday.”


A kitten!” she whispered, wonder all over her face.


“The kittens aren’t old enough to leave their mommy yet, but we can go to the house where they live and you can choose one.”


Karen jumped up and down, laughing. “Let’s go! Right now!” So we set out walking to look over the litter.


Karen chose a tiny gray and white striped one with white tummy and paws. “I’ll name him Button.”


Strolling away from Button’s home, we sprung another surprise, this time on Matt. “We’re getting a puppy for you—an early birthday gift.”


Our rowdy boy hollered, “Awesome!


“Let’s go pick him out,” I said.


What?” Wide-eyed, Matt stopped walking and talkinga rare thing for our son. “Now?


“The puppies are too young to leave their mother, but you get to choose one today.”




We hiked to the puppies’ house, and Matt chose a cute reddish-blonde Welsh Corgi mix that resembled most dogs around our center. “I’ll name him Snoopy.”


Wow! What a surprise: Button and Snoopy!


I think of the way God showers us with blessingsgrace upon grace (John 1:16), “spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, favor upon favor, and gift heaped on gift” (Amplified Bible).


On the walk home,

Dave and I looked at each other and laughed,

knowing we had two weeks to brace ourselves

for the lively chaos those baby pets

would bring to our home.

(From Chapter 12, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go:

A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir)


“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path . . . .”

  Lomalinda’s first settlers must have possessed a strong dose of genetic material passed down from their home countries’ hardiest explorers...