My friend died today. I felt it in the morning as I opened my eyes and heard birds sing in the mango tree. “Bob’s left this world.” I brushed off the feeling and began the day by readying kids for school and preparing for ministry. About mid-morning, with Kenya’s bustling street noise in the background, I read the confirming news on my email… Bob was gone.
Bob’s true friendship came hidden in gruff abruptness. Albeit we first meet under polite exchanges of pleasantries, the relationship would not stay surface only. I don’t think anything long lasting with Bob could ever exist only on the surface.
We sat on the church missions committee together, along with some of Bob’s peers. This is where we saw his passion for justice, for doing right things the right way. His arguments about effective strategies and detailed budgets challenged the more merciful in the group, but only for the better. As it came our time to plan serving in overseas missions, we did a daring thing. We asked Bob for advice. Seeking council from Bob was not for the faint of heart, nor the easily offended. Our first meeting forced us to consider 26 questions about viability, sustainability, finances and perspective. Bob left no stone of criticism unturned. I don’t know if it was our refusal to be defeated or our desire to have qualified oversight that made Bob stay along side us like a trainer, a coach, a mentor…
I remember morning meetings at our house exchanging friendly banter over warm tapioca, and the day we visited a financial advisor - Bob took him to task about helping us earn money to serve the poor. I recall Bob’s smug smile as we left the advisor’s office with everything Bob wanted. He looked at us with a bright twinkle in his eye and said, “Let’s go get ice cream.” For 2 years we met with Bob. He listened to us, corrected us, demanded from us, questioned us, informed us, keep records, keep track, and keep us from making mistakes. Sometimes he was like a bad-tasting medicine that made us get better. Through it all we realized Bob believed in us. By smashing any dreamy idealism, he helped build confidence we never even knew we were missing.
For almost 5 years now, we are serving on the mission field of Kisumu Kenya – assisting victimized women and providing potable water in Jesus name. Bob never gave a dime personally to us but his wisdom and generous donations aided 17 widowed mamas to run small businesses, 49 vulnerable children to stay in their families, 2 self-help groups to provide bible study and accountability, numerous discipleship trainings facilitated throughout the area, and 6 different communities to have filtered water sources.
“Bob Bigelow!” we’d say when he picked the phone to receive our long-distance calls seeking his advice.
Bob Bigelow, even three weeks before his passing, counseled us about water treatment - still watchful, still involved. Bob Bigelow, a straight-shooting man, slight in stature but with an enormous heart. And because of that, many around the world benefit from his legacy.
What might he say if given an opportunity to speak at his own memorial service?
In true character, I think he’d give his opinion on advice from King Solomon:
“What are the realities of your problem? Ask questions.
Look at the reality? Gather knowledge from observation.
How do you apply your knowledge to your reality? Use wisdom.
Put your wisdom to work in your reality.
Let’s live as God taught us.”
Thanks Bob. May the huge file on my laptop filled with your notes, your comments, your explanations and your reports always help us serve Jesus by making this world a better place.
Some of the Kenyan mamas that Bob's donations helped wrote letters to Bob's family and friends.The scanner wouldn't reproduce them well so they are typed below. Imagine these mamas, sitting under a thatched roof, writing thoughts about a man that lived far, far away, whom they never met, but his consistent thoughtfulness helped change their lives forever.
"To the family and friends of Bob, regret the demise of Baba Bob.
We are indeed very grateful for the blessings we received from him. We wouldn't be where we are today if not for the gifts from him. Every one of us has been touched by his kind donations to us. We have been blesses to know him though we have not seen him, have felt his love and kindness. May Almighty God bless his family and friends and rest his soul in peace. To God be the Glory. Amen." From WOW - Woman of Worth Group.
"TO THE FAMILY OF BABA BOB. I AM ANNE AWINO OTIENO. I WOULD LIKE TO SEND CONDOLENCES TO THE BEREAVED FAMILY OF BOB. THIS IS SO SAD BUT IT IS THE WILL OF GOD TO TAKE AWAY HIS SOUL OF HIM WE REALLY LOVED. LET US SEND HIM OFF WITH GOOD MOTIVE AND THE LORD HAND HIM GREAT HONOR. AMEN."
"To the family and friends of Baba Bob. I am Mildred Atino in Kenya. I would like to say pole sana for the family of Bob. He was good to us. Rest in peace Baba Bob."
"To the family of Bob. I am Jackie Akoth,, a widow in Kenya. I say pole sana about Baba Bob. He stood with us and made us to stand. Rest in Peace Baba. Amen."
"I am Raiel Mbono in Kenya. Pole sana for Baba Bob. He was loved but God loved him more. Rest in Peace. Shalom."
"TO THE FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF BABA BOB. I AM JOSEPHINE SIRENGO IN KENYA. I AM SO SORRY TO KNOW OF BOB'S PASSING. BABA SHALL BE MISSED BUT ALL THAT YOU DID
WILL BE REMEMBERED IN MY HEART."
WILL BE REMEMBERED IN MY HEART."
"With deep sorrow and much regret to hear about the demise of our beloved Bob. Though we have not met him but felt and saw his kindness and big heart he had for women empowerment. Being a beneficiary of his good work in Kenya I am here to say may God rest his soul in peace." Carolyne Auma.
Many photos of the blessed mamas...
"...we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News. This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace." Col. 1