Most of you know me from one stage of life or another, but there are lots of things in my life that seem conflicting. This will give you context!
I was born in Doylestown, PA, on November 30, 1960. My mom was Argentine and was 22 years old (she turned 22 two days before I was born). My dad was American, and we lived in the home where he grew up, in Newtown. My mom grew up in a non religious family in Argentina. Her dad was a doctor, and her mom owned a school. She had never done any housework because she had always had maids in Argentina. That was just normal for people in her sphere of society. My dad was born to a family with a lot of history in Newtown. One of his ancestors had helped George Washington cross the Delaware! Anyway, he was 22 years older than my mom, and had grown up during the Depression. That really affected his future – instead of going to college, he went to sea and grew up as a sailor. That’s how he met my mom, as an officer of a ship that visited Argentina. Mom’s big brother took him home to visit, and that’s how things got started.
When I was 8, Mom had just had enough of some of the challenges she faced here in the US, and moved back to Buenos Aires (Bs. As.), with all 3 of us kids. She was frustrated dealing with my dad’s alcoholism, which was understandable considering the circumstances of his transition from college plans to work plans! Many sailors have that problem. Anyway, she figured we shouldn’t grow up with alcohol in the house, and if she was going to set up her own home, it would be where she felt like it was home. To ease the transition she took me to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Olivos, Bs. As., because it was a bilingual church of the same denomination as the church my father’s family had founded in Newtown. I liked it, but didn’t go back after the end of 3rd grade. At the end of the school year they always gave the 3rd graders a Bible, and that was the only Bible there was in my home in Buenos Aires. I read it and prayed the Lord’s Prayer when I needed comfort at times.
In Argentina, I went to school at my Grandma’s school, the William Hudson school. It was great! There were only 8-12 of us in a class, and we had English subjects all morning (8-12) and the standard Spanish curriculum in the afternoon (1-5). I took piano lessons after school or during lunch break, and enjoyed making some friends. In 8th grade the schedule changed because high school had Spanish all day from 8-2, and just an hour a day for English. Then we did homework.
I also enjoyed being part of a sailing club, Club Nautico San Isidro. I started to sail when I was 8, and looked forward to my 14th and 18th birthdays because I would then qualify to sail on bigger boats. I had some good friends to sail with, and spent all my spare time on the river. It was my release from the stress of the big city. I remember we would go to Córdoba every summer, where my grandmother had a summer house. I loved staying there for the whole two months of January and February! It was really hard to go back to the city, to Buenos Aires, after spending two months there! I dreamed of moving there when I grew up and starting an English school or a book store.
When I was a senior in high school I realized that I needed to return to God, and went back to the church where I got the Bible in the first place. There I started to meet with a Bible Study group and developed an understanding of Christianity and prayer that were totally new to me. I have followed Jesus ever since, attending different types of churches along the way.
When I finished high school I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I loved biology, and I wanted to help people, so I figured I’d be a doctor like my grandfather had been. My family thought I was crazy because of the time commitment involved in the work of a doctor, but I forged ahead anyway and got into medical school straight from high school, at the University of Buenos Aires.
After a couple of years of college I realized that my family was right – medicine wasn’t for me. I dropped it and went to school to be a teacher of English and Spanish. I wanted to do literacy work with the people who lived in some very poor areas in the outskirts of Bs. As., and wanted to make a living teaching English. The summer I made that transition I also volunteered to help on the MV Doulos, an OM (Operation Mobilisation) ship that was visiting Bs. As., for a few weeks. It was wonderful to work alongside people from so many countries! A whole new world was opened up to my imagination.
I graduated as a teacher of English and Spanish, but found that working as a teacher had problems: I had trouble with the heat in Buenos Aires and would have low blood pressure episodes when I was supposed to be teaching, and I also lost my voice for weeks at a time. So, I started to work as a secretary for a group called Evangelism Explosion. I found that secretarial work was more interesting than I had expected, so I went to secretarial school in the evenings and worked in the daytime. At the same time, my grandmother was needing care 24 hours a day, and I was the substitute night nurse. Life was extremely stressful during that time, and I lost my job because of that.
I got another job as a secretary for a business, and did very well there. I liked the work, but some friends invited me to a missionary challenge retreat by Operation Mobilization. Frank Dietz was there, and he challenged me to consider joining one of the mission ships, the Logos, because it was going to be going around South America. I figured this was a ship where missionaries were getting training and I had no intention of being a missionary, but I could help the rest in their training by being an interpreter. I signed on for 2 years, and had some of the most intense growing in my life during the year and three months that followed.
During that year and a quarter we went all the way through the Caribbean, along the Pacific Coast of South America, and were trying to get to the Atlantic. We had a fabulous time seeing God at work in loads of ways in each of the ports we visited. Then we shipwrecked at Cape Horn – just before the captain was going to teach me how to use the sextant! That was hard, and we went back to Bs. As., my home town, for debriefing.
In Buenos Aires, I remember it took me a while to crash! First we spent a few weeks at a Christian college campus debriefing. There I helped everyone with airplane tickets, foreign exchange, etc., since I was the only one in the group who had the connections for doing that. I had done that job on the ship anyway, so it was a natural fit. Then I went home, when everyone from the ship flew off to their next destinations, and it took me a while to eat a normal meal. I remember my family saying “Is that all you’re going to eat?” for quite a while.
My next step was to work in the OM office in Bs. As., just to not make any big changes in the middle of a crisis. While I was there, a telex came in asking if I’d be willing to come to the US to work on the replacement project. They needed a secretary who had been on the shipwreck who was an American citizen. That meant me! I had worked for David Greenlee, the boss who needed me, on the ship, and was friends with his family. However, my first reaction was to be absolutely quiet about it when Daniel Bianchi, the OM boss came into the office that day. It was an interesting thing when the topic came up.
Daniel: Did you see this telex, Helen?
Me: Of course.
Daniel: What? Do you mean you read the telexes?
Me: Of course! It’s a secretary’s job to check the mail and see who it’s for and what it’s about.
Daniel: Well, it’s about you…
Me: I knew that. …
Anyway, Daniel wasn’t the least bit happy about losing me, but I wasn’t planning on continuing with the OM office in Bs. As. beyond March anyway. I had to make a living, and didn’t feel that the OM office was a good fit for me.
However, I remember going for a walk that day, at lunch, and being furious that God was trying to uproot me again. I was frustrated, because I’d just gone through a shipwreck, and really wanted to stay home and relax. My mom wasn’t happy either. However, after about a month I felt that it was the right thing to do and flew out to Atlanta to work on the replacement project.
I spent another year and a half at Atlanta, working on the replacement of the Logos and the launch of the Logos II and Love Europe. After that, I left OM to work with the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association (LPEA). That was another unusual connection.
When the Logos had visited Bonaire, in the Caribbean, I had met Angel Bongiorno. He was an Argentine who was in charge of the radio ministry of Trans World Radio for Latin America. He had asked me if I’d be willing to be his secretary when I left the Logos. I said I’d only been on the ship for a few months, and he’d just have to keep in touch and ask me that in a couple of years. Then I ran into him in Los Angeles. We were both at a convention for Latin American Christian leaders. I was running an OM booth for the replacement of the ship with Elba, and Angel was at the TWR booth. He interviewed me for TWR and put the interview on the air.
A couple of months later, Angel left TWR and went to the LPEA. He called and interviewed me for the first anniversary of the shipwreck for the Luis Palau news program. Then he mentioned that they were looking for a Spanish bilingual secretary for the LP office. I blew it off as a joke, and ended the conversation. A couple of days later, he called and put Jim Williams on the phone. Jim was the VP for Latin American ministries for the LP office. That morning I had made a rough draft of my resume, and I sent it to them listing all the reasons why I wouldn’t be totally qualified for the position. Anyway, they flew me out for an interview, and I got the job. I was shocked and excited!
So, in September of 1989 I started to work as a secretary for the LP office in Beaverton, Oregon. It was very exciting to be in something like that. I loved my job and expected to be there pretty much forever. I remember at the interview they had asked “You’re not going to move all the way out here and get married, are you?” My response had been “Hey, I spent the last 3 years in an organization that has a very high percentage of singles. I’m obviously not a flirt or a husband chaser, so I don’t expect that to change.”
However, around Christmas and New Year I felt alone. It was the first time in my life I had been without friends or family for those celebrations. I missed them. I celebrated Christmas with my roommate’s family, but for New Year’s I was totally on my own. I remember praying “Lord, I need to have a family. I am tired of all my friends changing with their own moving on to different things every couple of years. I need someone who will stick with me for life.” Anyway, I called Jim and Gail (my boss and his wife) and said I’d like to celebrate New Year’s with them instead of sulking in my room by myself. They invited me to their care group’s celebration. David Eby was there, and we met. He was recently widowed, and was the only other single adult there. I enjoyed his company, but avoided it. I had heard that he was wanting to remarry, and didn’t want to “market” myself.
A couple of days later, David called and asked me to go out with him. I sent him packing. We saw each other in church and at Bible study for a while, and then he invited me to go to a concert with him. I was starting to trust him, since Jim and Gail thought highly of him and he seemed nice, and went. It also helped that I hadn’t been to a classical concert for about 3 years, and that had been a huge part of my life before I started off with OM. Anyway, on July 28 of the same year (1990) we got married! He had a 6 year old daughter, Elizabeth, who I developed a deep love for.
A few years later Daniel (1992) and Cynthia (1993) were born. At that point I really had to drop working for the Palau office. I had been working part time since our wedding, but I could no longer be much help with two kids who kept me busy.
In 1997 we moved to the Boston area. David’s company, Tektronix, had purchased a startup in the Boston area and transferred his product to them. David offered to go there to help support the continuation of the product. He really liked the people he worked with and things were great for a while.
I didn’t like the Boston area as well as Portland. It was pretty much the difference between Buenos Aires (Boston) and Cordoba (Beaverton, Oregon). However, we made our home there and got involved in church, school, etc. David played the organ and piano at church, I led a ladies’ Bible study and helped at the kids’ school, etc. David was in a wonderful amateur choir, and I taught Spanish at Gordon College at the introductory levels. Daniel and Cynthia loved their school (Covenant School).
David’s job became unstable in the Boston area, because Tek sold David’s branch of the company to another company. The new owners were totally different in their management style, and David was uncomfortable with that. We also started to realize that Boston would never be home, and Oregon always felt like home. So, he started to check with the folks at Tek in Beaverton to find a position for him back in Oregon.
Right about then, I started to homeschool Daniel and Cynthia. Homeschooling made it easier to be ready for moving whenever Tek was ready for us to move. That year David’s mom, Hazel, developed some precancerous cysts in her pancreas. We flew out to Oregon to spend some time with her, and the kids and I ended up staying for two months until she had been transferred to a skilled care nursing facility after her Whipple surgery, which was successful. Over the next year I travelled back and forth so I could help her with all the transitions that followed, moving into her Assisted Living apartment, putting the house up for sale, cleaning out the house, etc. David went on some of the trips with me, but I travelled alone for quite a few of them. It was good to be able to help her through that.
In 2006 we finally moved back. David started to work at Tek on Cynthia’s 13th birthday, October 2. It was good to be done with the wait! Daniel and Cynthia started orchestra and AWANA here in Oregon, and started to make good friends. We found a church (Lake Grove Presbyterian) that was a great place to serve and be encouraged.
Then Daniel went to college at Grove City College, and graduated as an electrical engineer. He took cello and organ lessons and was in the orchestra all the way through, and almost did a double major (music and engineering). That was too much. Now he is an engineer, is the organmaster at his church, and is playing his cello as well, in places that fit him! Best of all, he is a young man who does his work with integrity and excellence, and encourages others with cheerfulness. He uses his music to serve others and to keep cheerful wherever he is. He is currently engaged, and plans to marry Brenda Barry in August of 2017.
Cynthia graduated from homeschool and went on to Seattle Pacific University. She’s been fun to watch! She started out as a Chemistry major, and switched on to Linguistics, with a Spanish minor. After spending some time working with me, she married Nathanael Sleight in December of 2016 and now lives in Seattle.
Hazel, David’s mom, is having some health problems as she ages, and we are overseeing her care at the Mennonite Home in Albany, a 65 mile drive from our home. We are privileged to be able to serve her this way. We visit her twice a week.
I am also trying to stay connected with my family through all means possible: trips, email, whatsapp… you name it! It’s exciting to have the technology to be able to do that!
A friend used to say that every year she had a new family. It’s true, and exciting! As our children grow, we adjust to their new levels of maturity and it is a different family in some ways. The Eby family is fun to be around!