An Inspiration to Me Still WWU Employees Share Stories From Their Lives

At the end of every summer, the staff and faculty of Walla Walla University (WWU) get together to prepare for another school year.

At this year's retreat at Camp MiVoden near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, several WWU employees shared stories from their past that have made a difference in their lives.

Two of these storytellers were Annette Melgosa, assistant librarian, and Zdravko Stefanovic, professor of Biblical studies.

Annette Melgosa served for nine years at Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, (AIIAS) a school of graduate studies in the Philippines offering degrees in religion, education, health and business. Church leaders come to the institute from around the world to receive training from professors from around the world.

"At AIIAS, diversity is celebrated," says Melgosa. "Students and professors learn and share together their vision of service."

One day in class, Melgosa asked her students to contextualize the media they were learning to use. Students came from a wide range of cultures and socio-economic levels. Each had a story to share.

One student from a remote village with no electricity could not see how technology fit into that reality. Another suggested a technique used by missionaries elsewhere to produce hydro-electricity from a village stream. Still another suggested soliciting donations for a small generator. And one student challenged the first to identify local resources that could be used to enhance teaching.

"What a humbling experience it is to be allowed in some small way to touch students and thereby touch the vast reaches of God's work," Melgosa reflects. "Even out to the most remote village."

Zdravko Stefanovic and his wife, Bozana, arrived in the Philippines in April 1987. Both had accepted jobs working at the institute.

"Contrary to widespread notions, the Philippines is not a poor country," explains Stefanovic. "It is rich in natural resources and has many people who, when given a chance, are willing to work hard." As an example, he presents Lamberto, the school's enthusiastic unofficial gardener.

His appearance caught most people's attention. Both legs below the knees and the tips of his fingers had been amputated. The only way Lamberto could move was to take the sitting position, press his hands to the ground, and lift his body and push it forward.

Lamberto kept a positive attitude in spite of his situation, saying, "I am crippled, but I am not a beggar. I will work for my food."

Lamberto's daily work began early and ended in the full heat of a tropical day. The only favors he ever asked were a chance to work in the Stefanovics' garden and plastic bags to sit on while working during the very long, wet rainy season.

A few years ago, Lamberto was hit by a vehicle whose driver had lost control. He died of his injuries.

"Lamberto lives no longer, except in our hearts and memories," says Stefanovic, "yet his words still ring in my ears: ‘I am crippled, but I am not a beggar. Give me a chance and I will work for my food.' Lamberto is an inspiration to me still."

November 01, 2007 / Walla Walla University
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Becky St. Clair, WWU GLEANER correspondent