We first met Ray and Ruth Nicholson (and one can hardly be mentioned without the other) at Norman, Oklahoma in the summer of 1956, when we were doing the SIL linguistics courses. We were there for the first summer (on our honeymoon) and Ray and Ruth for the second. At that time they had two children—Larry and Laurie—and we, of course, had none.
Ray and Ruth lived directly above us in the dorm—a cinderblock two storey building without air conditioning. Consequently, with the hot Oklahoma summers, couples left their doors and windows open and, with a cloth of some sort. had a ‘door’. We don’t know when it started, but the Nicholson kids were often visitors, coming through the door at odd times, but especially early on Saturday mornings. We have a feeling Ray sent them.
We found that Ray and Ruth were from Winsor, Ontario, just across the Detroit River from Pontiac, Michigan, where Joice grew up and where her parents lived. After our summer at Norman we visited Ray and Ruth—they were packing barrels for New Guinea (as it was called then). We too had become interested in New Guinea because of our friendship with Ray and Ruth.
Ray and Ruth got to PNG (as it was later known) a year before we did and we began to exchange letters. Ray told us that there were lots of missions and churches and not to come to PNG if we expected some remote, untouched language group. (We found one later, but that is another story).
We finally left for PNG and arrived just before Easter in 1958. At that time the Kainantu airstrip was open and it was some eight miles from Ukarumpa. Imagine our delight when Ray (and some others) met us in his old jeep and trailer. We were escorted to a house at the center to live with another couple. A few days later we were in Ray’s jeep again as a load of us traveled to Raipinka, a Lutheran mission station, to share in the Easter service. We had lots of trips in that old jeep.
On one occasion I accompanied Ray out the muddy and poor road towards Okapa. As I recall we didn’t make it all the way because of weather or mechanical problems but it was typical of Ray to be cheerful and visionary, regardless of the circumstances.
It wasn’t long before Ray was the Associate Director and when an additional Associate was added I worked with Ray closely for a couple of years. Ray always had a challenge to present and was entirely optimistic that the work could get done. He has carried this over into his later years as well!
We visited Ray and Ruth in Ontario when they were home on furlough and later when they were home assigned. It was always a delight for us and our son and two of the Nicholson boys were close friends for many years.
In Ray’s dying months or year it was not unusual to receive some cryptic note asking me to look at something on his website or try to answer one of his challenges about how to get people excited about Bible translation. This was indeed his passion and the challenge that he leaves with us as well—will we be faithful, like Ray, to the end of our lives and have the same enthusiasm and fervor about the needs of people who do not have God’s word in their own language?
We are thankful for a man like Ray, who did indeed “laugh at impossibilities and shout ‘it shall be done’”.
Karl and Joice Franklin
Friends for 56 years