I started out in Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1940 as the second of what would eventually be four boys. It just so happened that on the morning I was to be born dad responded to my impending arrival by dashing out of the house to find help. While he was gone there was no fanfare; just my 14 month old brother, Dave, loudly announcing, “BABY”! What a brave mother I had!
My home was a happy place in which to grow; never a dull moment with three brothers (only five years between the oldest and youngest). Dad and mom moved fairly often so my experiences of life ranged from those in Saskatchewan to New Brunswick, back to Saskatchewan and then to British Columbia, back to Saskatchewan, down to California, back to Saskatchewan, a year of two in Alberta …… well you get the picture! But the one with most memories stemmed from where I was born, a fledging Bible School where dad taught. To avoid consuming endless pages of boring details that are only meaningful to me, let’s skip to the events that took Betty and me to Ethiopia.
Our home was one where visiting missionaries were often guests at our meal table. From their fascinating stories, as a young fellow I could see myself in India, the Amazon River or even at an orphanage in Brazil. Then while working at a summer camp at Homewood on the British Columbia coast, a beautiful red head captured my heart. She too would like to be a missionary. Betty and I were married in 1962 following her graduation from nurse’s training.
As a married student completing my final year of studies at Prairie Bible Institute, we lived in a small apartment behind a larger unit. That’s where Albert and Evelyn Brant were spending their furlough time while home from missionary service in Ethiopia. An assignment in one of my mission’s courses required a paper interviewing a live missionary. Well here was my chance to easily and quickly dispense with this task. Little did we realize that this friendship would lead to a career-making decision. We applied and were accepted for service in Ethiopia with SIM (formerly known as the Sudan Interior Mission).
So with a baby daughter (Cathy) and another “bun in the oven” (Jeff), we went about raising our financial support, not a pleasant experience, apart from the lessons we learned about trusting God. The slogan the mission used for fund raising in those days was “Full Information, No Solicitation”. Our home church in Victoria, Central Baptist Church, and other wonderful friends rallied behind us. On January 6, 1966 we landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
After a few days we were asked to fill in for a couple who administered a youth center near the university. We had a fantastic time there for about six weeks. We set up a library from boxes of Christian donated books. Up to a couple hundred university students came to sing hymns and listen to preaching of the Bible on Sunday evenings. We were also expected to serve them spicy sweet tea.
One day we needed to visit a little street-side shop to replenish our dwindling grocery supply. Not knowing the Amharic language we pointed to this and that while the merchant stacked the goods on the counter. I reached into my pocket for a handful of Ethiopian coins, all of which were meaningless to me, and he selected the necessary ones. At least I hoped that’s what he was doing! By this time about a dozen street boys had gathered outside the shop to enjoy the unfolding drama called, “Interesting Foreigners”. They all wanted to carry the stuff in the little paper bags for us. I thought it wise to stack all the bags in the arms of one boy. Just then I saw a boy dashing away with a bag. I leaped forward to retrieve it. That’s when a small-time riot seemed to break out with the boys shouting at me, “Laba, laba” (thief, thief). Why were they shouting this at me? Then I discovered why when I peeked into the retrieved bag to find out it actually belonged to the little fellow. With expressive body language I was able, to everyone’s delight, let the group know it was just a mistake.
We were supposed to attend language school, but another emergency staffing situation arose in Jimma, to the west of Addis Ababa, in the post secondary Bible School. We had a year of teaching there (that’s another story) before we finally went to language school for nine months. We were given the impression that our next assignment would be to a youth center. But mission wisdom thought some “down country” experience working with the national church would first be helpful. So off we went to Bulki in the mountains of southern Ethiopia (another story). Furlough for a year in Victoria followed the time working with the churches in that area.
We were told about the prospect of building a camp before the furlough. Our return to Ethiopia marks the beginning of our story at Langano.
My parents lived in the Lloydminster area of Alberta on a farm. They had endured the dirty thirties, the dust and financial depression, when my mom found herself pregnant after 10 years of a middle-age childless marriage.
She was fearful and encouraged my dad to move; they went to Vancouver and bought a rooming house right next to the St. Paul’s hospital. Others of my dad’s family lived in the area. She was 45 and he was 55. They were delighted with a little red-headed baby girl.
Three years later, after they had moved to the suburbs and my father had become a glazier, he died suddenly of a heart attack.
So I was brought up by my mother in a new little home, with the Widows Allowance and lots of kids on the street to play with. I always slept with my mother. But I was treasured. My mother and my dad’s sister, my aunt, were enthusiastic Christians and they taught me how to be a Christ-follower.
In 1955, I was encouraged to go to High School at PBI in Three Hills. I loved living with so many girls in a dorm. Then I went on to take Bible School there.
I was at the end of 2 of the 3 years, when, one evening after a missionary recruitment presentation, I went up to the speaker and said I thought I could come and help them. The West Indies Mission representative looked at me and stuttered (I was very young looking). He said, “Well, if you would become a teacher or a nurse, we would love to talk to you again.”
I took this suggestion very seriously, and that evening back at the dorm, having decided I would be a nurse and help people, I went to the Floor Superintendent who was a nurse, and asked her how to do it.
At that point my life radically changed. I must have prayed, even though I don’t remember praying on the way back to the dorm. God was watching over me.
I was a BC girl, and the Dorm Supervisor suggested I go to the School of Nursing in the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, BC where she had gone
I popped a letter in the mail, got the application form and was accepted. In September, I was in Nursing School and became a member of Central Baptist Church. And then, Norm made it clear that he was assuming I would be his wife, and it turned out that I loved him dearly. Handily for Norm, his grandparents lived in Victoria. They also welcomed me. We were married in my friend’s garden in front of a beautiful rose arbour and from there our story unfolded.