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The Freight Train

I have posted nothing here since the 29th of September,  2010,  twenty-one days after Eunice Mae (Eunie),  my dear wife of forty-seven years died in a hospital in Brisbane,  Australia. It is not because I have been idle that I have not written. I have published much in my other journal. I have grieved,  mourned and survived. I have done more hard work than I have done in years,  much of it very unhappy business. Mostly  though,  I have thought about my future,  or my seeming lack thereof,  and prayed for guidance and relief. Loneliness was crushing me. I have suffered the worst depression of my life with no relief. Let me illustrate my state of mind and mood with an image I published in October of 2010. This is the face of a man in despair.

Me in October of 2010

I don’t like looking at this image. I can’t imagine that it is me. It is probably the most revealing and honest image of me that I have allowed anyone to see.

So,  what is different now? The difference is that I have been run over by a freight train. The name of that train was God.

After Eunie’s death,  aside from the grief and mourning,  I concluded that I had two major issues in my life that had to be addressed. The first was being alone. The second was to discover if I really had any further purpose in life. There seemed to be no way to address the first issue. My service to Pioneer Bible Translators in Madang,  Papua New Guinea,  a ministry that Eunie and I shared for nearly thirty years,  gave me a purpose,  but living in Madang in the familiar environment I once lovingly called home was proving to be very difficult,  as everything there reminded me of my loss.

From the time I was nineteen my love for Eunie and my status in life as her husband defined me as a man. From 1981 onwards my position in Pioneer Bible Translators and my work in Madang define me as a servant of God. These were the cornerstones of my life.  With Eunie gone I felt like half a person and certainly no longer the same man. I knew that my time was coming to a close in Madang. My leadership was no longer needed and my IT skills were stale and old-school. I was close to a burn-out. Still,  how could I leave behind a life’s work to which my dear wife sacrificed herself?

God pushed all of these problems aside in a matter of weeks.

Addressing the issue of loneliness,  God provoked me to begin a courtship (I don’t know what else to call it.) of a friend of nearly half a century. Grace Mary Preval was a childhood friend of Eunie since the age of four. I had known Grace since she and I and Eunie were students at Lincoln Christian College in the early ’60s. We have always been good friends and,  through our mutual best friend,  Eunie,  kept in contact with each other through the decades. Euinie used to joke with me that if anything ever happened to her,  she knew that I would run to Grace. How prophetic that was! After an appropriate demurement period Grace began to warm to the idea that we might discover that we could become more than good friends. I would call what followed an explosion of romantic love. It did not take us long to decide to marry,  no matter what else developed. We will wed in early April of next year. Grace demonstrated her sense of humor by selecting April 1st. Well,  it IS a Sunday,  isn’t it? Sunday weddings are good,  eh?

The decision to marry put in place a dilemma concerning my future service. Grace,  newly retired from a lifetime of public service in the areas of teaching,  early childhood development,  aid to developmentally challenged persons and speech therapy,  was not eager to relocate to Madang and begin working again. This is entirely understandable and in agreement with my feeling that God was plotting a new course for me,  the destination of which I was as yet unaware.

Again,  God pushed aside the issue by presenting me with another golden opportunity to which I could not say no. Grace and I decided to investigate whether the International Service Center of Pioneer Bible Translators might have significant work for me. We contacted the administration of the international organization and we were invited to go to Dallas for discussion. In Dallas we enjoyed two days of consultation with the President and other administration officers. The result was an invitation to join the staff as a Media Arts Specialist. My duties will include,  but not be limited to,  web site design,  photography,  HD video production,  writing and international travel to cover significant events in the progress of the mission. If I had sat down to design a dream job,  I could not have done better. God has been reading my mind for the last few years. All of the skills I have worked hard to develop over the last couple of decades will now be put to use.

All this comes at an appropriate time,  as you might imagine. What you probably do not know is that we have a new razor-sharp young IT man in Madang who is quite handily taking over my job as we speak. I certainly do not want to get in his way. We have been praying for several years to God to send someone to relieve me so that I can take on new,  fresh responsibilities. Now is clearly the time for me to relocate my wrinkled body and expand my service.

Me in August of 2011

So,  this is me in August of 2011:

I think that many changes are reflected in my face. During the weeks after Eunie died I set a goal for myself not to languish but to keep moving in whatever direction God seemed to lead me. I had no other guide and could not even formulate hopes for the future. I told myself that,  no matter what happened,  I needed to find a way to be happier in a year. For many months that did not seem to be a realistic goal. Then,  over the next few months I began to be blessed by small victories. I sold a house and a car. I settled all of Eunie’s medical bills. God allowed me to accomplish many other things for which I was ill-prepared. During this time it was the help of my friends who kept me functioning and helped me when I seemed helpless. Gradually I regained competence and confidence. Still,   the big issues remained. Then,  within a matter of weeks,  God eliminated them. God confronted me with decisions for which the choice was crystal clear.

The marriage will proceed next April no matter what else happens. We are looking forward to a new life together for both of us. We are both glad that we are not leaving Eunie behind. I am very hopeful concerning the expanded service which the new position offers me. I have notified my supporting churches of the developments and now await their response. Most of these supporters have been partners in our work for over thirty years. They see Bible translation as an essential part of the strategy to build self sustaining Bible based churches and nurture believers who adhere to scripture. I am confident that I’ll be able to continue in service as long as my talents are useful.

I’m not a great theologian. However,  I do occasionally have an insight into my relationship with God. I have recently been reflecting upon the powerful way which God interacts with us through the expression of prayer and the creation of situations. I got no messages from God,  though I prayed for guidance. Guidance did come,  though. God simply set up a series of offers which I could not refuse. I don’t know how it can get any plainer than this. One does not say no to golden opportunities.

I’m now awaiting further orders.

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4 comments to The Freight Train

  • Jan…
    Very powerful to read your continuing “Story” of life. Quite thought profoking and insightful.

    In the future, I have a “Story” to tell you sometime, concerning myself and leukemia via email, since it is personal, right now, I’d like to share it only between you and I.

    The bottom line is, I am thankfully…so humbly, greatefully and thankfully, in remission of CML. Mine has been a 1 1/2 year journey.
    I never shared that with you earlier, when we startted communicating, because I did not, of course, think that with what was going on in your life, there was a proper time, at that time to tell you about my personal journey. However, someday I will share more.

    So, in light of the above, with you being run over by the “Freight Train Of God!”…I too, have been touched, on a very personal level, by the very Hand Of God, and yes…Sometimes slapped up side the head, by His hand!!!

    We’ll communicate later Jan.

    So joyful and happy to see His continued work and movement in your life. David

  • Jan

    Thanks for that bit of personal history, David. I had no idea. I await you email.

  • Larry Cook

    Hi Jan,

    You wouldn’t remember me but I certainly remember you. I had the pleasure of diving with you and your friend the police adviser Mick Dosser in 1994. I’m sorry to hear about Eunice. I wonder how things are going for you now as there has not been an update for some time. I would be interested to hear how things are for you now and if they are looking up just a little (a lot hopefully).

    I took a video of our day on your boat diving – it was just before they sank the old, old coaster that they had tied up in Madang Harbour, its name is on the tip of my tongue…but it just eludes me. It was also just after the time they filmed Robinson Crusoe there as well.

    All the best to you, Jan.

    Larry Cook

  • Jan

    Larry, that WAS a long time ago. I do still keep in touch with Ian Dosser. In fact, he and Liz came to visit me in Sedona in 2011. I would certainly love to get my hands on your video footage from that day on Faded Glory. The old ship was the Doilon. We dived it many times. A few of my mates were extras in Robinson Crusoe. I missed out on the opportunity, because I was out of the country at the time of the casting.

    You can read a bit about the scuttling of the Doilon here.

    Life has certainly changed for me and will never be the same. I miss Eunie every day. Though it is a different life now, I can say that it is not one to be less grateful for. Every day is just that – a new day. I take that for what it is and make the most of it.

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