For some time I’ve been wondering when I would get around to writing my first post since our return to the States. I knew it would be hard to know what to say. Never did I imagine that it would be this hard.

Today Maureen and I flew into DFW to help with a Discovery lab being held by Mission Alive! Our plane arrived a little early so I called Gailyn Van Rheenen who was on his way to pick us up. He told me that they had some bad news that he would share with me when he picked us up in a few minutes.

As soon as we got in the car with Gailyn, he received another call. I could overhear a voice saying, “I know it’s like going through Jonathan’s death all over again… .” The Van Rheenen lost their 35 year old son Jonathan just a few months ago.

When Gailyn got off the phone, he told us the painful news. Cyndi Chowning, a missionary in Benin, had been struck by a motorcycle and killed. A few details have been filled in since then. Apparently she and Richard were in a village when Cyndi returned to their car to get something. It seems that she was struck by a motorcycle and may have been thrown against their truck. She sustained head injuries. She was taken to the town of Azove for medical treatment, but died soon afterwards.

That’s all I know about her death, but I know much more about her life. The Chownings came to Abilene about a year after I had arrived. Already they were 16 year veterans of African missions, having taken part in a church planting mission among the Kipsigis that became a model and a stepping stone for at least two more generations of church planters.

While at ACU, the Chownings were our mentors. They hosted African Mission Fellowship in their home. They inspired us and guided our strategy as our own team formed. Richard was our first visitor just a few months after we arrived in Benin in 1993. Cyndi came with him to visit the next year.

The following year, 1995, Richard was again in West Africa. He had already visited Benin, but did a U-turn and returned to support our team through the loss of our teammate Nancy Vogt who was killed in an accident.

In 1997 the Chownings returned to Benin to live, work, and minister among the Aja people. For four years they lived about 45 minutes from us and we saw each other almost weekly. Cyndi served faithfully at Richard’s side, and was with him most of the time he went out to the village which, if you know Richard, is as often as possible.

As I write this, the memories flood back, but I know that I can’t write them all here. I just need you to know that another pilgrim has gone home, being struck down in the very act of bringing God’s word to people who would not have otherwise have heard it.

The Chownings were planning to leave Benin next year, having helped begun yet a second church planting movement in Africa. They wanted to be closer to the children and grandchildren. Please pray for Richard and for all their family as they walk with God through this painful time.

The photo was taken in April when we last saw the Chownings at the West Africa Missionary Retreat.