March 15, 2002, from Mike:
I read your book today. It was a tough read for me...reading Sue's letters...for the first time "hearing her thoughts" on our relationship as she expressed them to you. And, of course, it was a real reminder of "where I have come from."
My youth is a mixture of extremely high, proud moments...balanced with extremely low, embarrassing moments... and not very little middle ground. It wasn't until that last marriage (mentioned in the book)...that I realized what a fool I had been for all those years. I would escape from all of it with drugs. I would find myself on stage...crowds cheering and such...only to leave of stage and think..."Man I miss Sue...wish she was here". So...I would drown out those feelings with drugs and sex.
Yet, something had happened to me just before Sue's death. God had allowed my inner eyes to open and begin to understand what I was doing to Sue! Up until then, I had mostly thought of myself. Now, I cannot say that God opened my eyes and heart, regarding Sue and me because He knew He was about to take her away from us...or...because He knew that He was about to take her and He wanted her (and hopefully me) to have a lasting memory about each other. About us finally reaching that point that we had be waiting on for so many years... Michael to finally start growing up...and...GETTING the bigger picture. Maybe a combination of both.
All I know is this. I am almost fifty years old, and there is not a single day that goes by that I do not think about Sue...that I don't "talk to her as I am driving in my truck". There is not a single day that does not go by that I don't feel the pain of her loss. She was my soul and my heart. And reading your book helped to heal a few of my inner wounds. Thank you for writing this book. I read it. I enjoyed it. I cried a bunch!
Final note: In true "Michael fashion"...I could just kick Sue's butt (I've already kicked mine enough). Reading her letters to you...well...she never expressed herself...her feelings about how she felt...so incredibly deep...to me as she did in her letters to you. I simply had no idea! I knew we loved each other...sometimes hated each other...sometimes were best friends...always tied to each other no matter what we did in our lives. Of course, I read the book through much more mature "eyes" than when all of this went on. Who's to say if she had said those things to me back then...that I would have been able to fully appreciate the grand and sweet nature of such a perfect expression of love.
God, I miss her, and can't wait to see her again! She'll look at me and say, "Well, you big dummy...you couldn't get your life together while I was alive! You had to do it AFTER I was gone. Well Michael, here's a hint for you...it wasn't you that got your life together. I've been working my tail off taking care of your all of these years." And my reply will be, "I know you have. Who else other than God would have loved me enough, so deeply to take the time." Then...we'll go and play some tennis...and have a real long talk!
January 8, 1995, from Peggy Campolo:
As I read your book, I identified with you in so many ways. Though this is your story, I saw it to a much lesser extent as Tony's story – of his early missionary work. He and I both felt that you did a good job of honestly portraying some of the mistakes and misunderstanding made worse by difficult communication, yet you still showed that everyone tried hard and really wanted to appreciate each other and serve the Lord.
The truth is that our lives and God's work as done through each of us is a mystery. God's plans are often different from the "Big" picture we think we see. There may be no more La Posada, but what you gave in work and in relationships with people lives on in many ways, not the least of which is in the memories of those who were touched and changed. What is really important is often not recognized as such until later.
A very small, simple example of what I am trying to say – one that only a fellow animal lover like you would understand is that years ago our Doberman had ten pups, and one was brain damaged and spastic. The pup had to be "put down," I knew that. Who would want or take the risk of having a 90 pound dog that was not "right?" The night before that pup's first and last trip to the vet, it cried a lot. Mother dog did not want it in the family fold, so I sat up all night holding it. Tony woke up and came down to find it asleep in my arms. "Peggy," he said, "that dog will be dead tomorrow." "I know," I replied through my tears, "But it's been loved and cuddled on its last night on earth."
Barb, that story is about a dog! You and Ralph loved and served people in the Dominican Republic. It would have been so easy for you to draw back from missionary service because of all the "big" things you couldn't make right. But somehow you knew that it does matter to do what you can do, and you're still doing it in South Carolina.
I identify with you because we both have been "stretched" by the men we married. Sometimes I think living with Tony has given me a "jump-start" in my ability to believe I could make a difference for some of the hurting people in my world. Like you, I tend to err in not seeing, as my service to God, many of the things I do to help my husband in his ministry.
February 26, 1995, from Joan Shannon:
Hi, it's me, 'Pinchie!' There are few people who know that one though, and even fewer who still use it!
Your book brought back so many memories and reflections. I really appreciate being able to read your thoughts and feelings that you experienced at La Posada. There are so few people who know what everyday life there was like and then to hear it from someone else's perspective is really interesting.
I spent some formative years at La Posada, and it is an incredibly special place for me. And though the physical location itself was spectacular, I think it is really the people and the work that influenced me the most. I cannot remember my time there without also thinking of you and Ralph, the Stauffers, Jackie, Susan, and the Hunters.
Experiences are totally different when seen through the eyes of a child, and so it is surprising for me to hear your perspective. It was a shock for me to realize that you and Ralph were newly married and that you were college age when you arrived. That is weird, because to me you were adults who had everything together, who were totally in love with each other, and here I am, older than you were when you first went down!
Equally revealing are your open and honest words of insecurity and helplessness that you felt. As a child, I saw you as someone who was willing to do and try anything! I have images of working with you on the eyeglasses, (doing the keysort cards or matching prescriptions), cleaning out something – I don't know if it was the Stauffers' house or the pharmacy. I remember working with you in the baby pharmacy on clinic days and I distinctly remember when you didn't need me any more to translate when talking with the patients.
Above all, though, I remember your love and passion for animals. It was an oddity for me, I think, because of my dad's strong opinions against them, especially on household pets. You were one of the first persons who modeled for me care towards them. I remember finally getting permission from my parents to be able to have a puppy from one of your dog's litters, I was so excited! I have this clear image of the afternoon when your dog Linus was run over. I remember looking out of my dining room window, through our garage, to see you cradling his head in your lap while the sun was setting and wondering how long you would sit there and I felt your sadness. I never did understand your naming of pigs!
I remember your iced tea ice cubes!
I remember when my dad got really sick in Africa, and Ralph hooking up the short wave on the roof of La Posada so John and I could talk to Mom in New York. That was so strange. I remember feeling strange, but I do not remember feeling alone or scared. Reading your account of it, I realize that it was a potentially scary time for us and I want to thank you for caring for us in such a way that we did not have to bear that fear or worry. And then to read that you did not particularly enjoy children! That was a revelation to me!
I think the neat thing about your account is that you were so honest, and that through your honesty you grew and allowed God to mold and shape you.
Right now I am a teacher in the Vancouver public school system. I absolutely love it! Even as far back as La Posada I wanted to be a teacher. I currently teach grade five. I think I can relate to these kids who are growing up in a culture that is different from that of their parents. Third culture kids they call them. I love it. It can be incredibly challenging sometimes.
My whole family is within a ten block radius now. After being separated for so long all over the place, it is really nice. We all get together every Sunday at my parent's place for lunch.
I spent the summer of '93 in the DR with Hope International, a Christian development agency. I was able to take my team to Nigua and I got to see a lot of people who remembered me. We went swimming in the sea pools at the Posada beach. I have heard of people describing a physical place that is so special it is almost a spiritual connection for them. That is what I feel for that place. It is desolate and barren now. A place that was once teeming with activity and warm welcome, and now it seems stripped of that vitality. It does remind me though, of God's permanence and our impermanence. The crashing waves, reefs and sunsets are still the same, as are the people of Nigua: strong and resilient and ever hopeful.
April 14, 1995, from John and Sheila Shannon:
It is interesting to see in the Old Testament the importance given to history. The recounting of their experiences again and again gave strength to the Jewish people when they felt weak and without hope. No doubt their ability to endure extreme hardships and even exile is due to the fact that their story of God's mercy, contrasted with their own unfaithfulness, was always in the foreground. . . up front.
You were up front in revealing your story. This is refreshing, because most of us today hide ourselves. We hide behind the masks of our activity or we withdraw into our personal space. The result is that we live alone. In the midst of people we dwell in solitude. We even seek to hide from God, which produces broken relationships with others.
You lived in our community of La Posada. Some days the population of our community would swell to several thousand people during our medical projects, but you lived in loneliness. But in your loneliness you faithfully recounted to yourself and friends your feelings of fear, confusion and insecurity, and so began to understand and face your own inadequacies. In verbalizing your needs you learned to open yourself to the One who is the source of true strength and confidence.
We are amazed and delighted in God's faithfulness to you. In your continuing growth into maturity we witness the outworking of God's promise: "My strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9 KJV)
|Wake Up Barbara!
And Help Me Find This Snake!