Back in February I wrote a blog about Pastor Paul Bunkowske who died on February 25 and I talked about him being the quiet steady type. He was not flashy or brass, but he was there and a calm presence and a Pastor for many years. His brother Eugene died about one month later. Eugene was a fixture in missionary circles and my first memory of him was standing at a microphone at a Synod Convention speaking about missions and missionaries. He was also often at our recently held mission summits and meetings about mission and missionaries. He was much respected and appreciated. Both of these men were intensely invested in bringing and preaching the Gospel to all men, whether they lived in the plains of North Dakota or the woods of Minnesota, or the middle of Africa, or wherever. Paul served at Edgeley ND, Lisbon ND, and Menahga and Wolf Lake MN, and Eugene served in Nigeria.
Therein lies our tale. When the Board for International Missions meets, one of our tasks is to “Reposition” missionaries that may be in one place and repositioned to another. There are all kinds of reasons for that. They may be political implications and danger, health issues, or higher needs in a region or with a partner church. Whatever, Woodbury Lutheran Church in Woodbury MN recently held a “repositioning service for Dr. Eugene. It is a beautiful idea to celebrate the repositioning of a missionary from the church militant to the church triumphant.
While at that service a fascinating story was told to one of my acquaintances that Eugene’s wife of many years, Bernice, related. She said that from the time she was a little girl attending Sunday School she had wanted to be a missionary and for some reason as a child she had focused on Nigeria. As she grew and attended school she had set her course to be a Lutheran Parochial School teacher and then she met Eugene. He too was getting an education and they married. Not longer after they were wed and Eugene became a missionary and they were “positioned”, you guessed it, in Nigeria.
It is a great story and it brings to mind our discussion of fatalism and determinism and what Mr’s Bunkowske would call God’s direction and plan. A course thought of in grade school and wrapped up at a “repositioning service” in Minnesota while serving and witnessing around the world is a remarkable life and a testimony to the grace of God. A determined women and a determined man living in God’s plan.