I am so excited to introduce some very dear family friends to you this week.
Barb and Evert Temminck have experienced the sovereignty of God in ways few others have.
Barb Garcia Temminck lived a block away from my family when I was growing up in Tucson, Arizona but we weren’t especially close. Barb was between me and my sister in age and I, sigh, was the “baby sister.” 🙂 Barb was into sports and I was into anything but. We each went our separate paths in our adult lives, but in my mid-thirties, my sister told me that Barb showed up as a guest missionary speaker at their church, Valley Christian Church in Tucson, and they reconnected. Barb had become a Christian in college and was now working on bible translation in West Africa. Later, she met up with a wonderful man, and she and Evert and their two daughters have been faithfully serving in a support team for other translators.
A year ago, the Temmincks received other marching orders from the Lord. Evert was diagnosed with a brain tumor, compelling the family to stay in the States for an indefinite sabbatical. All through the last year, their joy, trust, peace, and eagerness to find God in the moment has been an incredible witness and source of encouragement to me as well as many others. I caught up with Barb and she graciously agreed to let me share their story with my Grace on Parade readers. Here’s our conversation:
Karen: Tell us a little bit about your work with Pioneer Bible Translators.
Barb: I’ve been with PBT for over 28 years and 24 of those years in West Africa. I went as a single and met my Dutch husband in West Africa where he was working with another mission. Over the course of the 24 years I’ve been involved with translating the Bible into a West African language and served as a bookkeeper for our branch, chairperson of our Crisis Management team, Member Care person, and a teacher.
Karen: About a year ago, cancer interrupted your work. Give us a thumbnail sketch of what happened to you.
Barb: My husband started experiencing minor ‘episodes’ in May of 2015 that we thought were anxiety attacks. After working with a counselor via SKYPE, his episodes decreased but he was ALWAYS very fatigued. In the summer of 2015, he had a physical and had his heart checked. All tests came back fine with the exception of being diagnosed with Sleep Apnea.
A CPAP machine didn’t take care of his fatigue, so we started looking into burnout. When he made no progress as of January 2016, we decided we would send him back to Holland, his home country, to rest for 3 months and see a Dutch counselor. My two teenage girls and I caught up with him in Holland on July 2nd, 2016. While stateside, our mission sent us to a place called Link Care located in Fresno, California. It’s a counseling center for cross-cultural workers and people involved with ministry who are struggling. After Evert worked with his counselor there for 3 weeks, she came to the conclusion that something physical was going on and suggested that Evert get an MRI. In the meantime, he saw a neurologist who thought that Evert was suffering from some sort of epilepsy that would be treatable with medication.
The results of the MRI came back on August 22nd, 2016 and the doctor told us that 2 sizable tumors were found deep in the right back side of his brain. The news was shocking as you can imagine, and our world was turned upside down and inside out. The Fresno neurosurgeon who did Evert’s 1st biopsy told us Evert had 6-8 weeks to live if he received no treatment, 6-8 months with treatment and surgical removal of the tumors was not an option as they were too deep in his brain.
We were scheduled to return to West Africa on August 29th and we had all of our suitcases already packed. It was devastating news and now we were suddenly thrown back into our ‘home’ culture that I hadn’t lived in (just visited) over the last 24 years and my 2 girls had never lived in America or even gone to an American school. All of their schooling had been in French up until last fall. So we found ourselves overwhelmed with Evert’s sickness as well as learning/re-learning about living in America.
Karen: Throughout this season, how did you experience God’s grace? Can you give us an example of something that happened that you can only attribute to God’s working?
Barb: We’ve seen God’s grace in many ways throughout this detour, but a big one that comes to mind happened when we were at Link Care in Fresno. When preparing for a family to come, the counseling center begins praying for them and choosing the team that will work with them. Each family member gets a counselor and meets with them twice a week. Our marital counselor was the head of our team of counselors and it was her job to match each family member with a counselor. The team comes together and prays for the family and their situation months before they arrive. Our team leader was determining which counselor to put with Evert. They typically try to put guys with guys and gals with gals. When she was figuring out which counselor would be best for Evert, there wasn’t a male counselor available. So she asked a female counselor if she would work with him and she agreed to do so. After 3 weeks of working with Evert she determined that something else physically was going on. What’s amazing about this is she is the only Psychiatrist on staff and she was the one that Evert needed to have to NOT MISS what was going on! I would not have wanted to be back in Africa seeing my husband deteriorate more and more and not knowing what was going on. Health care there is not very good.
Karen: Tell us some ways you saw God’s presence in the small everyday things.
Barb: Financial stress has not been an issue. God took care of finding our girls a school in Dallas. We stayed for 4 months with a dear friend, the widow of our Branch Pastor in West Africa who died seven years ago from brain cancer. Our rental house was 95% furnished by gifts. We already had a car as it was a gift to us when my Mom passed away in 2014. Counselling was provided for all of us as we dealt with our New Journey.
Probably one of the most AWESOME things we’ve seen on this New Journey is that as we’ve made the rounds of doctor and hospital visits, we’ve been so blessed by God’s people blessing us. The Lord has brought others that don’t know Him; they’ve asked questions, and we have been able to encourage them.
Karen: Is there a particular Bible verse and/or song that sustained you during Evert’s surgery, recovery, or treatments?
Barb: Music has sustained me throughout this journey. It was a song by Aaron Keyes that initially ministered deeply to me and continues to do so, He is Sovereign over Us.
Karen: Many times, people become discouraged because God didn’t heal completely. There is still an aftermath of struggle. Give us an update – where are you today? How is God continuing to sustain you?
Barb: Evert has not been healed…yet. After he was first diagnosed we thought we were looking at 6-8 months. The doctor here in Dallas has told us that with his patients, 50% don’t make it to 15 months from diagnosis and 50% make it beyond. We recently met a woman at the doctor’s office who is now 24 months beyond diagnosis. Evert is in the only-chemo phase of his treatment. He takes chemo (pill form) 5 days every 23 days. He’s to take 12 treatments and he began round 7 on August 8th. His 2 tumors have not grown much since his diagnosis. We are AMAZED and so thankful for the prayers of many. He is still a bit active as he tries to at least walk a mile a day….it’s been about 4 miles a week right now. The medications and the chemo keep him quite tired so he does rest a lot. He still loves visiting with people and catching up. Evert’s 15 months will be in November and again we are hopeful.
The biggest transition for us of late is adjusting to our ‘new normal.’ We don’t know when the Lord will call Evert home…could be in a few months or a few years or more. We’re taking it a day at a time. Today my oldest daughter will start at a local community college later this month. She is doing well, has quality friends, though she misses her home in West Africa greatly. My second daughter made the volleyball team at her school! She’s a good athlete and excited about opportunities to play sports. She ran cross country, track and field, and played soccer last year…a first experience for her! She will begin her junior year of high school and she too is surrounded by solid friends to encourage her. I’m in process of dialoguing with our head office regarding my future role/roles with PBT. I’m excited!
Karen: How did God send people to help you through your journey? What was most helpful? Comforting? On a practical level, what helped you out the most?
Barb: Our initial help came from the counseling center in Fresno. The Lord knew what was coming and He had us in a place where we would have lots of prayer, help, and guidance as we began this New Journey. The counselors were very helpful to us in preparing us for talking to the girls about Evert’s diagnosis. People from our mission in Dallas worked so hard for us. They were the ones that found temporary housing for us and a school for the girls. As we came blowing in, overwhelmed, they supplied many meals, prayer and encouragement.
What was probably the greatest encouragement for me were women who weren’t worried about maybe ‘bothering’ me. That may sound weird, but I was a major stranger in a new and changed land with a husband who had maybe months to live and I had to do everything for the four of us. Don’t be afraid to call or ask how they’re doing and just LISTEN. Drop in and do the dishes. Invite them over for a meal.
Karen: What advice would you give to a new Christian who is facing what looks like an impossible time?
Barb: NOTHING is a surprise to the Lord. You may consider your tough time a detour and work to get back on the main path. I’ve learned that my ‘detour’ is actually God’s path. We’re on a New Path and we’re learning lots through difficult circumstances. No matter what, KNOW that He is in control and with you ALWAYS.
Would you stop for a minute and pray for Barb and Evert?
- Thank God for the way He was walked this journey with them, provided their needs and used their situation to glorify His name to those who are watching.
- Pray for their girls that they will stay strong, receive the support they need, and that God will use them where they are to live their faith out loud.
- Pray for Barb that the Lord will grant her wisdom, peace, and daily energy.
- Pray for Evert, that he will not get discouraged, entrusting each day on this earth into God’s hands.
- Pray for the work in West Africa that God will raise up more workers for his harvest field so that the job of getting the Bible into the hands of the people will continue.
- Pray that you will see the Sovereignty of God in your own life, how God is bringing strength from your sorrow, and how He is working in your waiting. Thank Him that He is in control and with you always. Just as He has done for Barb, Evert, and their two daughters, He can and wants to do it for you.