FRIEND WITH DIFFERENCES
When I first saw Yvonne, I was struck by her quiet dignity. In the 1980s we moved across town to Irmo and she was one of the missionaries supported by our church. Each fall missionaries who either lived in the States or were on furlough from overseas would come for our Missions Conference. Yvonne was with Campus Crusade and usually focused on meeting and encouraging African American or international women students.
I loved getting to know her as a friend, and learning more about her life experiences. She was one of thirteen children—and her father and some of the brothers had moved to Alaska for work. Her mother and the other siblings spent quite a bit of time in Alaska and also maintained a home near Columbia. The family had enjoyed many adventures in Alaska! Yvonne loved her family deeply—and was devoted to her young nieces and nephews.
Yvonne often came to our home for dinner, and liked talking with Heather and Patrick about their experiences at school. In our conversations, she made clear to me the challenges she faced as a black woman. It was the first time I’d heard personal stories of this type of painful discrimination. It seemed so unfair that many people saw the color of her skin as reason enough to view her as “other” and “less than.”
For several years she was based in the Washington, D.C. area. She rented a house with several other Campus Crusade staffers and found the culture of the nation’s capital very interesting. She became more of an activist and engaged with national political issues. Once I was visiting a friend in Northern Virginia and went into the city to spend an afternoon with Yvonne. It was great to see her so enthusiastic and involved.
Eventually she felt pulled back to South Carolina because her family needed her. She was offered a faculty position at a local Bible college and moved back home. Although she was a very conscientious and capable teacher, this experience became another example of the biases and discrimination she had always faced. She spent many hours in my living room trying to comprehend what was happening and why. I just couldn’t believe this intelligent, poised and gentle friend had to suffer so unfairly. Eventually she was forced out of her college post.
One thing I’m sure of—Yvonne didn’t give way to bitterness. Her heart was broken but still full of love for others. She moved on with her life of service—teaching in local public high schools and caring for her loving family.