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

Sunday, August 22, 2010

John and Elaine Beekman Part 2

On my second visit to Amado Nervo, I took things with me to bake pumpkin bread. (My in-laws have a big harvest of pumpkins every year.) I had taken pans in which to bake the bread; but Mom López proudly opened her oven to show me where she keeps her baking pans. She pointed to them and said, “Elena Beekman.” In Ch’ol she said, “These were hers.”

I couldn’t believe that after all these years she had kept these pans! Truly, these are a treasure to her! She showed me other dishes that Mrs. Beekman had left for her, which she still uses.

One time when we were there, after our children were born, it was time to eat, and Mom López told my children in Ch’ol to wash their hands; but they didn’t understand her. So she said (in English), “Wash a hands.” Everyone burst out laughing; and the children obeyed her. She proudly said, “The Beekmans taught me how to say that.”

Andrew and his Mom in her kitchen

During the 8 years that we have been married, I have come to realize how much the Beekmans meant to my father- and mother-in-law. Because of the faithfulness of these missionaries, my father-in-law was encouraged to remain faithful to his Lord until the day he died.

I recently came across the following, written about the Beekmans in 1955:

Deep in the mountains of southern Mexico, five days by horseback from any road, there is a mud-walled, thatched-roof house in a village called Amado Nervo. Here for six years have lived two missionaries, John and Elaine Beekman. Most of the time John Beekman is directing the work of the hundred Ch’ol Indians who spread out from Amado Nervo preaching and teaching their tribesmen to read.

In addition he manages to find time to work at translating the Bible in Ch’ol with the help of three other translators. Five books of the New Testament are now completed. Thanks to the Beekmans—and to the American Bible Society which has published the texts—more than 3000 Ch’ols have become Christians.

The house of John Beekman is but one of the many outposts of the American Bible Society, which last year distributed more than 15,000,000 Bibles, Testaments and Gospels in 144 languages to people in forty-eight countries and nine groups of Pacific islands.

When we were in Amado Nervo at the beginning of this month, my mother-in-law showed me some letters that Mrs. Beekman sent to them over the years. How she treasures those letters…written in her native Ch’ol dialect. As Andrew translated those letters to me, I was touched by the deep love that the Beekmans had toward my in-laws.

In the book, Peril by Choice, I read that Mrs. Beekman majored in music at Moody Bible Institute, where she graduated in 1946. When they arrived on the field, it is said that she thought, “All my music preparation will be of no use here in this mountain village!” But God DID have a specific purpose for Mrs. Beekman’s music talents. She translated many, many hymns into Ch’ol, which are still sung in the Ch’ol churches and homes today. Every day, my mother-in-law plays hymns sung in Ch’ol on her cassette player (and she sings along!).

This past week, Andrew and I were blessed to have spoken on the telephone to Mrs. Judy (Beekman) Van Rooy, the Beekmans’ daughter, for the fist time. She remembers Dad and Mom López very well. “In fact,” she said to Andrew, “when I was ten years old, I remember going with my mother to help with the delivery one of your brothers.” Tears came to my eyes as I listened to Andrew and Mrs. Van Rooy converse. She told us that Mrs. Beekman read her Bible in Ch’ol every morning so that she would not forget Ch’ol. She said, “The day before my mother died, my brother asked her, ‘Mom, what do you look forward to the most about going to Heaven?’ And Mom said, ‘Oh, seeing the Ch’ol believers!’”

It has been said that through the ministry that John Beekman began among the Ch’ols, over 12,000 Ch’ols came to know Christ. But I know that for at least one family his ministry made a real difference.

Dad López watching us leave through his house window