Thursday, March 26, 2020

Good progress on our first afternoon


Within the first two hours in our new home, Lomalinda, we’d experienced several pleasant surprises, including warm welcomes from people who met us at the hangar when the twin-engine plane, the Evangel, landed.  (Click on Life at Lomalinda had gotten off to a great start!)

After briefly showing us the house we’d live in—which far exceeded what I’d expected—dear David Hockett had driven us to the hub of Lomalinda, on top of the outpost’s tallest hill, and showed us into the dining hall, introducing us to several families eating their lunch at long tables covered with white grease cloth. They, too, were enthusiastic with their welcomes.

The staff had expected us, thanks to someone’s foresight, so we found places set for us. Lunch included spaghetti (we’d tasted better), fruit, plain white bread with margarine, and a sugary drink. We were thankful for it—we were hungry.

Afterward, we set out walking down a dirt track toward our house, the same steep winding hill David Hockett had driven us up. Hiking without hats or umbrellas under equatorial sun at midday was a shock to our Seattle sensibilities.

We labored on, around curves, up little hills, down others, around more curves, across a softball field, up a slight incline, and into the house that I was eager to make into our home.

That afternoon Dave headed to the school—more than eager to start the new year—while I unpacked suitcases, footlocker, duffle bag, and boxes.

But that wasn’t a straightforward task. The government, influenced by Marxist anti-American sentiment, balked at issuing regular visas to new personnel, so our family had received only tourist visas.

That meant we couldn’t ship anything separately—we had to bring everything on the plane in our baggage. Since every fraction of an inch mattered, we packed in a way that would make the most items fit, not necessarily in an organized manner.

We had wrapped breakables in clothes and towels, tucked silverware into shoes, and hid valuables in lacy underwear—items we didn’t want to go missing during customs and immigration like shortwave radio, cassette player, and jewelry.

As a result, unpacking wasn’t efficient. I had to travel around the house depositing items in the right places.

While I unpacked, my sweet four-year-old Karen set up her bedroom, arranging stuffed animals and play dishes in a little cupboard the previous occupants had left. Here’s a photo of my gentle Karen Anne.



Seeing that photo reminds me:

In those days, all flights to Colombia left from Miami so, while still in the US, that was our ultimate destination. Driving through the Midwest and Texas and the South, we experienced heat like never before—being from Seattle, we didn’t know what intense heat was!

So, to help Karen keep cooler, we decided to have her beautiful long hair cut. The woman at the Florida beauty shop must have been inexperienced because as I watched, she was making a total mess.

I noticed another beautician in the shop also watching nervously. Eventually she could stand it no longer and took over the job herself. By then she could do almost nothing to salvage Karen’s hair—I mean, how do you reattach hair that’s been cut off?? The second lady did her best but poor Karen looked like a boy with a shaggy cut that needed trimming.

When we arrived in Lomalinda, people thought she was a boy. Poor dear girl. But she had a good attitude, and it grew out eventually, and once again she, and we, enjoyed her beautiful hair.


Progress: Sometimes we have to measure it in tiny segments.

In Lomalinda, due to the heat,
we had to move slower than we were accustomed to,
yet I was pleased and optimistic that on that first afternoon,
I was making good progress toward settling into our new home.

But I couldn't see into the future. 
Things were about to change.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Life at Lomalinda had gotten off to a great start!


Life at Lomalinda was off to a great start!

After a month of living out of suitcases, that morning we had landed in a little twin-engine at our family’s destination, Lomalinda, a mile and a half square, a dot in the wide-open plains.

When we stepped out of the plane, hot, humid air pressed against us. But it was clean. We would no longer suffer from Bogotá’s exhaust-filled, chest-burning, eye-stinging air. I’d soon learn that Lomalinda’s people breathed some of the purest in the world.

A smiling crowd had gathered at the hangar to welcome us. Among other kind greetings from the group, a lady stepped toward us, smiled, and introduced herself as Karen McIntosh, our pilot’s wife. She said she and Ron would “Big Brother” and “Big Sister” us for the first few days to help us settle.

A man stepped over—a man with kind blue eyes and a quick smile—and introduced himself as David Hockett. He loaded us and our bags into a Jeep-type vehicle and drove slowly over lumpy one-lane dirt tracks, up, down, and around thick green shoulders of hills, steamy in the tropical heat. He brought us to a stop in front of a low brick house. “Welcome home!” he grinned.

I was more than eager to nest—to create a loving, secure home for the four of us, but for months I’d worried—would we live in a grass hut with a mud floor?

Smiling, David Hockett ushered us out of the withering noontime sun and into the wide, screened-in porch. He unlocked the back door and we stepped inside.

It was no mud hut! The house resembled, for the most part, a North American home—a modest home, and it was small, but it was a pleasant surprise.

And then David drove us to the dining hall and introduced us to people who would soon become our friends and colleagues—all of them smiling and welcoming us.

It was when David started introducing us to people that I had to confront a raw, bleeding sore in my heart, an ache I’d stuffed deep down inside and had not let myself think about for weeks.

As I told you last week, the worst part of moving to Lomalinda, the part I couldn’t bear to put into words, was separating my kids from their grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The thought of that lacerated my heart and crushed my soul.

So what I was about to experience was beyond my wildest dreams. The best part of that meal, the best part of the whole day, of the whole year, happened when David introduced us to families in the dining hall, explaining to us, “Here, young people call adults Aunt and Uncle rather than Mr. or Mrs.

And then he said Lomalinda even had a grandmother, Jim Miller’s mom, a gray-haired, always-smiling lady, and everyone called her “Grandma Miller.”

When David told us that,
my heart did a wobble and a loop-de-loop.

I had left Seattle grief-stricken
over separating Matt and Karen from their grandparents,
aunts, and uncles,
but even on our first day in Lomalinda,
God provided substitute aunts, uncles,
and a grandma for my kids.

Yessireeee! Life in Lomalinda was off to a great start!

So much of life had been out of my control for the preceding month, and I was deeply weary of the travel and changes and challenges. And there in Lomalinda, in our first couple of hours, God heaped blessings upon me and Dave and our kids.

Lloyd John Ogilvie writes of our need to listen, to be still and listen to God, who says things like this to us:

“Let go of your own control and humbly trust Me to guide you each step of the way. . . . Picture and live My best for your life. Don’t spend your life worrying . . . live your life to the fullest now. . . . And be sure of this—the ‘good work’ I have begun in you will be accomplished. You have nothing to fear. I love you!” (Quiet Moments with God)

My heart overflows when I look back
and see how gracious and loving God was to us—
through our new neighbors and co-workers
during those first two hours in Lomalinda.

At the time,
life was happening at such a fast pace
that it was all a blur,
but I’ve never forgotten those welcoming kindnesses.

If you are one of those Lomalinda people who welcomed us,
thank you. I can never thank you enough.




Thursday, March 12, 2020

The part that lacerated my heart and crushed my soul


I had a long list of reasons I opposed moving to a mission center named Lomalinda at the end of the road in the middle of nowhere in Colombia, South America.

The biggest reason, the worst part of moving to Lomalinda, the part I couldn’t bear to put into words, was separating my kids from their grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The thought of that lacerated my heart and crushed my soul.

Matt and Karen were part of those folks. And they were part of Matt and Karen, and of me, too. We defined ourselves within our family circle. Children thrive when surrounded by relatives who nurture, love, and shape them.

Matt had just turned five and Karen was three. When I imagined my kids in Lomalinda, I was struck with how vulnerable they’d be, and the unknown for the four of us shook me to the core.

With all my heart I believed yanking out our roots and moving to Lomalinda would hinder my children’s well-being, and that conviction made me the most obstinate.

But my husband Dave had his mind made up, and he subtly persisted.

And so did I: Please, God, don’t make me go!

In the months that followed, I asked myself “What urgency is pulsing through Dave’s veins? And where is it coming from?”

And I prayed thousands of times, asking God the same questions—and dozens more—and pleading with Him not to send us to Lomalinda.

And I listened for God’s still small voice in reply.  


Months passed and eventually I sensed God saying,I know you don’t like separating your kids from their extended family, but they’ll be fine. Better than fine.”

Yeah, right,” I groaned.

I’m asking you to trust Me,” He seemed to say.

My world had turned topsy-turvy.

As Beth Moore said, “At some of the hardest times of my life, I have been able to make the more difficult choice out of pure, blind-eyed, bent-kneed acceptance that it was somehow part of a greater plan.” (Esther)

I could only fall on shaky knees and offer Him—as an act of worship—an imperfect heart, a flawed faith, and the four of us.

And so it was that on an August Monday, we boarded an Aerocondor jet and lifted off the Miami tarmac. For months I had put on a brave face for everyone—friends, family, my kids sitting next to me on the plane—but now, now. . . .

Before long, both kids fell asleep, Karen cuddling with her Benjamin Bunny and Matt holding Winnie the Pooh close to his heart. I asked myself, What are we doing to our kids? The future that awaited us remained a distant, foggy mystery. Dear God, please, please take good care of my precious kids.

And that brings us back to where I left you dangling in my February 27 post, The best part of that meal—of the whole day, of the whole year!

Our new friend and co-worker, David Hockett, had just picked us up at Lomalinda’s airstrip and loaded us into a Nissan, a Jeep-type vehicle. In low gear, the Nissan strained up a long, steep hill in the middle of the mission center.

Once on top, David pulled to a stop in front of a low, white building with screened windows. “Here’s the dining hall,” he said.

The dining hall; Howie Bowman photo
He led us inside where people sat eating at long tables covered with white grease cloth. The staff had expected us, thanks to someone’s foresight, so we found places set for us. Lunch included spaghetti (we’d tasted better), fruit, plain white bread with margarine, and a sugary drink. We were thankful for it—we were hungry.

The best part of that meal, the best part of the whole day, of the whole year, happened when David Hockett introduced us to families in the dining hall, explaining to us, “Here, young people call adults Aunt and Uncle rather than Mr. or Mrs.”

And then he said Lomalinda even had a grandmother, Jim Miller’s mom, a gray-haired, always-smiling lady, and everyone called her “Grandma Miller.”

When David told us that,
my heart did a wobble and a loop-de-loop.
I had left Seattle grief-stricken
over separating Matt and Karen 
from their grandparents, aunts, and uncles,
but even on our first day in Lomalinda,
God provided substitute aunts, uncles,
and a grandma for my kids.



Thursday, March 5, 2020

And that was before I’d learned about Marxist guerrillas and kidnappings


What’s a comfortable—and cowardly—young suburbanite to do when her husband wants to move their young family to the middle of nowhere in South America?

I was that comfortable, cowardly, young suburbanite, and moving to the wilds of South America was the last way I wanted to live my life. At age twenty-six, I was in the early stages of chasing the American Dream.

Besides, adventure didn’t appeal to me—unless fixing up our recently purchased house could be called an adventure.

Let me tell you how I first got wind of my husband Dave’s outrageous idea:

One evening he had burst through the front door of our Seattle home and, with a boyish grin and outstretched arms, announced, “We’re moving to Lomalinda! I’m going to teach there!”

A few seconds passed before I could wheeze in enough air to speak. “Where is Lomalinda?”

“Colombia, South America!”

I collapsed to the floor.

I’d always expected we’d live a normal, predictable, all-American life but, without warning, my husband declared he had other ideas.

We all like things to be predictable, don’t we?” writes author Steve Voake. “We expect things to . . . keep on happening just the way they always have. We expect the sun to rise in the morning. We expect to get up, survive the day and finish up in bed back at the end of it, ready to start it all over again the next day. . . . The fact of the matter is that nothing is ever certain. But most people never find that out until the ground suddenly disappears from beneath their feet.”

That described me: At Dave’s declaration, the ground began disappearing from beneath my feet.

As youth director for our church, Dave had taken college kids to a Wycliffe Bible Translators’ event hoping some would consider missions work. The meeting failed to persuade any of his young people but, when Dave learned Wycliffe needed teachers for their missionaries’ kids in Lomalinda, he was hooked. He wanted to move the four of us, including our preschoolers, Matt and Karen, to a dinky outpost in the middle of nowhere.

After a sleepless night, I hurried to the library and looked up Colombia’s people, geography, climate, wild critters—all strange to me.

Forty years later, I can still picture National Geographic’s close-up photo of a man. Everything about him appeared alien—his jungle surroundings, his face like dark leather, his hair coal-black.

He glared into the camera lens,
the whites of his eyes blood-red.

The thought of living in Colombia scared me out of my wits. And that was before I’d learned about Marxist guerrillas and kidnappings.

But, like Abraham, Dave had heard God’s voice, “Leave your homeland.”

My husband longed to hear me say, “Sure, let’s go!” But I didn’t like his idea. Not at all. The plans I’d made for my life and for my kids did not include living in Lomalinda. The thought of moving to a patch of grassland in South America made me choke. Uttering the word “yes” was unthinkable.

I understood Dave’s desire to serve God—I wanted to serve Him, too—but did he think real ministry happened only on the mission field? If so, he was mistaken. I said to him, a man with degrees in teaching and counseling, “You can minister by using your degrees in Seattle, you know.”

He gave me a blank stare, so I tried again. “God doesn’t need you in Lomalinda. He can find a dozen other teachers to fill that position.” But Dave had nothing to say, signaling he had made up his mind.

This was becoming a personal disaster for me, an emergency. I wished so much it was just a nightmare and that I’d soon wake up.

But I wasn’t sleeping. It was real life. And it had turned into a slippery chaos.

In coming days and weeks and months, Dave’s announcement and its implications would prove to be traumatic for me.

Even before I picked myself up off the floor,
I had begun praying, “Please, God, don’t make me go!



Noticing the good stuff, finding the joy

I began to notice more good stuff going on in Lomalinda .     God was offeri ng me new opportunities. He was offering me a new perspectiv...