The Long Night[1]

In Ukarumpa that night, the news of what had happened to Robert and Verna in Sopu, spread quickly as the telephone emergency system clicked into operation. At Townsend Children’s Home[4], Jason Stutzman, fifteen-year-old son of Robert and Verna took the news calmly. He had visited his parents in Sopu many times and had seen the violent nature of the people. He was not surprised. He prayed, “Dear God, don’t let my dad die.”

His younger brother, Jeremy was not at home when the news came, so Tom, the house parent, drove to the Teen Center[5], where he was playing soccer. Jeremy was afraid that his dad might not live through the night. He muttered, “Wish my mom and dad had a gun, so they could shoot those gunmen.”

Laurinda, Verna’s best friend, tossed and turned all night. She remembered what Verna had shared with her, just before they had left Ukarumpa for Sopu this last time. Verna had confessed her fear about going to Sopu again.

“The violence in that area has increased so much,” Verna trembled. Reluctantly she had told Laurinda about a dream several months earlier. “Two men came to our house in Sopu and shot at us and one of us died, but I woke up before I knew which one of us died.” Laurinda shuddered as she remembered Verna’s dream and thought about her friend battling for her husband’s life.

Throughout the Ukarumpa community that night, many prayed for Robert and Verna and their sons. There was nothing else anyone could do, but pray and wait for dawn. At night, it was impossible to land a plane in Sopu.


In Sopu, I was struggling with putting pressure on the wound. The gash was in such an awkward place. I tried one way and then another way, but the blood just continued to trickle down Robert’s arm. I made sure that he drank plenty of water and I gave him some pain pills every few hours. Nonetheless, Robert alternately paled deathly white or shook with great spasms. “Are you going to die?” I fearfully asked him.

But Robert’s voice rang strong and clear, “No way. Those gunmen can’t kill me!” During that long night I read some scripture verses out loud and we prayed together, “God, please don’t let this situation be wasted. Save the men who attacked us and please make the bleeding stop.”

In desperation to stop the bleeding, I finally lay down beside Robert. I propped up my aching jaw with my right arm. With my left arm, I pulled his shoulder against my chest to put pressure on the wound. I lay absolutely still in this position for several hours. During those long hours I thought about the first time I had heard about Bible translation. I was ten years old when a Wycliffe representative had come to my church and talked about people who did not have a Bible in their language. That thought was inconceivable to me. I thought, “When I grow up I will translate the Bible for people who have no Bible.” Here we were just on the verge of beginning to translate the scriptures and now this. What would it mean for the future of Bible translation for these people?

Finally after six hours of continual bleeding, I noticed that the bleeding had stopped. I sent up a prayer of thanksgiving and breathed. “Maybe now I can get some rest.”

[1] This incident happened June 5, 1991.

[4] It is customary for missionary kids to live in Children’s homes near their school, when their parents are working in remote villages.

[5] The Teen Center is a recreational facility for missionary kids at Ukarumpa.