Ramblings from the Cove...
By Lars Gren
Our first meeting was at Rumney conference center in New Hampshire where Elisabeth was speaking. Bunny mentioned it in a recent phone call, for that fact as with many others are hidden in the recesses of a memory which short circuits just before I grasp the sought after details. However I did remember why we initially had a little chat. She had been an avid reader of The Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter and had brought along her collection to show me and hoped that I would be able to fill in the missing issues. Eventually I was able to fill the request even to the inaugural issue. Through this we came to know each other a bit and then having common friends in the Portland ME area we would meet there or at her place for a meal or as one could say, “A happy time.”
Bunny is a single retired missionary, having been home now for some years after serving for thirty six years in The Congo with a Baptist mission. If you met her you would immediately be at ease. She is cheerful, good humored, interested in others, self-effacing, and I would guess that she has spent her life serving others while thanking the Lord for blessings received. It was while in The Congo that Bunny had her first of three bouts with cancer. The second appearance came before we knew her and the third came after she had moved from Portland.
A year or more ago she called us from Dexter, Maine where she had moved to be nearer her family to let us know that she was going through chemo treatments. She didn’t seem much different in spirit on the phone and always concerned about others she asked how we were getting along. For a number of years Bunny had been working on a book about her mission work mentioning now and then that there remained only a few chapters for its completion. Toward the end of our conversation I said that we would pray for her and Bunny’s response was, “I’m praying that the Lord will give me enough time to finish the book and perhaps throw in a few good extra days.” For me I think that it made it the most memorable prayer request I’ve ever heard. We pray that for Bunny, but I always feel funny for it seemed as an afterthought, Oh, by the way Lord, “Give her a few extra days and let them be good” But then that is what we all desire—just a few good extra days as we bundle up the cares of this life.
Last November we joined our Portland friends to drive to Camden where we were to meet Bunny for breakfast. Her chemo treatments were over for the time being and she was well enough to drive down from Dexter. She was her delightful self with her easy laughter during the leisurely buffet breakfast. We decided to return to our room and continue the conversation. After a bit, there was seriousness in her tone as she began to talk about her ordeals. “T he first time it was an operation where part of me was being hacked away but I walked out of there with joy and hope thinking that I would finish my book and be able to hand it out myself. Then the second bout came but I made it past the treatments. But when this latest reoccurrence came it was a dark period in my life. When they said, ‘Chemo’ I was scared but once the treatments began I took hope even though there was still a portion of despair.” These were somber moments as she spoke.
“No one knew and no one came around. It was lonely. I didn’t write in my journal for a month. The Bible sat on the table for two weeks without being read. I was not able to pick it up but it was precious to me and I was ashamed. Finding myself so, I picked it up and turned to 2 Cor.4:16-18 and read, ‘Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For the momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.’ That is what got me through the ordeal.”
The silence was palpable. Bunny told of her dark moments as though that should have never happened yet those few minuets seemed the best of the few hours that we had together. It was the opening up of the soul to others, so necessary at times yet so difficult, well at least to me it is. In a small way we were experiencing the trial with her as well as thinking of our own past.
One does not necessarily have to have a long life to have lived through dark moments. They do come to all of us in varying degrees and circumstances. At that point we have few options—deny the reality—accept it and decide that we can handle it—receive it not as our choice perhaps but as a gift from God in the knowledge that He is working out all things for our good. That in itself may not give understanding but as I have often heard Elisabeth say over the years, “Either we are at the mercy of chance or we are held in the everlasting arms.” There are no other options.
It was not long after that visit that Bunny’s blood work was within healthy limits and the work on her book could continue. We had a phone contact a couple of times just to see how things were going and letting her know that her request was still being mentioned to God. Then in August I called. She mentioned that the cancer had returned and she had had the first Chemo treatment with the result that the blood count had improved. Bunny was still herself concerned for us asking how we were and had we been traveling. Then she again spoke of her passion, “The woman who is helping to proof the book and format it was here today and we worked from noon to five and got a lot done. Perhaps in three weeks or so it will be ready to go to the printer. You know that I just want to get it finished, printed and be able to hand it out myself.” “Yes, that would be great.” “You know we are not going to beat this evil but I am going to fight it as long as I can.”
By now you may be wondering where this is leading? Nowhere in particular but I was taken by the honesty and frankness that Bunny spoke of her dark times that are so often kept under wraps. We seldom mention our weaknesses yet it is in our weakness that strength comes—another EE watchword.
That ends it for now for I can’t say as Paul Harvey does, “And now for the rest of the story!” However if you think of Bunny, you might pray that she will see the book in print, be able to hand it out and have a few good extra days thrown in.
And that’s it from the Cove.
God bless y'all,
Update on Bunny:
The Lord allowed her to see the book in print with a special book signing day at The New England Bible College, where she taught for 15 years. She is now completing another course of Chemo and looking forward for the extra good days throw in. Thank you for your prayers on her behalf. (November 18, 2006)