Birol celebrated her 70th birthday on March 8 and we together celebrated our wedding anniversary on March 28 in the same church we were married in fifty years ago. To make this sentimental journey possible we travelled thirty hours on three different trains for two nights and three days, then an hours flight and a four-hour car ride 65 miles up a winding road to Shillong, the capital of India's northeastern border states of Meghalaya—the abode of the clouds.
Our son Gordon, his wife Rose, with their two teenage children also journeyed from Spicer Memorial College to be with us and to celebrate their 22°' wedding anniversary. Gordon and Rose had met at Philippine Union College. He wanted to show his family his mother's birthplace. We arrived two days before our anniversary and memories flooded our mind as we visited parks and lakes where we had talked and had planned our future lives together. They are familiar but different to what they had been when seen through young lovers' eyes. The old wooden home aptly named "Seven Sisters Cottage" was sold when Birol's mother made her home with us. A mammoth concrete three-storied structure now stands in the yard where the girls played and where their wedding receptions were held.
On Sabbath I was invited to speak to an overflowing congregation. Several of those who had witnessed our wedding were present. Excitement filled my being as I remembered Birol walking down the aisle on her father's arm to the strains of the wedding march played through a record player amplifier. There was no organist. She carried a bouquet of aram lilies and looked more lovely than everything I had seen before. But the next day she looked even more lovely than she had fifty years ago. Strange how beauty is enhanced by gracious living and is in the eye of the beholder.
The minister who spoke that evening reminded Birol that she was one of the few girls who carried the brass water pots from the stream and placed them in the cone-shaped baskets strapped to .her forehead rather than have him haul the pot up himself as most of the other girls did. A small gesture from school days that had not gone unnoticed! Yet in that gesture he saw a plant which had produced a bountiful harvest of good deeds through the years.
What keeps a man and women together for fifty long years? Most are bound by custom and social pressure. Many are bound by fear. Then there are those who stay together for the children's sake and some for economic reasons. Finally there are those who find happiness and fulfillment in just being together. Very few enjoy this relationship of togetherness naturally. There has to be adjustments. I can imagine the first few years of marriage must have been difficult for Birol. I was the only son, youngest of five siblings. Birol is timid, tender and sensitive with a warm sense of humour. These traits stood her in good stead as she gently and lovingly cared for her family.
I have often wondered what makes her an outstanding homemaker. She credits her Heavenly Father for what she calls the gift of four "Ses"—the speed of a gazelle, the strength of an ox, the stamina of a long distance runner and the skill of a craftsman. She can clean up a mess, prepare a meal, tend the garden, and adorn herself in a jiffy. Blessed with these four "Ses" the mundane chores of daily living need only moments of her time, but the more important and influencing tasks of parenting, being a companion and a church leader cannot he accomplished in a hurry. They require long hours of study, prayer and discipline.
She declines a church office or speaking appointment unless she knows she can be "a workman that need not be ashamed" and has time to do justice to the appointment through careful preparation. Her dependence upon God is complete and aptly summed up in her experience as told to the assembled ladies at the 1980 General Conference Session. Reporting on that event, the editor of the article wrote: "Desperate, finally—with all efforts seemingly of no avail, she implored God to change her feelings. She agonized with Him to make her effective, and God gave her special help. She knew that it was from Him and perhaps only in that way would she have ever learned she could fully count on Him. Looking back on that experience, Birol who had bared her soul before us, calls it blessed and wonderful. God had shown Himself to her as the key, not just for the job, but for life itself."—Adventist Review, May 1, 1980. GC bulletin 9.
What a woman. Inspiration describes her in Proverbs 31:10-31!