(It is June 2, 2016, here in Bunda, so this is for my wife on her special day, today.)
What do you get a 73-year-old woman for her birthday when she has given the vast majority of her life to the service of God and His children by teaching, loving, caring, and inspiring children from West Texas, to a Los Angeles ghetto, rural Arkansas, urban Boston, Hispanics and Marshallese students in Springdale, Arkansas, and now in the East African bush? You give her the recognition and honor she so richly deserves. She has been such a “good and faithful servant” for so many, many years and is still doing it! She will never have a school named after her, or a plaque on a wall, or a big awards dinner in her honor, but she has loved, taught, and inspired thousands of children mostly under six years of age and from many states, ethnicities, and nations and taught them that they could be so much better than they thought they could. A gifted portrait artist from the day I met her, she did portraits of every child she ever taught and gave them to them. While I was recovering from surgery in Nairobi, she did portraits of the four daughters of the German missionary who did so much to help me and keep me alive. She had them professionally framed and gifted to him after we had returned to Bunda. To this day, she still has kindergartners she taught decades ago following her on Facebook and constantly telling her what a major difference she made in their lives. While she was (and is) teaching and serving, she was (and is) a loving and adventuresome wife willing to tackle almost anything and to go almost anywhere while being my best friend--to this very day. She was (and is) a loving, nurturing, caring and creative mother to her three sons, and they freely acknowledge what she has done for them and the gift of the love of life she has given them. Gee, a wonderful wife and best friend willing to move from Texas to California to Arkansas to Massachusetts and back to Arkansas before moving to Africa—what a woman. She is a loving and giving mother, and a servant of God and teacher and inspiration for thousands of both children and adults for over fifty years of her 73 so far—what do you give her for her birthday? She’s been a mother for almost fifty years, a wife for almost fifty one (Sunday, June 5th), but a teacher for over fifty two years. What can you possibly give one who has done so much for others? You give her the honor and praise she so well deserves for all she has done and is still doing while right now teaching the Montessori method to teachers in the African bush and starting seven preschools at Methodist churches in the last two years. What a woman! She stays up to date with all the latest news from science to changes in education and deserves to be on the cover of “Time Magazine” but would be embarrassed by the attention. She loves Oprah and Ellen and is a big fan of Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandela. And she is devoted to the little Tibetan Terrier named Sissie that is so devoted to her. That’s my Karen Wiggins (Mama Africa). I love you, my sweet.