“I love God, Jesus Christ, my wife, my three sons, my sister, family in general, and true friends.” --- Me
Today is my only sister’s birthday. I can still remember the day in Dallas that she came home from the hospital in a purple ambulance. Our younger days were not good ones for her in terms of the treatment she got from her older brothers, especially me. My big brother could beat me up at will and did, so I’m afraid Penny got the brunt of my bad behavior. I have apologized many times and am doing so again publicly, I was not a good brother at the time and caused her much hurt, pain, and humiliation. It was not something I remember very well, but bullies seldom remember their bullying. Happily, I moved away while still in my teens and my older brother had already left, so she was able to find peace while she was still in high school. Sorry, sis. I have no excuses, but I am glad we finally were able to become friends later in our lives. Penny has succeeded at everything she attempted except maybe once which is recorded in the picture at the right. She was working in Houston, Texas, (did I really need to add “Texas”?) and saving for years for a ski trip to Austria. The first day on the slopes at Innsbruck, Austria, she broke her leg in several places. That meant a lot of time in an Austrian hospital where no one spoke Texan and then more time in a hospital back in Houston. You will notice in the picture that only broke a bone and not her spirit. She has wrapped her cast like a candy cane for Christmas and is smiling (her usual look) with her niece, Andrea. Surprisingly, Andrea is now much, much older with two grown children of her own, but Penny seems to have aged only a couple of years. I think if she broke her leg today, she would still wrap it like a candy cane, but it would probably have flashing lights on it as well. She quit her job in Houston to become a middle school math teacher in a small town in Arkansas just so she could take care of our aging parents. I don’t think she had any idea how much pain that would bring her or how long she would be there as my mother didn’t pass away until she was 98 and Penny was there taking care of her to the very end. It was because Penny was caring for Mom and Dad that Karen and I were able to leave the U.S. to come to Africa to spend the rest of our lives as missionaries (my father actually passed away two years before we left in 2003). Penny is now living near Houston surrounded by family (we have 12 cousins just from one family and she has many more friends. In fact, she just ran into a friend from that ill-fated Austrian ski trip that she hadn’t seen since that trip. She is happy with her two dogs, her family, her friends, and her yoga. She also supports our mission here and in her honor one of our preschool bears the name St. Penny Academy in the village of Karikakari. It now has over 40 students under the age of six who get food and education five days a week. Hopefully, she may come to visit next year with my oldest son and his wife—at least we are praying that that will work out. We love her very much as do all those who know her. She spends her spare time tutoring and mentoring troubled children assigned to her by the courts, and cares for them as if they were her own. In other words, she is still St. Penny to me. Wish her well today as she celebrates her birthday.