ONE LITTLE ALUTIIQ GIRL
Andrea Kompkoff was her name. I remember seeing her in the foyer at the old Bethel Temple with several other new students. She had graduated from Cordova High School and been given a scholarship to study nursing at Seattle University. She graduated and became a nurse at Doctors’ Hospital on what was referred to as Pill Hill in Seattle. When someone told me she was a nurse, I piped up and told her I was a diabetic. Dumb and so immature, now that I think of it, but then again, it’s always a good thing to let people know of one’s disability. They might very well step in and help someday when it’s really needed.
Man, Bible school was fun! Among our teachers were pastors and former missionaries to Indonesia. Our Dean was a World War II veteran who fought in the Pacific Theater on Iwo Jima. Their real-life stories added to each class. They would stand and begin opening the scriptures to us with an excitement that only the Holy Spirit could give. We would laugh, cry, pray, be silent and even sing during classes. Chapel services were only 15 or 20 minutes long, but they were always packed with power. Our teachers were markedly different from university professors. They gave us the test questions and answers before the exams, but nevertheless we studied for them anyway. Andrea and I would spend time together during coffee breaks with other students discussing and showing our excitement at what we were learning.
Never had a romantic thought about Andrea during the first year and a half of Bible school entered my mind. She was simply my closest friend with whom I shared my heart for the Word and the missionary calling that God had placed in my heart for Japan. Our relationship as friends began on a spiritual level centered on and around the Word of God. I believe this is how God would like every human relationship to begin: spirit first.
I continued working for the Tacoma News Tribune and attending Bible school. The summer after enrolling in Bible school, I decided to take my accumulated vacation time and make a one-month trip to Kyushu for a first-hand visit with veteran Bethel missionaries George and Mary Beth Frazier. During the school year, I was beginning to feel emotions rising in my soul for my best friend, Andrea. I was afraid I was making a choice outside of God’s leading, so one day I decided to tell her, “I’ll be away for the summer in Japan and will probably be so busy I won’t be able to keep in touch with you.” I thought this was a good way to put to an end any “emotional” feelings I may have been having for her.
I got to Japan, and yes, I became very busy. George spent everyday sharing the work in which they were involved. Evangelistic meetings, camps, Bible studies, pastors’ meetings, preaching, passing out tracts, building . . . the whole gamut of busyness. My heart was overwhelmed by it all. In 1975 there was no such thing as personal computers, e-mail, cell phones or instant messaging. Telephone calls were exorbitantly expensive and practically untouchable. I wanted so much to share all that George was showing me with someone . . . but I had told my best friend I wouldn’t be able to write her. Chuck that idea. Andrea was the first one to whom I wrote, because she knew and understood my heart. It made me feel good all over to have someone who knew and understood my heart.
During that month in Japan George pointed something out to me in regards to becoming a long-term missionary. I think it is still a very valid point today. He knew I was single and asked me, “Do you have a girl friend, or someone about whom you are serious?” I said, “No.” The senior missionary went on to advise me that if I was to come to Japan as a missionary, it would be best for me to be married. I asked why? George related that in Japan there are more single Christian women in the church than single men. If I was to come to Japan as a single missionary, single girls in the church could become very competitive with each other, perhaps even (so to speak) fight over me. It could cause great contention among the single young women in the church, some even giving up and leaving the church. He advised me that if I did not have a serious relationship with a girl, that I should by all means consider marrying soon upon arrival to the foreign field. George even offered to match me up with someone if I did not have someone in mind.
The summer vacation was over. It was September, 1975. I got back home, went back to work and enrolled in my second year of Bible school. In the next month, as I shared my summer experiences again with Andrea, I noticed something for the first time. She would be in my thoughts more than ever before. It was during this month that my emotional being became attached to Andrea. I remember traveling 40 miles (more than once) from Tacoma to Seattle to pick her up after work at Doctors’ Hospital and take her a two-block distance home. I remember asking God when I got out to go around the car and open the door for her, “God, may I hold her hand as I walk her to the door?” I can remember His very clear response: “No.” There was another time I asked God, “May I give her a little kiss on the cheek?” Again came the answer, “No.” I remember going home for three nights in a row, going to bed, looking up at the ceiling and talking to God:
First night: “Lord, she sure is nice. I sure like her.”
Second night: “Lord, I sure am fond of her.”
Third night: “Oh, Lord, I can’t keep this me any longer, ― I think I really love her!”
I was elated as my spirit being began using my emotions and confession to express the love that God Himself had placed in my heart for Andrea.
I planned my proposal of marriage to her. The story of Corrie Ten Boom had become a movie and I had planned on taking her one Saturday afternoon to see the Hiding Place. After the movie, I was going to take her to a candlelight dinner and propose across the table. The Hiding Place was a very famous movie and the long lines of waiting people in practically every theatre all over the Northwest prompted a notice in newspaper ads to “arrive early for best seating.” We got to the Lewis & Clark Theatre on Old Highway 99, over an hour before the movie started, but there was no line, at all. It was raining. We couldn’t get out and take a walk. I couldn’t just sit there in the car for an hour, so I decided to propose right there. I asked her if she would marry me please come to Japan as my wife. Andrea was ecstatic! She almost hit the ceiling of the car with a big “Yes!” It was at that moment that I kissed Andrea for the very first time! After a nice, romantic dinner, Andrea wanted to go to the Young People’s Meeting at Bethel Temple that Saturday night, so we headed downtown, parked the car and holding hands, walked into the foyer. People in the sanctuary heard the door open and close and turned around to see something they had never seen before . . . Nils and Andrea holding hands with faces beaming so brightly they shined!
We had thought of a June wedding, after the Bible school semester was over, but someone said, “Why wait so long?” So, we moved the date up three months and were married on Andrea’s Dad’s 50th birthday, March 20, 1976. As she entered the church sanctuary with her father, I sang to her,
We enrolled for our third and final year of Bible school and were asked in the latter part of 1976 to go and pastor the Bethel Tabernacle in Carnation, Washington. We told the people that we would only promise them one year, because the Lord was preparing us for missionary work in Japan. Our daughter, Lisa, was born about two weeks after we both graduated from Bethel Temple Bible School in May, 1977, and we three left for the mission field in January 1978.
Andrea and I have now been on the mission field in Japan for 38 years. It seems as though it were only yesterday. Time goes by so quickly, but memories remain, revitalize and reinvigorate the spirit and soul.