This will become one of my favorite photos of all time. At first glimpse, you see a Krung lady reading her Bible with her new glasses.
But the photo is a compilation of soooo many steps:
At missionary fellowship last night we were blessed to hear from Charlie. When you think of a peaceful, easygoing grandpa, Charlie is who comes to mind. He started out telling us stories of being a young child playing with other children. At this point it was around 87 degrees in the home and I have to admit I was wondering where this was going. I’ll probably goof up some of the details but hopefully I can convey the gist of his story.
Charlie needed to fill one more college class and wound up taking a linguistics course on a whim. He also spent some time traveling through Europe including studying French in Switzerland. I suppose that’s a thing. This was in the mid 60s and when he found out he may be drafted, he returned back to the States and enlisted 3 days before his draft date came up. Charlie became a medic and soon found himself in Vietnam. As part of a reconnaissance team, they were often in the middle of nowhere so each team was assigned two medics. In case something happened to one of them.
Yesterday morning as I was chatting with Charlie and his wife I noticed when he went to put on his shoes that his right foot looked wrong. It bent the wrong way in a posture that is difficult to describe. I meant to ask someone about it because I’m curious like that but I forgot. Alas I found out.
Charlie was shot through both thighs. One of his femoral arteries was nicked. Yet the other medic was somehow able to get him on a helicopter and save his life. After many surgeries and all kinds of recoveries, he still has nerve damage affecting his right leg. Being the guy he is, he describes it now as Uncle Sam is one of their main longtime supporters while they work overseas 🙂
Charlie wasn’t done with southeast Asia though and soon returned. He and his family were in Cambodia until March 1975 when he finally decided they needed to leave. As he told this story, I could see all the adults in the room doing the math and realizing what he was saying. If you have no clue why that’s important, please take a moment and do some google history action.
These were not the stories I expected to hear from gentle grandpa. These were the stories that “Platoon” and “First They Killed My Father” were born from. Obviously God intended to keep Charlie around.
A Summer Institute of Learning program in 1970 really kicked off Charlie’s linguistics training and passion. Fast forward 40+ years and Charlie and his wife are still in Cambodia doing Bible translation in Ratanakiri province. We are going to help her get some new computer glasses. Charlie is happy with his simple OTC readers so we got him a few new pair.
Back to the photo: that lady reading a Bible in her native language would not have happened without people like Charlie and so many others answering God’s call. It has taken decades of extremely difficult work in extremely difficult circumstances to develop a written language and then translate large pieces of the Bible. It isn’t complete. Yet.
You’ll also notice in the foreground of the photo those large gongs. While the world around them is only interested in progress at all costs, these missionaries are passionate about preserving the culture within each people group. I asked Kreg if anyone is helping to preserve the unique customs found in each tribe and he said there were a few NGOs years back but now there is no one aside from the missionaries.
I get to show up, during the coolest and driest part of the year, and hand out some glasses. And I am eternally grateful to get to play a small part in a very big thing. To Charlie, Kreg and the entire RTK community, we salute you. Thank you for your lifetime of service and inspiration.