TEN MORE YEARS, LORD!!
January 5, 2009
DENVER AND THE WEST
Adventures in hope for one missionary woman
She has spent decades helping those around the world who need it most. And, at 85, she says she's not close to finishing her work.
By Karen Auge
The Denver Post
Updated: 01/05/2009 06:33:52 AM MST
Katherine Locke says that when she turned 80 five years ago, "my special prayer request was that he (God) would give me another 10 years to serve him in foreign lands." She loves the photo below of her with Marines in Iraq in 1992. (Karl Gehring, The Denver Post )
Katherine Locke isn't much for storing up treasures on earth. But there is one material possession she cherishes and can't resist showing off. It's a photo of her in Iraqi Kurdistan, wearing an Army-issue camouflage hat, sitting in a dirt-brown Jeep surrounded by four smiling GIs — and hoisting an M-16 that couldn't weigh a whole lot less than she does.
"They proclaimed me officially one of them," she said. Even now, the episode makes her grin.
That was back in 1992 when Locke was a mere 69. She spent eight years in Iraq, nursing Kurdish refugees who had been favorite targets for Saddam Hussein's butchery. Now that she's 85, Locke has had to slow down a bit and cut back on that sort of adventure.
Katherine Locke says this is one of her favorite souvenir photos. It was made in April 1991 on the Iraqi-Turkish border where she was working with the Kurds in northern Iraq. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Locke)
That's why, when she went to Iraq last month, she stayed only 10 days.
From her home base, a tiny Denver apartment, Locke plans her travels — a blue suitcase, already packed for this month's jaunt to Cambodia, stands in a corner — and writes a monthly newsletter that keeps supporters up to date.
It also reminds readers why she does it.
That reason is her faith, Locke says. Faith that has led her literally around the world and kept her looking ahead at an age when many might be content to reflect on the past. "After I met the Lord, I had hope," Locke said.
That hope is what she wants to share with the refugees, the orphans, the mistreated and abused across the world. Her faith propels her, but she takes with her more than spiritual conviction and good intentions. She's a trained nurse.
"When I was 56, I went back to school and got my R.N.," she said.
And her work with a variety of missionary organizations is always accompanied by more than a dash of practical assistance, in the form of medical care, buildings that don't leak, water that is drinkable.
She has been to 55 countries, most of them more likely to make their way onto the State Department's don't-go-there list than onto glossy travel brochures.
She recalls walking through an orphanage literally built of straw, atop a swamp, and seeing the water through what passed for the floor. "We built them a new one," with real floors, she said.
Starting out all alone.
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