Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless HIS HOLY NAME.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

John and Elaine Beekman Part 1

--Written Autust 5th, 2010 in Amado Nervo--

In 1951, Wycliffe Missionary John Beekman and his beautiful wife, Elaine, arrived in Amado Nervo, a small village nestled in the mountains of southern Chiapas. Bro. Beekman had to walk or travel by horseback for many long hours over rough mountain trails to reach the village where he would work and live among the Ch’ol Indians. Over a period of eight years, with the help of the natives, he translated the New Testament into the Ch’ol dialect and Mrs. Beekman translated hundreds of hymns into Ch’ol.

The mountains surrounding Amado Nervo

My father-in-law, Gregorio López, was one of the men who worked faithfully with Bro. Beekman. Missionary John Beekman was very influential in the spiritual growth of my father-in-law, whom I affectionately refer to as Dad López.

John and Elaine Beekman eventually moved to another village called Berea, located on the Tulija River, to begin a ministry to train Ch’ol men to reach other villages with the Gospel. Dad López moved his family to Berea to continue working with the beloved missionary. A few years after they moved their ministry to Berea, John Beekman was asked to became the Translation Coordinator for Wycliffe Bible Translators, and Missionary Hank Stegenga took his place. Bro. Stegenga took over the Bible Institute that trained many, many Ch’ol Indian men who evangelized the Ch’ol villages. Dad López worked faithfully under the missionaries in Berea for 22 years. After the missionaries moved the Bible Institute to the city of Palenque, Dad López moved his family once again back to Amado Nervo.

Gregorio and his sweet wife, Juana, raised 10 children. Their ninth child is the one I was blessed to have married.

Andrew had spoken to us of John Beekman, the missionary to the Ch’ol Indians. My mother recalled a book she had acquired in 1970 called Peril By Choice, by James Hefley. It is the biography of John Beekman and his life and ministry among the Ch’ols. (I encourage you to read that book. It is a very inspiring story.) We were surprised to learn of the connection between Andrew and the Beekmans.

Two months after our wedding, my husband took me to the village of Amado Nervo, where his parents were living. We went to celebrate Mother’s Day.

The nearly two-hour trip up the mountain in a rickety old truck on a bumpy gravel road was exciting to me. I had heard of Amado Nervo for many years, and I was so excited to be able to finally come to my in-laws’ home.

Mom López greeted us with a chicken stew. (She raises her own chickens and prepares delicious chicken stew and home-made tortillas on an out-door fire.) Let me say here that Mom López is one of the hardest-working women I have ever met. She has been an inspiration and a wonderful example of a wise and prudent lady. She reverenced and obeyed and submitted to her husband; she joyfully raised 10 children in the poorest of circumstances; and she goes about her house-hold duties with a smile, untiring, it seems. The house she now lives in is not fancy at all, but she is very proud of her home. Andrew tells me this house is much, much better than any house they’ve ever lived in. Deborah feeding her "ChuChu's" (Grandma in Ch'ol) chicks, August, 2010

The two days we were in Amado Nervo, we were treated like royalty. A few times that Andrew and I walked around the village, some of the older people asked if I was the grand-daughter of their beloved John Beekman.

Every night (on that visit, and every single visit thereafter), before we went to bed, Dad López got out his Ch’ol Bible and hymnbook, put on his glasses, and read to us from the Bible in Ch’ol. He’d lead us in memory verse recitation and in songs and always gave a testimony to the Lord’s goodness. I never understood everything he said, but “Juan Beekman” and “Enrique Stegenga” were sometimes mentioned. How precious to be able to hear him read from the Bible that he had helped to translate!

Dad López and Little Andrew, grinding corn...2008

In later years, after our children were born, Dad López took time to teach them songs in Ch’ol, which they still sing today, among others which Andrew has helped them learn. I cannot help but thank God for the godly heritage my children have. Only the providence of God could have brought about the amazing story we can tell to our children: How God’s grace brought the saving Gospel to the hidden mountains in Ch’ol country, and how Gregorio López was saved; and was blessed to have been able to work with two pioneer missionaries in these mountain villages.

In 2008, Mom López had to be given special medical care in Tuxtla, the capitol city of Chiapas, and she and Dad López spent some time with us in San Cristóbal. Andrew asked his dad one evening, “Dad, do you have Bro. Stegenga’s phone number with you?” He did, and we called Bro. Stegenga on Skype. Over the speaker connected to the computer, I could hear as Dad López and Bro. Stegenga conversed in Ch’ol. Andrew told me that Bro. Stegenga speaks Ch’ol perfectly! As they got ready to say goodbye, Dad López began to weep. His tears ran down his wrinkled face and fell to the floor! What a sweet sight that was to me! I thought, “This missionary was really loved by this Ch’ol man!” I had the privilege of talking to Bro. Stegenga, and he told me, “Your husband grew up in my shadow. I remember him well.”

Last year, I received a message from Bro. Stegenga, saying that he was going to be in the Palenque area, and that he would like to see Dad López. At his 79 years of age, Dad López made the effort to travel to see Bro. Stegenga. I am told that it was a happy, happy reunion. It was the last time they would see each other on this earth, as Dad López passed on only eight months later.

Deborah at the car window as we were nearing Amado Nervo

Yesterday, as I looked over the valley (or “bowl,” as this village was referred to by the missionaries) where the village of Amado Nervo is located, which now looks much different than it did when the Beekmans lived here, I thought, “I am looking at the same mountains they looked at when they looked out of their window. I can see the same spot where the airstrip was built so the M.A.F. planes could bring supplies to the missionaries.” I prayed, “Lord, I want to make a difference. Please use me to make a difference in someone’s life, just as John Beekman and Hank Stegenga made in the life of my father-in-law; thus impacting my husband’s life, which in turn influences my children’s lives!!! Use me, Lord!”

Amado Nervo, the view from my mother-in-law's house


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing such a precious story, Anna. I left a part of my heart in Mexico and I love reading your blog. It is such a blessing.

--Deborah C.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I are missionaries on the border of Matamoros MX and Brownsville, TX. I will be teaching our children this evening about the life John and Elaine Beekman and the great impact they had among the Chol tribe. I was very excited to read your blog and very touched. I was wondering how you met Andrew? I was born in Mexico City and married an Englishman. Thanks again for sharing this precious story and I look forward to using it tonight with the kids whom are learning of different missionaries that gave their all to preach the gospel in all the corners of the world. God bless you. Not sure what all those identities are, but here is my e-mail in case you would like to write back.

Rice said...

Thank you for sharing on your blog. We just read the chapter of "Missionary Stories with the Millers" about John Beekman for our Bible story time this morning and the kids wanted to know more. How exciting it was for them to see people who had known them and to hear of the continuing impact of the Beekkman's ministry! Thank you for sharing your story. It provided a sense of reality to our lesson today!
Blessings from Canada!

isaac said...

Hola. Mi nombre es Isaac Guzman y vivo en San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. Me interesa mucho conocerlos porque actualmente realizo una investigacion historica sobre el trabajo de John and Elaine Beekman. Anteriormente trabaje en el Municipio de Oxchuc, Chiapas donde pude conocer el trabajo que Marianna Slocum y Florence Gerdel realizaron ahi. Me interesa mucho poder contactarlos.
Mi numero de telefono es 01 967 6785434 y el email es Agradeceria muchisimo si podemos hablar. gracias y un saludo afectuoso.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I just am finishing the book about the Beekmans, it has left such an impact on my life. I decided to look them up on the internet and found your blog. What a blessing that you are married to a man who is a second generation Christian from the work that the Beekmans began in Chiapas. They are such an inspiration to young people to serve the Lord in their youth and give Him the best years of their lives. Thank you so much for sharing this post, and God bless your work.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I just am finishing the book about the Beekmans, it has left such an impact on my life. I decided to look them up on the internet and found your blog. What a blessing that you are married to a man who is a second generation Christian from the work that the Beekmans began in Chiapas. They are such an inspiration to young people to serve the Lord in their youth and give Him the best years of their lives. Thank you so much for sharing this post, and God bless your work.

Unknown said...

I was doing a Google search for John and Elaine Beekman and stumbled upon your blog. It brings back memories as I served among the Chꞌols in ꞌ90 and ꞌ91. I had the privilege of spearheading the dubbing of the JESUS film in Tumbalá Chꞌol during that time. I believe an audio version of the Chꞌol NT is in process right now.