Remembering Eunice

Friday night Eric and I got some tragic and surprising news. Our good friend Eunice Loeweke was in the hospital, unresponsive after a brain surgery due to bleeding in the brain. She passed away this morning. When we said goodbye 18 months ago, we didn't think it would be for such a long time. I've spent a lot of time thinking about Eunice these past days, about her remarkable life and what a huge impact she has had on both of us.

Eunice was a true old school missionary. When she was in her 20s, she and an Australian lady sailed to Papua New Guinea with Wycliffe Bible translators. They approached a remote tribe and asked to live with them. For 20 years, they lived among a tribe that spoke no English. It took about 4 years to learn their language, and the next 16 to translate portions of the Bible. She spent another 6 years on the PNG coast before she began to have visual side effects from her anti-malarial medications and was forced to return to the States. Now in her 50s, what does a former Bible translator do with her time? Eunice moved in to a house on the edge of the U of MI campus and spent the next 20 years ministering to students and the Chinese community. She would have students over for lunch many a Sunday afternoon, prompting the formation of what people would affectionately call “Eunice's Lunch Bunch.”

Eric first met Eunice back in 2001 when he was interviewing for medical schools. He actually sat next to her sister (from Nashville) on the flight up to Ann Arbor, who proceeded to talk to him the entire flight. She volunteered Eunice to give Eric a free ride back to the med school. Years later, Eunice told us she was so mad at her sister for offering a ride to some strange man without asking her! Eric took her contact info but promptly forgot about it until coming to the U of MI for med school. One Sunday, a friend of his was talking about her friend Eunice, a Wycliffe Bible translator from Papua New Guinea. It was the same Eunice, and Eric started attending her usually weekly Sunday lunch gatherings.

(Eunice's lunch bunch; hosting our last wedding shower)

Eric and I have both lived with Eunice in one of her spare bedrooms for about six total months. We ate at her house countless times. She prayed at our wedding (my favorite part: “May they be able to factor in Your presence and power in any analysis of the possible.”). We shared rides back and forth to Nashville, and once got caught in a snowstorm and sat on US-23 for over an hour eating Christmas cookies to tide us over! We drank her lattes. We enjoyed her museum house that she had taken back from nature. We enjoyed free music performances. (In short, she was the only individual on our top 10 Ann Arbor list.) Our last 2 years in Ann Arbor we tried to get together for a meal at least once a month to soak in as much of her wisdom as we could from her years of missionary and life experience. She urged us to consider the spirit world in dealing with patients overseas. She emphasized having prayer supporters in addition to financial supporters. She reminded us of the typical struggles of a patient in the US medical system (through her own experiences). We prayed regularly.

(Our wedding; Eric's medical graduation)

When I look at Eunice's life I am forced to re-examine my own in light of how she lived hers. She sacrificed much to live in a remote area, with almost no one that spoke her language, and no creature comforts to speak of. She did not spend time in PNG coercing villagers to believe in her God but instead faithfully translated His Word, letting it speak for itself, living out her faith in actions and deeds, and the entire village came to Christ because of this. When health problems forced her to take a life detour and return home, instead of settling in to a comfortable retirement or despairing at how her calling had changed, she embraced a new ministry, one that had profound effects on the Ann Arbor community and literally on people throughout the world. She was always willing to help out with a meal, a ride to the airport, a spare bedroom, a listening ear.

(A free symphony performance at Hill; meeting Maggie)

Eunice, our hearts grieve at our loss of you here on earth. I wish we could have one more meal together, one more talk, one more time of prayer. I wish I could tell you one more time how much you meant to us, the difference you made in our lives, how much we love you. And yet we have such joy for your homecoming. I pray that you are being welcomed into eternity with the open arms of so many who are in heaven because of your faithful service. I have tears in my eyes as I picture Jesus smiling at you, speaking the words we all long to someday hear:

Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.

(Rachel's residency graduation; our last visit with her)


Haller4307 said...

thanks for sharing Eunice's story. i had only heard of her through those who attended these lunches, but her story is one of a life well lived for Christ. may we all be so single-minded focused and open to do God's work.

Tendon-cies said...

Thanks for posting this. I also stayed with Eunice during part of my schooling at UM (2007/8). She was a wonderful woman and a great example of living for Christ every day. She will be sincerely missed.


Uttz Family said...

Sweet Eunice...you will be missed!

Timothy said...

Oh my, makes me really cry. Eunice was there for every important event and many when we couldn't be there. Many wonderful memories of a special woman that sowed into your lives. Please tell us immediately when and where her services will be...Love, Mom

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to you both for your loss. What a beautiful tribute.

Love, Sami

Anonymous said...

I had lunch with Jessica Watters about a month ago and she told me about Eunice's passing. I was so sad to not have been able to celebrate her life with all those who loved her in Ann Arbor. Thank you for your tribute, it was healing and beautiful, I really miss her. Funny story, I parked at her house last fall when I came to a field hockey event that was on a football Saturday. I left a note on her door about how I was sorry she wasn't home, I was hoping to visit... little did I know! I'm just grateful the new owners had pity on me and didn't have me towed! Thanks again for your tribute, and especially the pictures. They were just what I needed. Love, Amy