Yesterday marked the 8th year since my mother’s passing. She was and remains perhaps the person I most respect and admire in this world (alongside my father). My parents served 10 years as missionaries to Zimbabwe during the 1960s. Below is a tribute to my mother, written by Lester Fretz, who with his wife, Sandy, served with my parents in Africa and remain dear family friends. — Julie
By Lester Fretz
Normally, when I speak, I carefully guard my punch line. But today is different. As I come to the end of this tribute which I’m greatly honored to share, I invite friends and family who can infer from the context of my thoughts, to join me in saying the last four words.
It certainly wasn’t fate of just coincidence where we first me Linda Stern. Significantly it was on the mission field as she has always been interested in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ whether in Africa or America.
Over 40 years ago, my wife and I had the privilege of becoming acquainted with Linda and Jim Stern when they served as medical missionaries in what is now Zimbabwe. Linda enjoyed talking about her early life as an MK in Sierra Leone where her parents were also missionaries.
While Jim headed the mission hospital, Linda was very involved caring for their young family in addition to giving any needed assistance at the hospital. Jim was innovative and I’m sure he was egged on by Linda. Even though many months pregnant, she would make an ambulance run over bumpy, bush back roads or just a path to pick up the ailing and sometimes the dying. She would even drive Jim and me around in that same vehicle after dark so we could hunt African game. Her enthusiasm for life, her sense of humor as well as her interest in God’s Word were all greatly admired.
Because my wife and I had no transportation, we were so fortunate the many times Jim and Linda invited us to accompany them on trips over long holiday weekends to game parks, the Matopo Hills, Zimbabwe Ruins and Victoria Falls. Linda demonstrated her fishing ability on Lake Kariba and as we fried our catch for a picnic shore lunch, a monkey came out of the bushes and took something from (her son) David. Linda spoke curtly to the monkey and it dashed back into the underbrush.
In our weekly Bible studies and prayer meeting, Linda always had such keen insights. As we studied the local language, her grasp of it soon surpassed mine.
Jim was exceedingly generous in allowing Linda to be my partner when we relaxed over a game of bridge in which Linda was a sharp, shrewd and successful player. As she looked up with her twinkling, smiling eyes and collapsing her cards, I can still hear her say with determination, “I’m going to open with 2 no trump!”
Back in America with Jim doing internship in the Buffalo area nearby and later in practice in Pennsylvania, we were able to keep in touch with the Sterns and their growing family. Janeen became one of our daughter’s fondest friends. Our pony was given the name “Tandi” while the cat was called “Julie.” Linda’s hospitality was always a treat whether in their home, at the family cottage and more recently here in southern Kentucky. But we always reminisced about our wonderful days in Africa.
Like many of you, I always looked forward to that incredible, poetic Christmas newsletter in which Linda updated the activities of the entire family, but always very modest about her own endeavors.
Her writing was a tremendous inspiration to me and I loved to listen to her explain her insights about Revelation. Indeed, she was a model in the way she placed the Lord’s work and her family high on her priorities.
Illustrative that her contribution to Christian literature will continue to impact its readers, this very interesting and challenging article appeared this past summer in a denominational periodical.
We felt greatly honored to be invited to attend the celebration of Linda and Jim’s 45th wedding anniversary, a very thoughtful and meaningful gesture that you children and grandchildren made possible.
As I think back to that memorable occasion, I’m reminded again of how blessed we were to be even seated at their table. And now, as I think of where Linda is, and her love for that great concluding book of the Bible, I anticipate the marriage supper of the Lamb where we can again fellowship together with the Lord whom she deeply loved. In the words of the title of the book which her father wrote and now her son is updating, she has arrived at the place where there are None of These Diseases.