I met Bert Fairweather in 1954 when we were assigned as roommates at the Biola School of Missionary Medicine. Bert had been in the army, attended seminary and was five years older than me. However, we had similar interests: missionary work, medicine, baseball and having fun.
We were only roommates for one semester—the school director realized that we were having too much fun and despite various notes to help us during room inspections (like, “clean up your room”; “make your beds”; “don’t leave food in the room”; and the ultimatim: “stop posting my notes on your mirror”), we had not complied so we were separated and given new roommates.
However our friendship continued with our regular classses, visits to the cheaper cafeterias, over to Glendale to visit Wycliffe men who were building an airplane, trips to the park to play catch, and so on. I remember Bert coming home after his first assignment to the hospital and shocking me. (We did three stints at hospitals during our second semester—a general hospital, an orthopecic one and a geriatric one that housed patients that no one seemed to care about). It was after Bert’s first day at the geriatric hospitat that my shock came. He came to our room, collapsed on the bed, and said something to the effect that “you are not going to believe this.” He then gave details on feeding the sick and having them try to bite him, eating at the cafeteria and then cleaning up piles of vomit from patients who had tried to eat the same stuff from the cafeteria, about the messes in the beds and rooms, and so on. He exagerated but convinced me that I would not be able to take the assignement. I did, but only because Bert “prepared” me for it.
While at Biola Bert spent a lot of time at the campus cafeteria eating ice cream and I noticed that Jean (whom he married) was serving it. A few years later Bert and Jean were married and became missionaries in Mexico. There they met many of my colleages and although my wife and I went to PNG, we often communicated with Bert and Jean. We saw them on furloughs and Bert made sure that I went to a San Diego Padre’s game—a highlight for me and a time when Joice and Jean could visit.
Bert loved to laugh and he loved people—shortly before he died he compiled a book about their experiences in Mexico. He was an astute observer of people and I learned that “witnessing” to the bums in LA was not as simple as it seemed. Bert let them know that he would treat them to a meal but he would not give them money. And if they got emotional and started crying with gratitude, Bert would politely (usually) tell them to shut up. He knew the ways of sinners and how to help them, but he was not fooled by their antics.
A few months before Bert was diagnosed with leukemia he and Jean visited us in Texas. We had a wonderful time recalling experiences and thanking God for his work in our lives. I will forever be thankful also that God led us together and Biola and enabled us to continue our friendship for over 55 years.