Immediately after our wedding we made our way to Michigan where Tim was ordained into the ministry of the Lutheran Church. That same night we headed to Detroit where we flew to California to begin training. After basic training in linguistics and culture study we entered more intense linguistic study at Wycliffe Bible Translators “Summer Institute of Linguistics” Dallas campus. Our call was to work in Ghana, West Africa.
We were to work in the northern part of the country with Konkomba people (kŏn-‘kōm-ba). This would require having a good handle on the language as very few Konkombas spoke English. We moved into a small two room house on an existing mission compound in Bunkpurugu (bung-‘poo-roo-goo). This was our mission base for the time being. We relocated then to a Konkomba compound about 20 minutes away, deep in the bush. We traveled one track paths and over rock to get to a river where we parked our vehicle and walked the rest of the way to the village. If the river was low we could cross there. If not we had to use a rickety wood and rope bridge (I never looked down!) From there it was about a half mile into our compound. It was here we lived with a Konkomba man and his family of 3 wives and 12 children. Life was pretty rough. We had a language helper who spoke some English but certainly didn’t understand the workings of his language and why it behaved as it did. So we were thankful for our linguistic training! We came out of the village when things got tough (sickness or culture shock). We were there less than a year when I became pregnant with our first child. God took Rachael, however, 5 months into the pregnancy. Our mission eventually built us a house in the town of Gbindiri and the work began.
When you read in the Scriptures about fields “white unto harvest” they must have been writing about Konkombas. The Konkombas had been a people “left behind” from other tribes who were more educated. When Tim went out to do his survey work he saw women run into the bush because they were afraid of him. Some had never seen white skin before. But they were ready, and ready for anything that came along. The old men were unmovable in their beliefs that their ancestors were their passage to “God”. But the younger generation knew that there was more and they wanted to find out what it was. The Word spread quickly, more quickly than we could keep up with. Our family was growing as well. We welcomed Joel in December 1986, Jonathan in June 1988, and Kathryn (Katie) in March 1991. Churches were popping up all over the area and into other areas of Ghana as people traveled. In 1992 another family came to join us to help with Theological Education while Tim continued to do Evangelism. The church was taking steps to stand on its own in many ways. Things looked really strong in that area.
In 1993 I became pregnant with our fourth child, Andrea. Since I was required to go home for each delivery, the kids and I left Ghana in October 1993. Andrea was due in January 1994. While I was gone there was some trouble in our area and Tim had accusations made against him that were not true. Tim came home for Andrea’s birth in December. As we were preparing to go back to Ghana word came that fighting had started in our area. Missionaries were being evacuated and word was that there were some people looking specifically for Tim at checkpoints. It was eventually decided that we could not return safely to Ghana. We began looking at other options and were finally asked to open a new mission in Guinea.
Our church in Guinea actually began without our help or the help of our mission board. Refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone had taken refuge in Guinea and had begun to try and plant churches there. They had contacted our mission to send someone to help them. After several attempts it was decided that we would go there and officially open the Lutheran Church in Guinea. Work began there in 1996. Several years after our arrival the Guinea Mission joined into a partnership with the Kansas District of the LCMS to work together to reach the people of Guinea. The Kansas District committed to support the work there and the missionaries, both emotionally and financially. It was a tremendous relationship and both sides have been blessed tremendously through it.
Our work in Guinea has been much different from the work we were doing in Ghana. We have not lived in a village situation in Guinea. We lived first in the town of Gueckedou and now in Conakry. While in Gueckedou Tim organized the leaders that were already in existence to open preaching points and minister to the people there. They were also to train new leaders. Since our leaders were not Guinean, our goal became to leave behind an indigenous Guinean Lutheran Church when the refugees left. In 2000 war came to that area as well. We were home on furlough at the time but were able to eventually come back to the capital, to Conakry where we stayed as we waited to be able to return to the Forest Region. But fighting was bad and many lost their lives. We learned that our home had been ransacked and looted. We’d lost everything there. We eventually relocated to the Bible School campus in Telekoro and rented a home from the Protestant church there. The church seemed to grow stronger after the conflict and as refugees were moved farther north into camps up there, God seemed to be saying that it was time for the Guineans to take charge of the church in the Forest.
In 2002 we went home on a furlough and made the decision that we needed to spend some time in the US for personal family reasons. In 2003 we moved to Raymore, MO as Tim served for 2 years at Lord of Life Lutheran in Leawood, Kansas. He was also part time with LCMS World Mission, so made trips back to Guinea regularly during this time, taking teams with him from Kansas, strengthening that partnership. We were there for two years when God seemed to be saying that it was time to return to Guinea. We moved back to Guinea with the two girls in 2005. Joel stayed behind in Michigan to begin college and Jonathan remained in Kansas to finish high school. We moved back to Conakry this time. To move into the Forest would have been to reestablish a missionary presence after the church had come so far in standing alone. This would have been a step backwards. Tim made frequent trips to the Forest Region to continue in Theological Education and help the church as it struggled to its feet. We continued to bring in periodic short term trips to help the church as well. I (Beth) served as administrator for the field as well as volunteer coordinator for the short term trips. Later I worked as business manager for French West Africa and eventually as Project Manager for all of our LCMS fields in Africa. Tim served as Area Facilitator for French West Africa until we resigned with LCMS World Mission/Office of International Missions and joined Global Lutheran Outreach
In 2009 we relocated to Siguiri to work with the mission team there. Currently we are the only missionaries in Siguiri working with the Maninka people. God seems to have “started us out fresh” as we are back to the grassroots evangelism with which we started in Ghana all those years ago.