Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Farewell, Uncle Al

When I was a little girl, I was thrilled to have two uncles, aunts, and 4 cousins serving as missionaries in Africa. It gave me great joy to share the things they brought us during "Show and Tell" in school. We only saw them every four years, and not often then, but it was a huge time of excitement for me. My brother, sister, and I used to play missionary in our back yard. We had a merry -go-round that we pretended was an airplane (one uncle was a pilot) and we would fly into the village, preach to the chief in his hut, and he would give his heart to the Lord.

I didn't really know my aunts and uncles that well until they were home in retirement - of course, we spent our time with our cousins when we were all visiting at Grandma Swanson's house. What wonderful memories.

Uncle Al went home to Jesus after a long life well lived. He would have been 88 soon. He was deeply into dementia and his lungs failed him at the end. He would not have known us if we had arrived before he went home. The service was a celebration. It was held in the church that my dad and his family grew up in. This church sponsored my two uncles and their families for their entire missionary service years. I will share some of his history with you, as it was printed in his obituary.

Uncle Al's life verse was from II Timothy 2:2 - "And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men (and women), who will be able to teach others also." One thing that was so amazing about this man was his gift of language. In six weeks' time he had absorbed enough of his new language to preach to the African tribe he worked with for 45 years.

My grandpa and grandma "entertained many missionaries in their home during those years growing up, and from an early age Alan felt the call to be a missionary. . . (after college) Genevieve and Alan were married . . . and after a short honeymoon, were off to attend the Missionary Training School of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Nyack, New York to prepare for overseas missionary service.

"By a series of circumstances, the Lord led Alan and Genevieve to the Sudan Interior Mission, and they left for Africa in October 1945, first by ship to Egypt on a troop carrier, and then by air through Khartoum, Sudan to Kano, Nigeria, where they began to prepare for a life of service in helping to open up a new ministry in what was then the French West African country, under French control, of Upper Volta. Following early language learning and trekking to villages in the region, SIM asked Alan and Genevieve to start the first indigenous language Bible Training School near Fada N'Gourma. For the next 25 years, the school trained Gourmantche young men and women to become the future pastors, evangelists, and Christian lay leaders in this region of what was to become known as Burkina Faso. The Bible School was turned over to local leadership and Alan and Genevieve went on to other ministries - starting a Christian Youth Center. . . in Ouagadougou, and then becoming the SIM Regional Director for all Francophone countries. During these years, Alan and Genevieve were the core of a small group that translated the Bible into the Gourmantche language, and during their retirement years they completed a Bible Commentary in the Gourmantche language with the assistance of their home church, Riverside Alliance Church. They returned to Burkina Faso four times to lead pastor refresher training programs . . . "

The church in Burkina Faso, when they heard of Al's death, wanted to be represented at the funeral service. A young man whose parents were students in the Bible school begun by Al and Gen, is now completing his Ph.D. in New Testament at Wheaton College in Chicago. He drove 7+ hours from his home, arriving around 2:00 a.m., to share greetings from the Gourmantche people. We enjoyed getting to know him and his young son, who came with him. We talked him into spending the night instead of heading back to Chicago after the funeral, as he had planned.

My dad was privileged to have part in his brother's service, and also prayed the committal prayer at the very old cemetery - it is way out in the country in a little community called Orrock. I'll share more about that in a later post, but it was quite the trip down memory lane. My aunt Gen was buried here 10 years ago -

This is the other uncle (the pilot) and my aunt and cousin.

This is my aunt, the only sister - who admits that she was very spoiled.

Al's two children, Ann and Richard, are in the middle - their spouses with them. Both couples have been missionaries in Africa, and Ann and Larry are still serving in Mali.

The remainder of the trip was memorable, and I'll be sharing more as time goes on.


Susan said...

Praise God for His saints and the heritage they leave behind as they go to their glory.

Becky said...

Those are the kind of funerals that are such a joy to attend. Knowing the deceased has been looking forward to this reunion in heaven for a long long time. What a legacy he leaves.

HOOTIN' ANNI said...

Oh....first off, I love that you said it was a celebration of life...instead of the other way around if you know what I mean. I have ALWAYS thought that funerals and memorial services should be that way. That touched my heart.

The family photos are super Dawn. And I just KNOW I'll enjoy the walk down memory lane with you on the ride there.

Glad to have you back home in CO safe and sound. I'm sure you're a bit 'tired-out'.

Michelle-ozark crafter said...

What a precious man and what a wonderful homegoing for him! huggles.

Midlife Mom said...

What a wonderful tribute, I loved all the missions history of your family. We too had many missionaries in our home for meals and a place to sleep when I was growing up. It was such a good example for us kids to get to know all of these God loving folks that gave so much of themselves to others. What a joyous home going!!!

Yes, you will enjoy Maine in October! It's my favorite time of year here. Cool with lots of beautiful leaves in orange, red and yellow!

Maine Mom said...

I'm glad you had a safe, memorable trip.

It's nice to hear about your Uncle Al. It sounds like he led a great life in the service of the Lord. What a great example you have had.

Tiffany said...

Oh wow! What an amazing testimony and heritage your family has! That is just incredible.

nancygrayce said...

It's a testament to your family to have such a rich heritage on the mission field!

HOOTIN' ANNI said...

PS....Well, happy birthday to D C then!!! Hope you'll celebrate his special day in style!

Sharon Lynne said...

That is so interesting, Dawn. Such dedication...your Uncle and Aunt. And their children became missionaries. Amazing and wonderful.

Such a heritage you have.

I loved hearing about your missionary game. How innocent you and your siblings were...yet learning and growing in the knowledge of God. It shows how important it is to model our faith to the young ones...they pick up on it! I think God must of liked that game!

Do you love to read? said...

Thanks so much for posting this interesting story about your family.
Im sorry for your loss. I agree, your family has a true legacy.

grammy said...

It sounds like a wonderful trip and a wonderful celebration. How amazing the lives of those people must have been. What stories they would have to tell.
I so understand why you couldn't do a grammy camping trip....(for now anyway) you have a summer camp going on right now....I imagine anyway. When I have the daycare kids the ages are spread out like your girls and it makes it so hard to do fun things with the older kids....I sooo understand. You are doing a great job. Just today I read this...
Love is spelled t-i-m-e (o:

Glenda said...

What a heritage you have, Dawn! Don't you know your Uncle Al is enjoying heaven now - where he has realized just how God used him all those years! Great tribute!

We just finished campmeeting at the R.T. Williams Tabernacle about 3 miles from my home. Marcus Whitworth and Bob Lothenore were the evangelists. It was a great week - even in the extreme heat. We still use the open-air tabernacle! I can remember a Rev. Swanson that once preached there when I was growing up, but I can't remember his first name.

Hope you have a blessed week!

Needled Mom said...

It sounds as though his life was meant to be celebrated. Isn't it a shame he could not have been there to witness it and visit with folks?

I loved seeing all the people who attended. Thanks for sharing.

Karen said...

i soak up this kind of family history like a thirsty sponge!