Perhaps the hardest part of being a missionary is having to say goodbye. On Tuesday night we made the trip out to Lima's airport to say goodbye to our friends and co-workers Bob and Betty Whatley. The Whatley Family has served in Peru for nearly fifty years. Over the years they have had a tremendous impact on Peru, especially the mountain regions in central Peru. The Whatleys' main work in Peru has been church planting, but they also helped start several radio stations and two seminaries. Bob also helped develop the successful ARRIBA program. This is a one-year internship giving college students an all-out missionary experience in Peru. Bob and Betty helped train dozens of college students, many of whom have returned to Peru as missionaries. In recent years Bob and Betty have begin work on a Creation museum composed of fossils discovered in the mountains of Peru.
Perhaps my fondest memory of Bob came our second year in Peru. We had gathered with our other Baptist Mid-Missions coworkers at camp for our annual field conference. This annual meeting is where we make plans and set goals for the coming year. Usually we are in intense "business meetings" for many hours over a five day period. After the second day I saw Bob loading their car with their belongings. I approached him and asked where they were headed, "Oh I'm an old man now son. I don't really have time to sit around in these boring meetings. I have to much to do! We're heading out of here in a few minutes you all let me know how you vote on any upcoming issues...." A few minutes later there car sped out of the campground and headed back to the mountains where their work would continue. Who was going to tell Bob they couldn't leave? In the end he probably did get more accomplished that week then the rest of us did!
Tuesday evening was indeed a bittersweet moment for us all. We were happy to see Bob and Betty heading home to spend some well deserved rest with family and friends. They were glad to go home. Yet, in the end, I know their hearts will always be in Peru. They've left a true heritage of godliness here in Peru. They impacted countless lives for Christ. May we all be so faithful when we finish fifty years of service for our Lord.