Tuesday, February 20, 2018

“Almost everyone who met my wife quickly concluded that she was remarkable. They were right about this. She was smart, funny and a great teacher. Often, after working with her on an education project, people would approach me and say something to the effect of, you know, I think the world of you, but your wife, wow!” — Not a quote from me, but the words of a very famous man who knows exactly how I feel. Once when I met a new missionary here, he said, “Oh, I know you. You’re the husband of Mama Africa.” Yes, indeed and proud of it.

          Today I am remembering a 74-year-old woman who gave 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 in the East African bush.  I remember her, I honor her, I continue to live for her, I keep the school she began up and running, I continue to feed the three, four, and five-year-old orphans she brought here to learn and to be loved.  She was such a “good and faithful servant” for so many, many years that I stand in her spiritual shadow and will for the rest of my life.  I once wrote that she would never have a school named for her, but I did that myself.  This woman, my wife for over 52 years, 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.  Up until the day she died, she had kindergartners she taught decades ago following her on Facebook and constantly telling her what a major difference she had made in their lives.
               While she was teaching and serving, she was a loving and adventuresome wife willing to tackle almost anything and to go almost anywhere while being my best friend--to the very end.  She was a loving, nurturing, caring and creative mother to her three sons, and they freely acknowledge what she did for them and the gift of the love of life she gave 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 was 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 74.  She was a mother for almost fifty years, a wife for almost fifty three, but a teacher for over fifty two years.  How do I honor in my memory such a woman who did so much for others?   She stayed 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 loved Oprah and Ellen and was a big fan of Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandela.  And she was devoted to the little Tibetan Terrier named Sissie that was so devoted to her.  That’s my Karen Wiggins (Mama Africa), and while death took her from my daily life, it did nothing to our relationship which will remain strong and true as long as I still draw breath.  I love you, my sweet, and always will.  I suspect that I am not the only one who loved and loves “Mama Africa.”

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