One of our colleagues in Niger, Helene Zoolkoski, went to be with Jesus Sunday morning, about 3:15 a.m. Niger time.
Our SIM director in Niger wrote:
"Helene Zoolkoski went to be with her Savior this morning at 3:15 am. She passed away at their home in Galmi. Helene had been diagnosed with metastatic melanoma over 16 months ago. Upon receiving this news it was Helene and Chris's desire to return to Galmi and continue to work as long as they could, knowing that Helene may live out the rest of her days here in the country where they had invested so much of their lives already.
"Last Wednesday Chris and Helene quietly celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary. Though very weak Helene's thoughts were clear and she still had her pretty smile.
"One of Helene's favorite hymns is 'O Sacred Head, Now Wounded'. The last verse reads:
What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever; and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.
"When Mikki and I had the privilege of seeing Helene last week, she repeated several times, 'God is good...all the time!' Despite her suffering, her love for the Lord Jesus remained strong and unshakable until the end." (Steve Schmidt)
John and Suzanne were on their way back to Niger when Helene was ushered into her Saviour's presence so they did not hear the news until they landed in Niger early Monday morning. Many, many missionaries from Niamey drove the 6-7 hour trip east to Galmi and John and Suzanne were able to join the convoy to Galmi. John said the funeral was beautifully simple and glorifying to God. I don't have any other details at this time. You can also look at my friend Cindy's blog for more details: http://www.xanga.com/malamacindy; Rachel's blog: http://lifeinniger.blogspot.com; or Steven's blog: http://inotice.blogspot.com.
Helene and I were kids together at boarding school back in the 60's, though I don't remember her very well from those days. Before Helene and Chris were married, and before John and I had kids, she and I taught together at Sahel Academy...it was the 2nd year of the school which is now 20 years old. I always appreciated Helene's honesty, her professionalism, and her no-nonsense approach to life. Even though we seldom got to see each other due to the distance between our stations, we always enjoyed chatting when we were together. She often helped me gain a fresh perspective on things I was struggling with. (This picture of Helene is from one of their prayer letters.)
Please pray for her husband Chris and their three children, Elisheva, Zeb, and Joel. Helene's mom has been with them since about the end of January.