50 Years

Fifty years ago today, the course of our family history stepped onto a new and exciting path. Really, the journey toward this future began some time before June 10, 1962, but it is today that we remember and commemorate my grandfather, grandmother and the legacy that they left behind. Today is the anniversary of the church they started so many years ago.

It was scary. It was hard. It was beautiful and ugly and delicious all rolled together.


Lee and I have thought a lot about the legacy we want to leave to our children. Walking across the plains of Africa has shifted the course of that vision a bit, though, and once again we find ourselves reestablishing this idea of legacy. What are we doing now that will shape the futures of our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren?

We must not take lightly this responsibility we have to create a legacy for our kids. It’s daunting, really, to think that how we guide them doesn’t impact the short term. I don’t know if my grandparents realized the ultimate and forever impact they would have on future generations when they stepped onto the white sands of South Caicos in 1961 with their four young children. Did they know that fifty years later the Carribbean would still remember the family name?

Did they know that fifty years after that first dedication on June 10, 1962 there would be a service at Calvary Baptist Church to honor and remember their faithfulness and sacrifice?

Did they know that fifty years after leaving the United States their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would have traveled the world with the Gospel?

Did they understand the legacy they were creating by the faithful acting of leaving?

My grandfather did not get to see the long-term fruits of his labor. He died in 1973 at the age of 44. But his legacy did not end and it will not because his hands, his feet and his love continues to spread through the Carribbean and the world.

My grandfather wasn’t trying to be faithful to a future he would never see when he left with his family and established a lasting ministry in the Turks and Caicos islands and in the Bahamas. He was being faithful to the present he lived in and he took his family on the journey with him.

Is this how we create legacy? Is it as simple as being faithful to those things that stand before us – the messy, the beautiful, the ugly and the delicious? Is it living fully in the present that allows us to create a legacy for the future?

My grandparent’s journey wasn’t without trial or hardship and not every memory from those years is met with fondness and yearning. But the seed that was planted all those years ago continues to grow and I am so, so grateful and honored to be a part of that heritage – that legacy. I’m proud of my family and the legacy in which we all share.

Messy. Beautiful. Ugly and Delicious. It is our legacy and it continues to grow, not to our glory but to His.

All to His.


The steeple and bell at Calvary Baptist Church, South Caicos


So what about you? What kind of legacy do you hope to leave for your children and the generations that follow?

*Three years ago this month, I had the privilege of traveling to the Caicos islands with my mom to see and feel the legacy that was left for us first hand. Here are a couple of the posts from that trip:

Why I’m in Turks and Caicos 

Another Story from the Mission Field

I’m Coming Home Soon!

A Journey through the Sands of Time

Island Gallery

Sing it out with Nicole Nordeman’s Legacy…

Island Gallery

Our plane, which was scheduled to depart from Miami and 8:15 and land in St. Louis at 9:55 last night, did not leave until 11:40 and land until 1:15 am.  So I am tired today.  Really, really tired.  I can barely form a coherent thought, so I leave you with a few photos.  My pictures did not turn out quite like I hoped.  I am a little disppointed at how fuzzy many of them turned out.  I really need to take a photography course…

Here are a few of the images I managed to capture. I took about 150 pictures with my camera and equal that or more with my mom’s, so limiting this gallery to less than 25 shots was tough!  Click on the picture to see the enlarged image.

Another Story from the Mission Field

After the first year of living in South Caicos, my grandmother realized that my mom and her older brother needed a better education than she could provide. So she and my grandfather made the difficult decision to send their kids back to the States for boarding school.

But how to get them home was an issue. In the early ’60’s, Caicos was hardly a booming tourist hot spot. There were no major airports, and even if there had been, they had little money transport the children back and forth.

So my grandparents took a gigantic leap of faith. It’s something that I couldn’t fully appreciate until I became a mother myself.

On occasion, small planes would land on a small, beach landing strip in S. Caicos. When it came time for the kids to head back to school, they had to pack their suitcases and be ready at all times. If a small plane landed on the beach, Poppy Jim would race to meet the pilot and ask him where he was going, and if he had room for two young children. If the pilot said yes, my grandfather would zoom back to the house, blaring his horn, which was his signal for the kids to grab their bags and leave.

Crazy, huh?

One does not do that unless he has full faith in God to keep his children safe.  My mom was only 11/12 and her brother is two years older.  They were very small.

When the kids arrived in Miami, they would get word to their parents that they made it, then they left to live with grandparents for the school year.

The deal they had with their parents was that they could come home at Christmas and for summer break.  But, in 1962, it looked like the funds would not be there to bring the kids home.  On December 10, 1962, after realizing that the supply ship with the food was not going to arrive on time once again, my grandmother wrote:

I can see why many missionaries give up and go home.  The discouragements and disappointments that come all at one are more sometimes than we can take.  I thank the Lord for His sustaining Hand.  Hellp me, O Lord, to be more thankful and more patient!

Poppy Jim was in the States at this point, with Mimi under the impression that he was picking up a few supplies and going to see the kids.  He was scheduled to return on December 14, but, as was always possible in the Caribbean, there was a possibility that he would miss his flight or his flight would be cancelled.  And Mimi feared this disappointment dreadfully.  December 14, 1962 she wrote:

Breakfast is over and I’ve washed my hair and I’m trying to dry it so I’ll look nice to meet the plane.  I’m almost afriad to get out of the truck for fear he won’t be on the plane.  I wouldan’t want the villagers to see how disappointed I’d be!!  I may sit in the truck and then I could cry if I like.

What she didn’t know is that Poppy Jim had scraped together enough funds to bring her kids home as a surprise.  Here is what she wrote in the next entry:

He brought my kids home!  My baby brought my kids home!  My Dusty and my own Candy.  Thank you, Lord – Thank you for the best Christmas present ever.  My kids and food, too!  Food for all of us – we’ll have a party!

That last part always makes me cry…

Why I’m in Turks & Caicos

A few months ago, my mom asked me if I would like to accompany her on a trip to trace the unique heritage of our family.  Her offer was even more enticing when she said that she and dad had enough miles saved up to get our plane tickets for free. 

I’m a smart girl – I know a good deal when I see one.  And so, with the blessing of my husband, I jumped on the opportunity to go to Turks and Caicos islands in the Carribean where my grandparents were pioneer missionaries in the early 1960’s.

All I can say is thank God they weren’t pioneer missionaries to the Arctic because this trip would be far less appealing…

In October of 1961, my grandparents, Jim and Betty Cooper, packed up their four young children and moved to South Caicos.  It is a small, primitive, yet beautiful, island in the Turks and Caicos chain.

Immediately they established their ministry, building a church, conducting backyard Bible clubs and inviting the islanders into their home as a part of their family.

My grandfather also travelled to other islands within the Caribbean, establishing himself as a gifted preacher and teacher.  To this day, my grandfather is well known, loved and remembered in the islands.

When in the islands, Poppy Jim realized that his job would be much easier if he had a small airplane so he could get from island to island with a little more ease.  So, he prayed for a plane and God provided.  Once he owned the plane, he taught himself to fly it.  This man was nothing short of extraordinary.

And if he was extraordinary, then my grandmother was the saint by his side.  When people hear that they were missionaries in the Caribbean, the first response is often, “Wow – they really suffered for Jesus, huh?” usually said with the utmost sarcasm.  But this was no resort life.  They had no electricity, no running water and sometimes very little food. 

I have my grandmother’s diaries from those years and every other day she writes about someone being sick.  The years were not easy – life was difficult.  But they loved their work and so they persevered with their calling.

My grandmother found 1,000 different ways to prepare SPAM, she served alongside her husband, a man she calls my darling over and over in her pages.  I admire my grandmother, who went to be with Jesus ins 2004, very much. 

While in South Caicos, my mom and her family lived in this house.  I hope it’s still standing.  South Caicos got hit pretty hard in the hurricane a couple of years ago so I’m not sure if it will be in tact or not – but I do hope.  Incidentally, have you ever seen more beautiful water in all the world

There are so many stories to tell about my family’s Caicos years.  I will probably write them out a little bit at a time over the next few months.  For now, though, I leave you the words of my grandmother, written on Friday, May 1962 when they had run out of food and were waiting on the supply ship to bring new rations:

Oh-I’m hungry! We haven’t eaten since 11:00 am yesterday.  We had some instant coffee in our suitcase so we had coffee and then took off to the beach for a “sea bath.” And I mean a bath.  We went in the sea and we also brushed our teeth with the salt water.  Then we took up our watch for the little green Crusader (supplies would arrive on this)-she became most precious for she held our food.

Jim finally arrived about 10:00 am and it wasn’t before 12:30 before we got our food.

Finally we ate. Peas and rice, canned beef, bread and hot orange Crush. I never knew realized that hot drinks could taste so delicious. Ah- food. We were about sick with hunger.

Today I will be in Provo, snorkling and Snuba-ing (we will dive down about 20 feet).  Tomorrow starts the quest into my heritage.  I’ll tell you more later.