Marines.Together We Served

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Scourge of the Century

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
14 August 2017
www.chuckroots.com

The Scourge of the Century

Four decades ago the world was introduced to a medical terror the likes of which few other global alarms can even be compared. The scourge I’m writing about is HIV/Aids.

Let me ask you: When was the last time you read something about this dreaded disease? I’ll bet you can’t remember. It has virtually dropped off the radar screen when it comes to news reporting.

You may be asking me why I’m writing about this topic if it is no longer a blaring headline news story. That would be a fair and reasonable question. My answer is equally fair and reasonable. It is also direct. The scourge we know as HIV/Aids is still very much alive and well in our world. Please excuse the obvious oxymoron, “alive and well” in referencing this deadly, debilitating disease.

Recently, my wife and I were honored once again to be hosts in our home to our good friends, Dr. Tim and Muriel Teusink. These two Christian missionaries are simply amazing. Kinder, more godly people you will rarely find. They are home on furlough during which time they travel around North America visiting those churches and individuals who support them through finances and prayer.

I became acquainted with the Teusink’s in early 2002 when I took a team of six from our church, the Ripon Free Methodist, to spend two weeks in Ethiopia. Our arrival in the capital city, Addis Ababa, coincided with the opening and dedication ceremony of three brand new medical clinics which would provide much needed health services for this beleaguered city of nearly three-and-a-half million. Dr. Tim Teusink was at the forefront of this advance in medical care.

Our intrepid team was welcomed into the Teusink’s home and embraced as family, even though we had never met. After our two weeks were over, and we returned home to Ripon, as the pastor, I strongly encouraged (as did the others) that our church of 100 souls provide ongoing spiritual and financial support for the Teusink’s missions work. Though I have been retired from church ministry for three years, I am pleased to announce that our church continues to support these folks.

During our recent visit, I asked Dr. Tim if I could interview him for an article for my “Roots in Ripon” column. He readily agreed. So, we sat and discussed his years of medical missions, with a driving question I had of just how he wound up immersed in HIV/Aids. To better understand this man and the reasons he felt God leading him into the field of medicine and missions work, you need to know that he came from a family of Christians who were strong in their faith. His parents wanted to be missionaries, but were unable to pursue this goal. Instead, his dad became a pastor with the Reformed Church of America in Holland, Michigan where Dr. Tim was born. They later moved to Washington State which has been home for Dr. Tim ever since.

Dr. Tim told me two things had a profound effect on him growing up. The first thing that made a lasting impression on him was the doctor who gave exceptional compassionate care to his brother who was suffering from cerebral palsy. The second thing that has had a life-long impact was the strong urging (or “calling”, if you will) by God to follow a career in medicine, but more specifically, on the mission field. This was confirmed years later when he met Muriel (hailing from Canada) who also knew without a doubt that God was calling her to be a missionary. Her parents had also wanted to be missionaries. So, the die was cast for them both, you might say.

“I am not a visionary,” Dr. Tim was quick to state. Instead, he expressed his desire to be faithful in what God has called him to do.

The Teusink’s serve under the mission’s organization known as SIM, formerly the Sudan Interior Mission, first established in 1893. In the 1980s, SIM’s acronym became the Society for International Ministries, but is today better known as SIM. So great was the impact of SIM, that 40% of Africans today claim to be Christian.

In 1984, Dr. Tim was sent to the nation of Rwanda in Africa. It was here that HIV/Aids first became an issue for him, facing the reality of a populace of 25%-30% infected. Routinely performing surgeries, he was acutely aware of the growing concern of this new virus that was beginning to infect and kill people at an alarming rate. Little was known about it, even in the world of medicine. Dr. Tim was a young husband and father, so he grew increasingly concerned with the possibility of infecting his own family due to his constant contact with Rwandans carrying the virus. He wrestled with this problem until God made it clear to him that he was to continue in his medical practice and leave the welfare of him and his family to God’s sovereignty. He continued with surgeries for the next four years, dealing with the nearly daily needle pricks from infected patients.

It is because of this close proximity to HIV/Aids infected patients that Dr. Tim has become a recognized authority on this scourge, being named “Missionary of the Year” in 2012 by the Christian Medical & Dental Society. He continues to travel throughout the world, but primarily in Africa, teaching bioethics to medicos and other health professionals as to the best ways to treat those afflicted with HIV/Aids and its prevention.

Please pray for Dr. Tim and Muriel Teusink as they continue to honor God through their life’s work and passion, battling the scourge of the century.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Naval Farewell

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
7 August 2017
www.chuckroots.com

Naval Farewell

One of the great blessings of having served in the military for so many years is the association you garner with some of the most outstanding individuals this nation has ever produced. This weekend exemplifies my point.

Late last month Rear Admiral Russell W. Gorman crossed the bar, to use a metaphor written by Alfred Tennyson. He was a month shy of his 90th birthday. To read his biography, or “Bio” as it is referred to in navy parlance, is to take a walk through naval history from the 1950s through the 1980s. He graduated from the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York in 1949. One of his first assignments was to Yokohama, Japan where he met Mieko (a.k.a., Eriko), who would become his wife of sixty years.

Though I never got to know the admiral personally, I had heard of him over the years since we lived in the same region of California. Just after he passed away I was contacted by my friend Al Cruz who was put in charge of organizing a Celebration of Life service, and the committal service at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery where the ashes of both Admiral Gorman and his wife Eriko will be interred.

Al and I go back a lot of years. We both served in Vietnam as sergeants in the Marine Corps, though it would be many years later that we actually met. He had gone on to receive a commission as a Marine officer, retiring as a colonel. Our first contact was when we were both with 1st Battalion 14th Marines Artillery out of Alameda, California in the early 1990s. Al wanted to make this a special military ceremony with all the trimmings, so among others, he contacted me to perform the chaplain duties of offering the Invocation and Benediction.

Since this was to be a formal event, I pulled out my Dress Whites, which are more frequently referred to by Navy personnel as “Choker Whites.” And for good reason! The stiff collar must be fastened with metal interlocking connectors right where a man’s Adam’s Apple is located. Since it had been a few years since I had last worn this particular uniform, I had some consternation about a proper fit. I decided to wait until I arrived at the Sunday afternoon Celebration of Life held at the Veterans Memorial Building in Danville.

I was pleased to find a parking place directly across the street and in front of a small restaurant with an outside patio for dining. As I stood by my car, slipping into the choker white jacket, a couple having Sunday brunch smiled and offered a few complimentary words about the uniform. So, instead of wrestling with trying to hook the collar together without benefit of a mirror, I asked the lady if she would kindly do the honors. She agreed, while her husband smiled. Well, it was a tight fit, and the lady was very concerned about hurting me, but after a few minutes she managed to connect all three loops. I thanked them and proceeded to enter the Veterans Memorial Building.

There was quite an assembly of retired military present, both officer and enlisted, along with local government officials as well as friends and neighbors of the admiral. One of the invited speakers was Rear Admiral Tom Brown III. After the program was over I had a chance to chat with him and discovered he had at one point in his career been the commanding officer of the USS Midway aircraft carrier. The Midway is currently a museum, permanently anchored at the pier in San Diego.

The service for the admiral was very nice, and concluded with the playing of the Navy Hymn followed by the Benediction. We all stood while the Navy Hymn was played, but it was strictly instrumental. The words kept running through my mind, and I thought, “There are people here who are not part of the sea services who don’t know the song.” So, on the spur of the moment as I moved forward to offer the Benediction, I decided to sing the first verse acapella. “Eternal Father, strong to save, whose arm hath bound the restless wave, Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep, its own appointed limits keep; Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, for those in peril on the sea!”

Farewell, Admiral Gorman! Fair winds, and following seas.

Psalm for the Day