Hope Presses Through Hardships

by Sally Matheny
Hope Presses Through Hardships
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your circumstances? Sometimes things happen beyond our control. When we have no power, we still have hope. Hope helps us press through the hardships.

Betty Patzke's story exemplifies this. 

When Betty Patzke’s brother, Jack, enlisted in the Army Air Forces in November 1942, her hope of seeing him again remained strong.

The first of many heartbreaking ordeals for the Patzke family occurred on April 8, 1945; the day German soldiers killed Jack. The end of WWII was only five months away.

One month later, Betty lost two more siblings to the war. Her brother Dick, age 13, and her sister Joan, age 11, died from the explosion of a Japanese balloon bomb. The bomb was the only attack on American soil causing death.

Betty’s pastor, Archie Mitchell and his pregnant wife had taken the Pantzke children and three other teens in their Sunday school class to the beautiful Gearhart Mountain of Oregon for a picnic. Arriving at Leonard Creek, Rev. Mitchell let everyone out while he parked the car. In a matter of seconds, lives changed forever when an explosion pierced the air.

Almost 10,000 balloon bombs were launched from Japan on November 3, 1944. The Japanese military designed the bombs to travel the Pacific Ocean via the jet stream. They hoped the bombs would wreck havoc on American soil. Only 400 of the balloon bombs, called fugos, reached North America. 

The one landing on Gearhart Mountain brought death to 26 year old, Elsie Mitchell and her unborn child, as well as all five Sunday school students ranging from age eleven to thirteen.

Reeling from losing three siblings in one month, how would Betty Patzke press through such devastation? 

God Sends Comfort

God often sends comfort through people with similar experiences.
In 1947, God brought Betty and her pastor, Archie Mitchell, together in holy matrimony. The couple went to South Vietnam to serve as Christian missionaries. Over time, they were blessed with four children.

During their first years as missionaries, hardships mingled among the joys of serving in a foreign land. But nothing compared to the tribulations that lied ahead.

Prisoners of Hope

While serving at a facility for lepers in 1962, Archie and two staff members were taken as prisoners by the Viet Cong. Betty was allowed to stay and raise their four children while ministering to the lepers. Occasionally, she was allowed to correspond with her husband through letters. In 1969, his letters stopped coming.

The U.S. military tried to rescue the captives twice, but the Viet Cong kept moving the prisoners and freedom never came.

What is the key to strength, and hope?
Later, Archie was presumed dead when his name did not appear on any prisoner lists. Betty never gave up hope of her husband’s return and continued on as a missionary in Vietnam. Referring to Paul in the Bible, she said they were prisoners of hope.

Betty would soon learn a deeper meaning of that when the Viet Cong took her hostage in 1975. Interrogations left her in tears but she refused to sign statements denying God and against the U.S. government.

Amazingly, Betty’s captors did not take any of her belongings, including her large, red leather Bible. Imagine the blessing of having a constant reminder of her greatest source of comfort, strength, and hope.

Freedom, Yet Still a Servant

After six months, Betty was released. Still having a heart to share the gospel, and with hope of her husband’s return, she forged on as a missionary in Malaysia until retiring in 1987 to North Carolina.

I’m not sure you can call it “retirement” because Betty continued to do various kinds of missionary work in N.C. with the Vietnamese who had resettled there.
One day while teaching a Bible class in N.C., she met a young man whom she had taught Bible to during her time in Vietnam. The young South Vietnamese man’s family had assisted the U.S. in Vietnam as scouts. This young man, Keo Eban, had fought with Resistance fighters against the Viet Cong. Eventually, Keo was granted asylum in the states.

What a glad reunion it was for Betty to teach Keo once again. He shared with her that her Bible teaching had laid the foundation for his later acceptance of Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

God Brings Joy Full Circle

Long story short, Keo later became Betty’s son-in-law! He married her youngest daughter, Keri, and they now serve the Montagnard people in N.C.  The Montagnards are an ethnic group, originating in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, who fought against the Viet Cong and the Communist government.

Another son-in-law of Betty Mitchell’s is Dr. David Thompson. His parents also served as missionaries in Vietnam. The Viet Cong killed his parents while David was in medical school in the states. Betty’s daughter, Becky became a nurse and married David. They now serve as medical missionaries in Africa.

And Betty? She kept squeezing hope out of life’s challenges. How did she do it? Just like she always did, by trusting in her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. She's always known beyond the shadow of a doubt, that she would see her husband again. If not on this earth, then for sure in heaven.

 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” Colossians 1:22-23

Share the hope of Jesus
What about you? Do you have the hope of Jesus to help you through life’s hardships? 
Are you sharing the joy of that hope with others?
Press on, friend. Press on.

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