Joice and I are currently in a small group at our church studying the book The Shape of our Lives by Phillip D. Kenneson and others. It is led by our Associate Pastor, Amy Everett, and this week our assignment includes each of us writing a brief, personal, biographical sketch—one that can be read in 3 minutes. The following is what I wrote—I will follow it with some comments.
I was born in a cottage on a Methodist Camp meeting Ground in NE Pennsylvania during the depression. My parents, my two siblings and I later lived on a small farm, from which we kids attended a one room country school. My education was small: 19 in my H.S. graduation class and 30 in my college class, which was in Delaware. There I met Joice, who was also interested in missions—she graduated at the top of our class and I graduated. I played varsity soccer and baseball in college and, after graduation, went to California for a year to attend the BIOLA School of Missionary Medicine, then back to Michigan, where I had previously worked summers in a diary factory. I courted Joice, taught SS in her church, attended Bible School in the evenings and worked at a pharmacy, as well as at GM Truck and Coach for a year.
We were married in May 1956, attended two summers at the U. of Oklahoma to study linguistics, went to Mexico for 5 months of training by Wycliffe and finally sailed for PNG in early 1958. We worked off and on there as linguists, translators, teachers and administrators for 32 years and then returned for periods during another 3 years. We have also lived and taught in Australia, NZ and Great Britain. I did graduate studies in linguistics and anthropology at Cornell University and at the Australian National University. Somewhat ironically, considering my early education, I have become a student and scholar.
Our two children were born In PNG and graduated from H.S. there—both are now married and between them have six grandchildren and two great grandchildren for us. I enjoy writing to and talking with my grandchildren, though three live in Australia.
I was a PNG Branch and International administrator for many years, including at our Dallas site where we both taught for a number of years. Prior to Wycliffe and during furloughs I have worked at a hospital, pharmacies, factories, in construction, substitute teaching, for a tomato packing firm, and at a book club.
My foremost belief is that the Word of God is the primary agency by which God communicates to those who trust and follow him, although I also believe that the “book of nature” provides a strong assistance in introducing people to God. It follows that people who have only nature and not the Bible have inadequate understanding to follow the commandments of God, or, even less, to know the purpose and work of Jesus.
I have grown and benefitted as a Christian by the writings and teachings of others (such as C.S. Lewis) and by the relationship with my wife, Joice.
I enjoy quietness, solitude, animals and thinking people, not necessarily in that order. My interests include reading, writing (among other things, humorous satires), editing, some consulting, and painting. (Until recently, I enjoyed golf and I follow major league baseball.)
I am now retired, although I still have an assignment with SIL International as a senior anthropology consultant.
As I wrote the bio I reflected more deeply on some of the things I barely mention. First of all, my birthplace: the Camp Meeting grounds are still there, including the renovated cabin where I was born. The tabernacle, where we kids sometimes went, (and gave scant attention to the sermons), is still there. Later in life I preached there myself and noticed young people in the back rows who giving scant attention to my words of wisdom. As our pastor used to say “what goes around, comes around”.
I mentioned my one room country school. It, too, is still at its location in Bloomindale, Pennsylvania, but now appears to be a storage shed. The individual desks with their ink-pot holes and slots for pencils are long gone, although I have seen some at antique shops. My high school is now a furniture shop of some sort but the athletic fields I played on are still there. My college in Delaware has vanished completely; the site was acquired and destroyed by the Tidewater Oil Company and the college moved to NY State. I still have memories and occasionally my wife and I will share some of them but, like the college, most have vanished.
We lived in Ithaca, NY, while I studied at Cornell University for an M.A. in linguistics. We met the Wersings there and they have remained life-long friends. In Australia, I studied for the PhD at the Australian National University, where we enjoyed fellowship in a Home Church.
As I briefly mentioned, I have worked at a lot of places: farm boys do a lot of manual work, mostly for little pay. But I did have well paying jobs at a construction site in Williamsport, Pa., and at Borden’s Dairy Factory in Detroit. For three summers I boarded with three different families: one with an alcoholic man and his wayward sister and nephew. I sometimes slept on the floor where it was quieter. The second summer I lived with a widow and her son, gracious people originally from Armenia. The third summer I and another colleague were with a college friend and his parents, the mother who was severely crippled with arthritis. Then I moved to Pontiac, Michigan and boarded at a church member’s house while I worked at General Motors Truck and Coach and the Stark Pharmacy. My least favorite job was substitute teaching at a High School in Morgantown, Pennsylvania during one of our furloughs. The kids were unruly and, it seemed to me, not very bright.
But now that we are receiving Social Security I am thankful for all those jobs. We didn’t have much in the way of retirement with Wycliffe but both Joice and I have some SS income each month.
I’ll skip all our time in Papua New Guinea—it would take several books to tell our stories. We have kept all of our newsletters and have thousands of pictures as well. I’d be glad to show them to you sometime, but I don’t think you will accept that invitation!
We became translators because of the importance of the Word of God in our own lives. It is still our main source of inspiration and reflection. I can look back on life’s experiences and rework them from my memories, but they are not always reliable. I have to go to my written records.
It is the same with people who do not have the Bible or cannot read it: they can recall and tell only what they have heard and the stories often get confused and distorted. I am still convinced that people benefit from God’s story by believing and accepting it, particularly the words of Jesus.
Not very long ago our pastor mentioned that if someone has 6 people he or she can call close friends, that it is unusual. We have had scores of close friends, many of them now with the Lord, and we are still making new ones.