Tragedy in the Hospital Lab

January 2, 1984

It felt good to get some extra sleep on this Saturday morning as I turned my body around from night shift and was off duty last night. I nonchalantly opened the newspaper and gasped as I read the headlines! Two female employees at my hospital had been stabbed to death in the lab late Friday afternoon. No one had heard any commotion and they had no leads yet. I had never met either of the women who were murdered, but immediately prayed for their families to look to the Lord Jesus Christ and be comforted. I also prayed for the Lord to help the police find and arrest the murderer. This 1000 bed hospital is located in a nice middle class neighborhood with a very low crime rate, so everyone is in total shock.

Tragically, two women were murdered in the lab.

Tragically, two female employees were murdered in the lab.

This will be my first night to return to work since it happened on December 30. The nursing supervisor called me this afternoon and said I was to report to their office on the first floor when I arrived at 11 p.m.  rather than go to my office on the eighth floor alone as I normally do. The hospital hired 12 extra security guards for night shift to assist the 2 guards we normally have. She said I would also need to show my identification badge at the hospital door. Then they would call a guard to escort me to my office since I am the only one who works on the whole 8th floor at night. The rest of the staff development staff works on day shift and one other person works on evenings similar to my position. Before I left home, I looked in my Bible concordance and read verses on “fear not” and “courage” and prayed that God would give me a quiet heart.

Fear thou not; for I am with thee. Be not dismayed; for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.

Isaiah 41:10

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Ephesians 6:10

I arrived at the nursing office and greeted the two nursing supervisors on tonight, Janet and Lisa. They said all the employees were very tense, as to be expected. They paged a guard and Jim came and escorted me on the elevator where we exited at the eighth floor. I saw that the hallway was brightly lit tonight rather than only partially lit like normal. I knocked on Jane’s door, the evening nurse, and she opened her door with relief and greeted me. I said goodby and then went in my office and locked the door behind me. Jim asked me to page him when I was ready to go on rounds, and he then escorted Jane down to the first floor so she could go home.

Around midnight, I called Jim and he began making rounds with me as I checked on each of my new nurses who were in their last two weeks of orientation on night shift. They all seemed to be doing all right. I then returned to the nursing office and spent the middle of the shift with Janet and Lisa since I didn’t really feel like being alone in my office tonight. I then made second rounds with Jim and spent the last hour in my office, waiting for the day shift staff to arrive. I was so glad to see the sun rise out my window and thanked God for keeping us all safe during this long tense night!

Reflection – 2015

A few weeks later, the hospital installed electronic locks on all the doors that were locked at night which required us to swipe it with our ID badge to unlock the door and enter.

I later read in the newspaper that they suspected that the husband of one of the women had killed her. The second woman must have entered the lab when he was doing it, so he killed her also. They could not prove it was him, so he was never arrested. Several months later, he collected her life insurance money of $350,000 and moved to Florida. Three years later, he was involved in a shootout with the FBI over a robbery, and they killed him, but not before he had slain two FBI agents. In 2012, they reopened the cold case and one of the original detectives came out of retirement to try and solve the mystery.

I’ve included this episode in my story to remind me to be compassionate and pray for my coworkers. We never know what difficulties someone at work may be enduring at home with their family. I also am comforted that God is the righteous judge and knows who killed those women, so I can rest in His great sovereignty.

Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Romans 12:19

Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Genesis 18:25

I don’t know why my cousin was killed in the war in Vietnam when I was a teen. But I know God used that tragedy to get my attention and cause me to seek Him. When my sister gave me the gospel two years later, I willingly and joyfully received Christ as my personal Savior. (See Life Changing Letter post) I need to remember that God sees the big picture while I can only see my little corner, so I trust Him one day at a time.

For a wonderful Bible study on God’s 12 Principles of Judgement, follow this link. http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/romans/judgment.htm

Journey to Chile, South America – Part 2

Northern Chile – May, 1984

On Tuesday, the ladies had their monthly Bible study followed by tea. Mr Black had asked me to teach the lesson, so I had prepared a devotional on the life of Priscilla. After I arrived, I discovered that the name of the ladies’ group was “Priscilla”, so the Lord certainly put that together! I wrote out the first few paragraphs in Spanish which helped. I emphasized how Priscilla and her husband Aquila eagerly soaked up Paul’s teaching about Christ as they made tents together in Corinth (Acts 18:2). When Paul left and went to Syria, they sailed with him. Eventually, God used them to start a church in Rome as Paul greeted them as “my helpers in Christ Jesus, who have for my life laid down their own necks…” Romans 16:3-5.

The Ladies' Tea - Mrs Black is the first on the left.

The Ladies’ Tea – Mrs Black is the first on the left.

The ladies listened well, and Mr Black said he thought it went well. They said they wished I could speak Spanish as they had so many questions to ask me. They asked me to learn to speak Spanish so I can come back and teach them more! The whole meeting lasted nearly 3 hours. Everything starts about 30 minutes late – “mas o menas” = more or less. This is very much part of the Latin culture which is more laid back than the fast pace of the USA. Mr Black says you have to learn to “lose time” in Chile, not waste it.

On Wednesday, Mr Black and I went to the copper foundry where many of the men who attend church are employed. The entire Chilean economy is based on copper which is mined here. Our young lady guide gave us a private tour of the foundry. It was fascinating to see liquid copper that had been heated to 2200 degrees F being poured from huge vats into molds. After the copper cooled and solidified, they shipped it by train to the harbor where it was exported. Our guide gave me a beautiful copper paper weight at the end of our tour. Mr Black said no one else had ever received anything like that before! (I think he was a little envious.) We were both happy he was able to  share the gospel with her.

In hard hats and gas masks during our copper foundry tour.

In hard hats and gas masks during our copper foundry tour.

Copper is shipped to the port by train.

Copper is shipped to the harbor by train.

 Reflection

In 2000, a friend of mine who was a missionary in Chile at the time, drove her parents and children north to visit with the now widowed 92 year old Mr Black. She videotaped him as he shared nuggets of truth from his 60 years of experience as a missionary, mission director, and now interim pastor. He said “I have the people in my heart” as in Philippians 1:7, and “I am in their heart.” A Christian lady they hired has been faithfully cooking and cleaning for them for the past 16 years.

In 1998, Letty became very ill from a kidney infection, so they called the ambulance to take her to the hospital. They put all kind of tubes in her, but she was still declining. She told George twice in Spanish, “It is enough.” After conferring with the mission director, George decided to make her comfort measures only. George and the believers sang hymns and read Bible verses in her good ear until the Lord took her home to heaven a few days later. The Chilean brethren said they wanted to conduct her funeral because they loved her so much. He said it was a great celebration of her life of 91 years, and they were all thanking the Lord that she was no longer deaf in heaven above!

After her death, he himself went to the doctor for the first time in 12 years. The doctor said he was in congestive heart failure and gave him two pills-one was a water pill, and one was to help his heart beat regularly. The doctor also advised him to “slow down a bit”. George was very pleased with the medical care they received there locally. Since then, he has been doing quite well physically. He was able to drive alone 1000 miles to the mission conference in the south. He took a big stack of cookies and pulled over when he felt like it as he went down memory lane recalling all the various spots he and Letty had enjoyed visiting over the years. And he finally learned not to exceed the speed limit!

He then gave some words of advice to younger missionaries. Learn the language and Chilean idiosyncrasies well, and get rid of American baggage as much as possible. A compatible team works best, and they must be patient with one another as they learn to work together. It takes time for people to change. Always teach good solid Bible doctrine and have a good testimony for the Lord. Work hard and live clean! The goal is to have a local assembly of believers be as close as possible to New Testament principles.

As soon as the local man graduates from the Bible Institute next year and returns to become the pastor, Mr Black’s goal is to write four manuals for new missionaries before the Lord takes him home.

2015

George Black lived from November 3, 1907 until September 12, 2009. Before his home-going, he was the oldest actively serving missionary in the world at age 101! What a blessing and privilege it was to have known him and Letty. I pray that each of us will run the race God has given us like they did that we might hear God say “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…” Matthew 25:21

Journey to Chile, South America – Part 1

March, 1984

Over the years we have had quite a few missionaries from Chile speak to us at church. The Lord laid a burden on my heart to visit some of them in Northern Chile in May, so I am excited about getting ready to go! The couple I am visiting, George and Letty Black, are now in their late seventies, but still actively serving the Lord in a small copper mining town. Since I do not know any Spanish, I put a note on the bulletin board in the graduate student dorm at the University requesting a native Spanish tutor. A man named Carlos from Madrid, Spain called me so we have begun to meet together for an hour twice a week in the dormitory study lounge to speak Spanish. We are using my Berlitz Spanish for Travelers book and my new Spanish Bible. It’s going well and I really enjoy learning Spanish! It seems much easier than German. Someone told me that it’s easier to learn your second and third foreign language, so I hope that is true!

My 1984 Berlitz phrase book has been well used over the years!

My 1984 Berlitz phrase book has been well used over the years!

May, 1984 – Northern Chile

I finally arrived at the bus station here after a rather grueling 18 hour trip in the cigarette smoke filled plane. The smokers sat in the aisle seats while non-smokers like me sat by the window. I breathed through a tissue the entire time because the smoke gave me a headache and nausea. I crossed the Andes mountains 3 times to and from Argentina to get to Santiago because the Santiago airport was fogged in. When we refueled in Argentina, their soldiers surrounded us with machine guns pointed at us which was a little unsettling. I thought the plane would fall apart as we crossed the second time because it was shaking so hard from the turbulence. Oh, my stomach! Mr and Mrs S kindly picked me up at the airport in the pouring rain (first rain in 5 months) and took me to their home for a delicious empanada supper. Several other missionaries stopped over to welcome me which was kind of them.

After a 2 hour nap, they took me to the bus station where I boarded a modern bus for my all night 12 hour trip up the Pan American highway. I sat in my assigned seat by the window next to an elderly Indian man. I greeted him in Spanish and then he pulled a box out of his pocket and popped a couple pills. I noticed the box said “Diazepam” (Valium) which is a very powerful sedating prescription drug in the USA. (Mr Black later told me that all prescription drugs can be bought over the counter in Chile except for narcotics.) He promptly fell asleep and only woke up once in the next 12 hours. I slept little as my bottom went numb and my long cramped legs swelled terribly.

I rode the bus all night for 12 hours on the Pan American highway along the Pacific coast.

I rode the bus all night for 12 hours on the Pan American highway along the Pacific coast.

The pretty bus stewardess served us a sandwich, coffee, and hard candy at the beginning and end of the trip. They played American music on the speakers such as theme songs from “Little House on the Prairie” TV show, and “Hello, Dolly!” which was surprising. As I exited the bus,   the stewardess and the elderly man each gladly received a Spanish gospel tract. I was so glad to greet George and Letty and take a refreshing nap at their home!

George and Letty Black who served the Lord together for 55 years in Chile.

George and Letty Black who served the Lord together for 55 years

Before I left the USA, Mr. Black asked me to speak to the young people’s group on Saturday night, so I had prepared a devotional on Psalm 119:9-16. I am always challenged by verse 16: I will delight myself in Thy statutes; I will not forget Thy word.

I did not realize how difficult it would be to teach by translation as I spoke a sentence in English and then waited for Mr Black to translate. It came out rather stilted, because I kept losing my train of thought while he translated. I think I was still tired from my journey, but the young people were very gracious and asked me questions afterwards about courtship, my job, etc. One of the high school guys told me he didn’t want me to leave!

The small Bible Church

The small Bible Church

I so enjoyed the worship services on Sunday. I went with Mr. Black as he picked up many children for Sunday School in his van. They crowded in so it was standing room only. As he introduced me to each child, they each gave me a hug and an air kiss on the cheek which is customary here. They sing the hymns with great enthusiasm! I followed along during the message as best I could. I found the Bible verse in my English Bible after I saw where Mrs Black turned in her Spanish Bible. Carlos had helped me learn the names of all the books of the Bible in Spanish, so that was helpful. The brethren here are so friendly and open.

The friendly congregation!

The friendly congregation!

The desert climate is beautiful! It is a brisk 60 degrees in the morning and 70 degrees during the day year round. The Blacks said this is a better retirement place for them than Arizona would be, so they want to spend their final days on earth here among the beloved Chilean people. The town is an oasis in the middle of the Atacama desert which is the driest desert in the world. The average ANNUAL rainfall is 0.638 inches. When it does rain, wildflowers pop up and bloom from the dormant seeds left from the previous rain. Mr Black said it reminds him of Isaiah 55:10-11: For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not there, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goeth forth out of My mouth; it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

Atacama desert in bloom!

Atacama desert in bloom!

We walked around town on Monday through a pretty park and the University campus. I was amazed that poinsettias grow into trees here!

The copper town in the desert

The copper town in the desert

The park is like an oasis!

The park is like an oasis!

Mr Black is dwarfed by this huge ancient tree.

Mr Black is dwarfed by this huge ancient tree.

Poinsettias grow into trees here!

Poinsettias grow into trees here!

In the evenings after dinner, at my request, they told me story after story of their early days in Chile. They both went to Chile when they were in their thirties, thinking they would be single all their days. George’s father worked in Barcelona, Spain, so George became fluent in Spanish when he was 15 years old. George arrived in Chile in 1940 and witnessed fervently to the Chilean soldiers, many of whom received Christ. There were several single women missionaries at the time. But he was especially attracted to Letty because “she was a woman of character who could encourage me to have an undivided heart for Christ, carry forward with the ministry God gave us, and she was totally dedicated to the Lord.” They married December 31, 1943 because they wanted to start the New Year right!

Eight months later, Letty was struck with meningitis. There was a shortage of penicillin, so the hospitals reserved it for the soldiers who were fighting in World War 2 and were unable to give her any. As her fever raged and her head pounded, she said she thought she would go insane. Then God brought to her memory II Timothy 1:7; For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a SOUND MIND. In her utter weakness, she claimed that verse and asked God to preserve her mind. She began to recover slowly, but sadly she had lost her hearing. For the remainder of her life, she could only hear her husband’s voice. But she was so thankful his was the voice she could hear! She learned to lip read fluently in Spanish and in English.

Another evening we played Scrabble together which the Blacks play in both Spanish and English. For my sake we played in English. I used to think I was pretty good at it until I played with them. They are definitely at the expert level as they came up with the most amazing words! They both scored 200-300. Their minds are sharp as a tack! So God graciously answered Letty’s prayer to give her a sound mind.

Reflection

I am so thankful they no longer allow smoking on planes! I am also grateful that I now can use Sea Band acupressure bracelets and Zofran prescription medicine for my motion sickness. It definitely makes travel much more comfortable for me. I have also learned to wear compression support socks to prevent my legs from swelling and always request an aisle seat so I can stand frequently.

It was one of the greatest spiritual blessings of my life to spend that week with George and Letty Black. They truly reflected Christ’s love to all they met. Next post I will continue with more about my journey!

Pam Builds a House!

June 3, 1983 – Midwest, USA

Ever since I read Miss Clarkson’s book (see previous post) about how much she enjoyed owning her own small lakeside cottage, I have been asking the Lord if I should buy a house and put down roots here. I have never met a single woman who bought a house, but I began looking at houses a couple months ago with a realtor. One of my friends suggested I build a house instead and told me about a new neighborhood in my price range about 5 miles from the hospital. The mortgage would only be slightly more than the rent I pay now, and I would be able to build up some equity in the house. So I looked at the model home, liked one of the floor plans, and applied for a mortgage. Today is the deadline for the approval. I just received a call from the banker telling me that I was approved! I asked the Lord to block the approval if He didn’t want me to go forward, so I’m taking this as a green light from Him.

June 10 – I met with the builder today to choose all my finishes – siding, flooring, carpet, cabinets, etc. It only took me about an hour. He said I was the quickest decision maker he had ever met! I guess it helps that I don’t have to discuss anything with a spouse. I told him I learned to make quick decisions when I worked in labor and delivery. Sometimes that is good, and sometimes I need to learn to slow down and pray about it.

The walls go up on my new house!

The walls go up on my new house!

I’m really enjoying my new job in Staff Development. I make rounds on the nurses in orientation on the various hospital units at the beginning of the shift around midnight. All the orientees have had 4-6 weeks orientation on day shift, and then the final 2 weeks on evening or night shift. If they are not meeting their weekly goals, we can extend their orientation on rare occasions or end their employment. So far, that hasn’t happened.

Then I teach in-services between 2-3 a.m. on the various units, eat lunch with the night nursing supervisors, write policies, and make second rounds about 5 a.m. Sometimes it’s a struggle to stay awake around 4 a.m., so I start walking to help wake me up! I miss my coworkers in Labor and Delivery, so I stop by and chat if they are having a slow night. I have also become a certified CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) instructor, so I will start re-certification sessions soon. Each nurse has to renew their CPR every 2 years.

My back feels much better, and it is nice to have weekends off, spend time with my friends, and attend church every Sunday. It is such a joy to help my friend teach children’s Bible Club in her neighborhood! I didn’t think I would be allowed to return to Bible camp this summer as a counselor because that is our busiest time with orienting all the new graduate nurses. But my coworkers told our director they would cover for me, so she said I could go!

December, 1983

My house is finished!

My house is finished!

My house is finally finished! Originally, they said it would be done in October, but it was delayed 5 weeks. Someone once told me that when you build a house, it always takes longer and costs more than the builder initially tells you. But I’m all moved in as of today. I’m exhausted, but so thankful to own a home of my own. The only mistake I made in my color choices was the green trim. I have to agree with my brother-in-law that it looks like a John Deere tractor! I will have a mud yard all winter, but in the spring they will plant my tree, bushes, and lay the sod.

I was so blessed in reading tonight:

…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

(A virtuous woman) looketh well to the ways of her household. Proverbs 31:27

(Jesus said) Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told. I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:1-2

Dear Lord, Thank You so much for giving me this little home. I pray You will use it for Your glory and honor, that I would be of good hospitality, and always hold it with an open hand to You. Help me to be a good steward of this home. Thank You for that eternal home in heaven that you are preparing for me! Amen.

June, 1984

I went to bed one morning in March after working all night. When I woke up, I looked out the window and was amazed to see green grass, a nice shade tree, and bushes! No more mud yard!

Dublin Sandy

My new puppy, Sandy!

I had the green trim painted white which makes the house look so much bigger. I also decided to buy a Cocker Spaniel puppy and named him Sandy. He’s lots of fun, company, and quite a bit of work. But I forgot how much puppies like to chew. So far he chewed a huge hole in my new carpeting and another hole in the seat of my new recliner….  Oh well, I can’t take these things with me, so I have to relax with it, and keep trying to train him. I think the Lord will use him to teach me patience!

The trim painted white looked much better!

The trim painted white looked much better!

I enjoyed my perennial herb garden

My new perennial herb garden

Sandy and me enjoying the spring tulips.

Sandy and I enjoyed the spring tulips.

Reflection

I enjoyed staying in this little home for the next 8 years until I moved to New England. I was thrilled that it had increased in value by 50% when I sold it, so it was a good investment. I also began and taught a Bible Club for the neighborhood children, many of whom were from Japan. It was my privilege to host quite a few missionaries when they came to visit my church also. It became my oasis after working all day, giving me a refuge and quiet place to study God’s precious word.

Since then, I have owned 4 other homes. I built another house in New England, and totally remodeled my current home built in 1957. Sometimes it is very frustrating dealing with builders and contractors, but the Lord always helps me get through it as I lean hard on Him. My friends tease me about how many times I have moved, but contrary to popular belief, I really don’t like to move!