Marjorie Dubert was a member of my fellowship class at church. Before her death in 2010, she e-mailed me this story.
“Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” Psalm 135:6. “He, who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” I Timothy 6:15. A very vivid lesson showing me that God is Sovereign occurred during my years of serving him in Papua New Guinea with Wycliffe Bible Translators/Summer Institute of Linguistics.
LaVonne (Vonnie) was a fellow graduate student from Columbia Bible College in South Carolina. In the summer of 1954 she sang at my wedding. The next time I saw her was in early 1962. She was now Mrs. Walt Steinkraus doing Bible translation with her husband and children for the Tifalmin people in Papua New Guinea. They welcomed my husband and me with our children as fellow translators.
In March of 1971 Vonnie came by our home at Ukarumpa to say good-bye. She and the two girls, Kerry 12, and Katherine 2, were off to a different village to join Walt. She could have left Kerry in the Children’s Home to attend the International Primary School, but Kerry chose to go along to the village. Vonnie told me, “We want to glorify God as a family.”
Vonnie and the girls arrived in the new village on March 19. Two days later, on a beautiful sunny Sunday, the Steinkraus family attended church in a nearby village. They returned home and lay down to rest, while many in the village took the opportunity to work in their gardens or gather firewood. At 3:00 p.m., a freak landslide, a half-mile long, three hundred feet high and one hundred feet deep crossed the river and covered the village with terrific force. All in the village, including Vonnie and her family, died instantly. An envelope found in the debris had this verse written on it: For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts Isaiah 55:9.
God raised up other Bible translators, Al and Susan Boush, to finish the translation project Walt and Vonnie Steinkraus had started. As a result the Tifalmin people now have the complete New Testament in their own language.
Another missionary family, John and Bonnie Nystrom, had a close call but survived. They were doing Bible translation for the Arop people in Papua New Guinea. On July 17, 1998, an earthquake occurred a few miles off the shore of Arop. It caused three thirty-three foot high tsunamis to come ashore. All of the houses and many of the people in the Arop village at the time were swept out to sea. This included the home of the Nystroms. In the sovereignty of God, the Nystroms and their two children, along with all of their translation materials, were safe and sound at the Ukarumpa Center located nearby.
God used the Nystrom family to give the survivors hope. The Nystroms chose additional translation helpers, and set up a training center where they now train and work with translators for eleven other languages as well as the Arop.
I marvel at the mysterious hand of our Sovereign Lord and King. His ways are indeed higher than my ways. He chose to take the Steinkraus family, yet allowed the Nystrom family to remain, all the while furthering His Kingdom and glorifying Himself.