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Missionaries adjusting to life at home

January 26, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

After spending most of the last 36 years in Senegal, missionaries Frank Stottlemyer Jr. and his wife, Nancy, are trying to get used to living in the United States again.

"It was a big change for us when we first went over there in 1967," Frank Stottlemyer said. "Now we are adjusting again to a dramatic change."

Both 62, the Stottlemyers have returned home to their church, Black Rock Bible Church at 9646 Crystal Falls Drive, and family members still living in the area.

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They left behind not only many memories, friends and colleagues, but also all four of their children, all of whom are adults carrying on their parents' mission work.

"Wanda and Eric were just little when they went over with us. Rebecca and Gary were born in Senegal," said Nancy Stottlemyer. "All of our 11 grandchildren are in Senegal, too."

Neither expects to be going on any long-term mission work in Senegal, but both are hoping for visits so they can spend time with their children and grandchildren.

Reflecting on their amazing odyssey in Africa's westernmost nation, the Stottlemyers said they chose mission work in general and Senegal in particular after hearing a mission representative speak at their church.

Born into a farming family in Wolfsville, Frank Stottlemyer said he never had traveled any farther than Virginia Beach, Va., before he and his wife made their commitment.

Acquaintances while students at Middletown (Md.) High School, both were attending the Black Rock Bible Church when they learned of people in the world with no access to the Bible and its teachings.

Married in 1963, they made their big decision in May 1964 while Frank Stottlemyer was working at a bank in Frederick, Md., and his wife was a nurse's aide at Fahrney-Keedy Home in Boonsboro.

Training began in Pennsylvania. After a year of that, they moved on to a New Tribes Mission center in Wisconsin, where they concentrated on languages and the culture of Senegal.

"The official language in Senegal is French," said Frank Stottlemyer. They also learned the native language, which mostly is spoken in the tribes.

Senegal is a small, arid country just above the equator and south of the Sahara Desert. The capital city of Dakar has about 2 million people, but much of the population lives in rural settings in mud-block homes shielded against the weather with grass roofs.

When they arrived, a missionary picked up the Stottlemyers and took them to a village, Frank Stottlemyer said. There, the couple lived as the natives did, except their mud-block home had a tin roof.

"I remember waking up to the sound of thumping my first morning and wondering who was playing drums at that hour," he said. "I found out later it was the women pounding rice to feed their families as they did every morning long before dawn."

There was no electricity, no running water and only a kerosene-powered refrigerator. Television was unheard of, so the Stottlemyer children grew up playing outside with their native friends and getting their education at the mission school.

Over the years, the Stottlemyers introduced the Bible to the natives, who are mostly Islam by faith.

"We taught them what we believe," Frank Stottlemyer said. "And we tried to show them that Christianity is a whole new way to live."

Nancy Stottlemyer was busy raising her four children but she found the time to share her medical training when natives got sick or injured.

"We ate mostly rice, potatoes, fish, chicken and beef, plus a lot of vegetables," she said.

Supported by their home church and other congregations in Maryland and Pennsylvania, the Stottlemyers said their needs were adequately met.

Now that they are home again, they plan to continue their mission work by helping other returning missionaries get reacquainted with life in the United States.

They also plan to speak at churches and show slides illustrating their years in Senegal, Frank Stottlemyer said.

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