As we stood on the balcony at the PIME Regional House in Manaus, Brazil, my companions and I received the sad news. One of our missionaries, Fr. Steve Baumbusch, had died in the Philippines – drowned while swimming off the coast of Lubang Island.
We were stunned with the news. I had only known him briefly, but one of my group, a long time PIME employee, knew him from the time Fr. Steve was a young seminarian. It would have been difficult news to hear at any time, but here we were, far from home, suffering in the Amazon heat. It was not the way we expected to begin our adventure in the missions.
But our trip had been “eventful” from the start. We met with plane delays and lost luggage. Daily we faced the challenges of mission life – and we were not missionaries, just “regular” people who loved the missions. It was hot. It was very hot. We traveled dangerous roads and we tried to understand cultures and each other and how to say “thank you” in Portugese.
Of course we also reveled in the beauty of the majestic Amazon river, fell in love with the children, and grew to appreciate anew all the blessings in our individual lives.
We got just a tiny taste of the kind of life Fr. Steve had lived for years. He was a missionary; a man who loved God and his people. He lived faithfully and joyfully, preaching the Gospel with his very life. He had adopted a saying of the Filipino people, making it a motto of sorts: “God is good, all the time!” He faced challenges with that attitude of acceptance and trust in God.
I know Fr. Steve would have loved to have heard about our experiences in Brazil, and to encourage us to focus on the many blessings we received. Instead it is we who are left to tell his story. It is a wonderful story, humbling and inspiring. Because of his commitment, he has left a legacy for all of us who love PIME and the missions. I pray we will be able do something good with that, in honor of men like Fr. Steve who set such a profound example.