Giants in the grocery store

By Tohru Inoue | International

Credit: SIM Stories East Africa

I’ve met some fabulous SIM retirees. There was Enid Forsberg whose husband penned the book “Land Beyond the Nile.” They were among the pioneers going into Sudan in the first half of the twentieth century. When I met her, much of her short-term memory had faded. She talked about her father and her memories of church. She seemed like a giant to me.

Betty sits with a book in her lap while wearing a peach button up.

Betty Miller in 2021. Photo by Norm Harrison.

I also remember, Martha Epp who also served in Doro in those early days. Of humble stature and with a raspy voice, I always had to lean in just a little not to miss a word. I remember Chuck Guth bought us lunch. He went around with a huge walking stick, which made me think of a white-haired Moses. He might as well have been. The walls of Chuck’s house in Sudan are still standing, though the years of war and decay have eroded much of its former glory.

On one trip, we asked about Bill Rogers.

“Oh, he’s in prison … Prison ministry. He’ll be back later.” He was still full of energy back then.

Who would have picked him out in a supermarket as one who lived in Sudan over half a century ago? Who would have picked out Jim Utz, or Darrell Welling, or Barbara Harper or the countless others time will not allow me to name?

But few retirees have been as inspiring to me as Betty Miller, who just passed away at age 97. Some of those years included her serving in Sudan, now South Sudan, back in the days when it was one country.

The coursing Yabus River from the shore.

Yabus River by SIM Stories East Africa.

A man holds up the Mabaan Bible.

Man holds the freshly dedicated Mabaan Bible.
Photo by Neil Sandoz.

More than a decade ago, our team was building a bridge across the Yabus River and were short of funds near the end. Good ol’ Betty got up in front of the congregation at her church in Victoria, British Columbia, and shared how she used to cross that river in a basket suspended on a metal cable. Do you know… the church gave what was missing that day, and the project was completed. While that cable is long gone, the anchors on either side of the river are still there today.

Man in paisley shirt holds Bible and softly smiles.

Mabaan Bible held open.
Photo by Neil Sandoz.

In the SIM South Sudan team, she’s remembered for her work on the Mabaan dictionary and New Testament translations. When she was still in her own house, my family and I used to stay with her when we visited the area. On one of our last visits, she showed us a manuscript of the Mabaan dictionary.

I remember her also being a words and games person. She entertained us with Mabaan idioms. We sang worship songs as she played on the old upright piano in the corner of the room before we settled down for the night on the hide-a-bed in the living room.

Line of people hold Bible for dedication.

Mabaan Bible dedication ceremony.
Photo by Neil Sandoz.

She’s now passed into the arms of Jesus.

Who would have picked out Betty in a grocery store for having done all those things half a world away?

They were giants, all of them. And they passed into the arms of Jesus as his little children, giggling in God’s arms, hearing, “You did well. I’m proud of you.”

We who are carrying on their work say amen to that.

Pray with us

• Please pray for the loved ones of these mission workers as they grieve.

• Pray for retired mission workers, as they adjust to life off the field. Ask God to provide community and support for them.

• Ask the Lord to send more lifelong mission workers to devote their time in service to the kingdom in places where Christ is least known.

SIM Asset Publisher Portlet

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SIM Asset Publisher Portlet

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