"Still, I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales. We're in one, of course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out loud of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards. And people will say: 'Let's hear about Frodo and the Ring' and they'll say 'Oh yes, that's one of my favorite stories." — J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the RIngs
Let's hear about Carl Moyer and his adventures.
When Carl set off from the safe world of Sel-Perk High, no sage in all the world could have prophesied where his adventuring spirit would take him. Most graduates stayed close to the village of Perkasie, as the world continued to heal from World War II, and new conflicts developed in Europe, Africa, and Asia. But Carl strode across North America to Texas, then the Prairies of Alberta, and on to Nebraska and Missouri, where he learned a practical trade for his missionary future: he became a printer. This was probably not the first of a wide collection of useful tools that Carl loaded into his pack, but it was soon joined by lessons in pulling teeth from a dentist friend, eye surgery techniques collected from a doctor, skills in delivering difficult babies and packing them, sometimes three at a time, in the side-car of an old motorcycle to transport to the hospital a few hours away. Carl could fix a car with dental floss and duct tape, slide a plane onto rutted bush landing strips, and of course, build, plumb, wire, photograph, repair or re-invent any equipment needed in East Africa. I recall a Land-Rover trying to scale a steep escarpment when the front-wheel drive went out. He made use of his human cargo, Patty and me, as hood ornaments, and our combined weight on the front axle coaxed the car up the hill.
Carl succeeded in printing Words of truth in many languages, but he could spin stories by the fire and generate laughter from even the most solemn of visitors. His grin must have charmed Joanne when he first told her of his capture and rescue from Congolese rebels in the early 60's. They met in a language training school, and I heard the story of their romance, both versions, around the dining table at Tatanda mission station, in the golden lantern light after the generator was extinguished for the night. His slant on the story brought shrieks of "Carlo!" from Joanne, but the laughter and affection between them never seemed to grow old. At twenty, observing their marriage as I stayed in their home for months at a time, I resolved not to marry until I found a partnership like theirs. Carl and Joanne make it easy to believe that God fashions one man for one particular woman, and brings them together to create families that just have to be. And, with all the sad and broken relationships in this world, they make it easy to believe in marriage as high adventure, and not the end of the story, but only the beginning.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, every few years the Moyers appeared with snake skins and exotic carvings and stories that I wished would never end. I was only about ten when I decided I wanted the most exciting life possible, and work that brought unexpected wonders and challenges at every turn, so I resolved to be a missionary. Even if the guidance counselor raised an eyebrow at my plans, how could I settle for less? Carl was involved in the ceremony when I married Darrell, whom he soon initiated into African life on a short trip to Tanzania. When we named our first son Matthew Karl, it was in honor of two fathers: my own, Karl Thomson, who we lost when I was just thirteen, and Carl Moyer, who filled in as a spiritual model in so many ways. Our daughter was born two years later, and she is Joanna. We are delighted that some of the magic of Carl and Joanne has become their legacy, too, as they find their own ways to love Africa and the world with their talents and willingness to be a citizen of heaven anywhere on earth.
I am sure that I am only one of hundreds of people all over the world, who feel a pang of loss and disbelief at the thought of Carl, not among us. If I look at the places I have gone and the things I have done in my life, most of what has made me who I am can trace back through branch, trunk and root to seeds that were planted by Carl and Joanne. I hope that one of the joys of heaven, that makes Carl shout with laughter and joy, is a full understanding of how many of our stories were shaped by his. And may we all be given the chance to pass along those tales of courage and heroism by our home fires, to warm and light the planet.