Beginnings and ... new beginnings

There were two missionary news e-mails in my inbox this morning.

One from my brother & sister-in-law, requesting prayer cover for their journey from Pensacola to Dakar, Senegal, beginning this afternoon. I am grieving their departure a bit, even though we only get together about once a year anyway, because West Africa feels so much farther away than California, where they have lived for the last four years. But I know this is a fantastic opportunity for them and for their employer, so I share in the excitement, too. Also, they plan to read the new Harry Potter book en route, which means I will finally be able to discuss it with them (either by Skype or Internet) once they arrive. (You didn't think I could make a post without mentioning Harry, did you?)

The other e-mail was from Dr. Christopher Zoolkoski in Galmi, Niger, passing on the news of the passing of his wife, Helene, to skin cancer. This was not unexpected, as they have known for some time that her stage-four cancer was past the point where medical intervention could be expected to be effective. They had decided to continue their long-anticipated service in Niger and enjoy her remaining time with their three children rather than stay in the U.S. to pursue aggressive experimental treatment that at best would delay the inevitable. Helene enjoyed more than a year of symptom-free living before her health went into decline about three months ago. Their 15th wedding anniversary was Wednesday. She died on Saturday.

Chris invited friends and supporters to remember Helene by meditating with them on her favorite hymn, O Sacred Head Once Wounded. Her family sang the song to her at her deathbed, including the fourth verse:

Be near me, Lord, when dying
O show Thyself to me
And for my succour flying
Come, Lord, to set me free
These eyes, new faith receiving
From Jesus shall not move
For he who dies believing
Dies safely through Thy love

This news comes days after learning that another friend, who has been battling Leukemia for seven years, has just been declared cancer-free. So much joy and sorrow in an electronic inbox.

Mike and Mindee have committed to two years of service in West Africa. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns into more than that, but this is a relatively short commitment at the beginning of their lives together. Chris and Helene committed to serve in West Africa for the rest of her life (or until it didn't make medical sense for them to be there anymore). The rest of her life turned out to be something like two years.

So I say a prayer that Mike and Mindee will clear customs without incident when they arrive in Senegal tomorrow afternoon. And that the God of all comfort will be with Chris, his children, the community at Galmi, and all those who love Helene.

I've made a couple of corrections: I had the type of cancer wrong. Also, I assumed that a line in Chris' e-mail, inviting a change in the order of service to include O Sacred Head, was part of the general announcement to friends and supporters around the world. Rather, it was specifically addressed to their sending congregation, UEFC in Klamath Falls, which he knew had planned a service of prayer for his family for this Sunday morning.


Jeanne said...

I'm a friend and colleague of the Zoolkoskis, currently on furlough in MI. I was glad to find your note about them concerning Helene's passing. I just wanted to say that she had stage 4 melanoma (skin cancer) and not breast cancer though. Thanks for praying for the SIM Niger field as there will not be one of us that won't be touched by Helene's loss. She and Chris and the kids are much loved by MANY Nigeriens that know them too.

Jeanne Scypinski

Rachel said...

Thanks for the correction, Jeanne. I don't know how that got jumbled in my memory.

Elizabeth said...

Well, I already wrote but it went away because I did not yet have an account. Anyhoo..I am glad to finally start reading your blog. I may work my way up to it once I master myspace. I can kind of see why you like this better. It was good to sit with you at church. We are really going to miss our family at church. But, I think we will still be connected. Take care RAchel. Love, Elizabeth

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