José Ortiz reflects upon seven decades of friendship with Bonny Driver.
I was finishing high school, in 1957, when I met Bonny and John Driver at their home, in La Cuchilla, Puerto Rico. I went to pick up a bunch of green bananas, since they had a good crop that year. It was my first visit to the home of a family from mainland United States. I felt welcomed. The missionary home and farm were located on the top of a range of mountains called La Cordillera Central (Central Mountain Range), located between the towns of Orocovis, to the north, and Coamo, to the south. When it rained, the water that came down the north slope flowed all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. The water that came down on the south side kept flowing toward the Caribbean Sea. On a clear day, you could see the sea forever from the mountain top. It seemed as if the earth and the sky were joining.
My wife, Iraida, also knew the Drivers' home, as Bonny, a nurse, assisted her when she needed injections. Mennonites were recognized as great caregivers. Local people said, "The medicines, the pills and the injections are the same, but their hands are different." Don Gelo Melendez, Iraida's grandfather also visited the Drivers' home frequently, to have coffee. Other times, the Drivers stopped in at Don Gelo's coffee farm to have coffee together with their families, in cordial fellowship.
I met the Drivers again in 1959, when I was a student at the Instituto Bíblico Menonita (Mennonite Bible Institute) in La Plata. John was the director. The Drivers were also serving a church in Guavate, a rural community near Cayey. The faculty of the Bible school were fully involved in ministry and so were the students.
Some weekends, there was no food service at the school. More than once, Bonny extended the family table and invited some of the students for a home-cooked meal. Hospitality was an important expression of her ministry.
At the end of the school year, several students were dealing with "and now what" questions. Luis Vargas, from the Betania congregation, and I were called to the director's office. John told us there was an opportunity to continue our education at Hesston College in Kansas. During the time it took to process our applications, Bonny and John moved to the San Juan metropolitan area to pastor a congregation there. One evening in late summer, Luis and I landed at the Driver home. We were scheduled to leave at midnight for New York — the first leg of the long trip to Kansas. The Drivers took this opportunity to counsel us about what to expect in the United States and in the new setting of college life.
When the Drivers' tenure as missionaries concluded, they secured an apartment at Greencroft in Goshen, Indiana. Bonny responded to the call for volunteers to assist with health care patients. She renewed her nursing credentials and cared for the seniors for more than 25 years. Finally, her own health issues caught up with her, and she passed away after a brief illness.
Bonny's departure from our midst, reminds me of her time in La Cuchilla and the beautiful tropical setting that surrounded her home. A heavenly feeling comes over me as I recall the southern view toward the Caribbean Sea in the early evenings from the Drivers' porch. In the distance, the blue sky blends with the blue waters of the ocean to become one entity. When brothers and sisters from our family of faith die, it is like a fusion of their lives on earth and the new spiritual entity in the new heavens and the new earth, as anticipated in the New Testament. In Spanish, we say, mas alla del sol (beyond the sun). Those who have gone ahead of us will now live according to the eternal plan of our Creator, something promised but not totally defined. That is the hope of glory for the Christian believer.