Seventeen times!

But Christ suffered for us

1 Peter 2:21 God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you.

My husband Dave’s dad, William John Kornfield, was a decorated World War II hero. I didn’t know this until Dave’s brother Bill Jr. and his wife Jennie created a display case of Dad Kornfield’s medals and one of his buddies told stories at his funeral in November 2008 (which I missed, because Karis was critically ill sick at the time, and my dad died the same week). Dad K never made a big deal of his war experiences, so even his family didn’t know.

Dad’s medals included a purple heart, a bronze star, and sharpshooter awards

One story that was repeated to me was this:

A request was made for a volunteer to go behind enemy lines to gather information. Dave’s dad volunteered. His commanding officer made it clear that he would be risking his life, but he went anyway. He came back alive, and the next time such a call was made, he volunteered again. The third time, he was told no. No one had ever gone three times and come back alive.

“I’m ready to die,” Dad K said. “If I die, I’ll go straight to heaven. But most of my buddies aren’t ready. Let me do this.”

He went seventeen times before frostbite on his feet took him out. And was awarded a medal of valor.

Dad K in 1943

Dad K showed the same kind of gutsiness after the war, as a pioneer missionary in Bolivia. He married Dave’s mom in May, 1952, and Dave was conceived on their honeymoon. In January 1953, Bill and Gloria arrived in Bolivia, where they joined an international team in Cochabamba, where Dave was born in March. Knowing neither Spanish nor Quechua, these newlyweds and first-time parents were assigned to a small Andean village named Capinota, where they lived without running water, heat, friends, or colleagues. But Dad K always told Capinota stories with humor.

The family in 1957

Kathy joined the family fourteen months after Dave did. Then they lost a child, and finally Billy arrived. By then they had returned to Cochabamba, where Dad K directed a Bible school. They lived in the same three-story urban building that housed the denomination’s main church, a bookstore, the Bible school dormitories and classrooms, and the pastor’s apartment. The kids had nowhere to play. One of them discovered they could crawl into the attic, and they had a great time until the pastor’s wife heard and found them. She marched them into Dad K’s office to be disciplined. Dad K listened to her outrage, thanked her, and assured her he would care for the situation. After she left and he closed the door, he looked at his three children, tried to admonish them, but broke into laughter and gathered them in for a hug.

The family when I met them, 1972

On this Memorial Day, I want to honor Dad K for his courage, his resilience, his sense of humor, his delight in adventure, and his deep love for Christ and for people—loves he passed on to his children and grandchildren.

Still adventuring at my age (67)! An example to follow …
Dad K with his sons and grandson on the Inca Trail at 16,000 feet in the Andes Mountains, 1992

Dave says this:

Dad suffered in various ways as a missionary. He and Mom left their parents and siblings in an era when furloughs came only every five years. Their first term they had no vehicle. They brought up my sister Kathy and me in a small rural village in which their only running water was in the stream behind their house. After four years, Dad had to leave Bolivia and his wife and three young children for six months because of illness that couldn’t be treated in Bolivia. Mission policy dictated their children go to the mission boarding school so they wouldn’t “interfere” with their parents’ work. Dad and Mom’s marriage was very challenging, yet he never complained. Indeed, when he got Alzheimer’s and lost some of his inhibitions, he would break out in a declaration of love every time his wife entered the room.

Dad suffered, but you wouldn’t know it. The suffering didn’t enter his soul. It miraculously passed over him like water over a duck’s back. Looking back now, I realize that this might be one of the greatest ways Christ revealed himself in Dad. Christ in us, our hope of glory!