Friday, July 23, 2010

Celebrating Grandpa

One of the wonderful benefits of marriage is gaining a whole new family. When I became a Hefft nine years ago, not only did I gain a husband, but I also gained new parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. All of them welcomed me with open arms, a blessing I don't take for granted.

One of those new family members was Howard Eppler, Paul's maternal grandfather. I knew who Howard was for a long time before I started dating his grandson. He and Virgina attended my home church, always seated in the right center section of the auditorium every Sunday, three or four rows from the front. When Paul and I started dating, I got to know Grandpa and Grandma Eppler better. We had dinner at their house several times. We talked more at church. Their acceptance and love for me was instantaneous. Howard and Virgina became my grandparents, and I became their granddaughter.

On Saturday, July 17, at 9:45pm Grandpa graduated to his heavenly home after struggling with failing health for several years. Tomorrow, family and friends will be gathering in Kansas City, Missouri, to celebrate his life and lay his body to rest.

Unfortunately, we won't be physically present at the funeral (although one of our cousin's is working on setting up a Skype call so we can see and hear the service!), so I wanted to share some of my favorite memories of the man we were blessed to call our grandfather.

Our first date. No, not for Paul and me, for me and Grandpa. The spring before Paul and I were married, Grandpa Eppler asked me if I would accompany him to a Calvary Bible College banquet, since Grandma Eppler was ill in the hospital. I thought it was sweet that he would ask me to join him. He even brought me a flower. Another sweet memory from that night: during the banquet he got a call from Grandma saying she wasn't feeling well. He quickly and politely ditched me, and sped to his wife's side. His love and concern for her was so evident.

The way he said my name. I'll never forget the way he would smile and greet me with a hearty, "Hi, Mel!" whenever I would arrive. He always seemed happy to see me.

Watching him with my kids.
I'm so glad Josiah and Anna had the chance to get to know their great-grandfather. They always loved to go next door and "visit" Grandpa and Grandma Eppler whenever we were staying with Mom and Dad Hefft in Arizona.

Josiah in "Grandpa's bike"

Grandpa holding Anna for the first time

Kansas City Chiefs. Grandpa liked football, especially the Kansas City Chiefs. Even after he moved to Arizona, Grandpa still kept up with Chiefs' games. I'll never forget the day, I walked into his apartment and there he sat, eating a bag of chips and watching an old game from the early 90s. It made me smile.
Bonding with our brother-in-law, Ben, as they watched Chiefs stats being posted live on the internet while we celebrated Christmas at our house in Dallas in 2007.

His amazing memory. I'm fairly detail oriented, but Grandpa Eppler gave the term a whole new meaning. When he told a story, you always got dates, times, locations...everything.

Listening to him pray. Howard Eppler was a prayer warrior. Several times while I was in Arizona, I had the opportunity to "eavesdrop" on Grandpa and Grandma Eppler as they sat together after breakfast to read the Bible and pray. I heard him pray in detail for each of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Then, he went through recent missionary prayer letters and lifted up those requests to the Lord. Praise God they were on our prayer team. His prayers for us will be missed!

The last time we saw him. I'll never forget the last time we saw him on this earth. Our family gathered together in their little apartment in Arizona, and Grandpa prayed over us. Then we took a family picture, hugged, and said our goodbyes, not knowing if we would see each other again on this side of heaven. One month later, our family would get on an airplane and fly here to Tanzania, where we would begin assisting the work of Bible translation. A veteran missionary, Grandpa was passionate about world missions, and he had even spent 10 years serving in our particular organization, so I know he was excited about what we were going off to do.

Even though we wish we could be with family this weekend as they celebrate Grandpa Eppler's life, we know he would rather we stay here in Tanzania and continue the work of advancing the Gospel. We're proud to do what we can carry on his legacy of serving our Lord and Savior.

Thank you, Grandpa, for the example you set before us. We love you! You'll be missed!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


On Monday, our family returned from our branch conference. Once a year, the members of our branch gather together in one place to reconnect, relax, worship, and conduct branch business. Here are a few snapshots from our time at Turtle Bay:

  • Stepping back into the West, but with East African flair. Because of the size of our branch, we get an amazing deal on accommodations at an all-inclusive seaside resort on the Kenyan Coast. Even though we sat in a lot of meetings, it still felt like vacation.
  • Putting faces with names. Since this was our first conference, we enjoyed getting to meet colleagues from all over Tanzania and Uganda.
  • Worshiping in our mother tongue! Paul loved getting the opportunity to use his guitar to help lead a few sessions.
  • A week-long VBS program for our kids. A team from a member's supporting church came to Kenya to put on a kid's program for the children in our branch. Since Sunday School is rare where we live and work, this was a HUGE treat for our kids.
  • Taking communion as a branch. Simple. Reverent. Wonderful.
  • Reconnecting with good friends from orientation and language school. Since we all live in different areas of Tanzania, it was fun to be back in one place again.
  • Water polo. Both the men and women played fun, yet intense matches.
  • Eating great food that I didn't have to cook. The main restaurant served a wonderful buffet each day, and the hotel had an excellent pizza restaurant too!
  • Cappuccino! I think I drank more cappuccinos last week than I have in an entire year. No Starbucks in Dodoma. :(
  • Josiah learning to swim. One of the childcare volunteers worked with him one afternoon, and before we knew it, he was dog-paddling across the pool.
  • Ocean breezes, playing in the sand, and searching tide pools for tropical fish. Anytime I'm at the beach, I'm a happy woman. So are my kids.
  • Remembering. This year our branch celebrated its 10-year anniversary. It was exciting to hear about all God has done.
After a wonderful week at conference, I came away refreshed, recharged, and ready to get back to ministry, doing our part to see Ugandans and Tanzanians have the opportunity to read Scripture in their mother tongue. I can't wait for next year!

Friday, July 2, 2010


Today, some friends and I took advantage of the school holiday and took our kids on a picnic at a reservoir in the hills overlooking Dodoma.

Anna had fun with her friend, Esther.
We took a hike.
We even saw a scarecrow in someone's vegetable garden.
To round out the morning, we had a lovely picnic together. What a lovely Friday!