BANGKOK, Thailand (BP)–Linda Lipscomb, an International Mission Board worker known for her ability to bridge cultural divides, died Feb. 14 in Bangkok, Thailand, from complications following a bus accident. She was 63.
The former nurse and her husband J.P. Lipscomb were spending their retirement years serving God overseas.
Four weeks before her death, in another part of Asia, Linda stood just inside the door of a bus, preparing to step off and walk to a coffee shop. Without warning, the brakes released and the bus rolled forward, throwing the 115-pound, 4-foot-11-inch woman to the ground. The fall broke her left femur and wrist.
Hours later in a clinic, the red-faced bus driver hunched over in his seat and squeezed his hands as he and a bus company representative waited to see her.
“He needs to lose his job,” the supervisor said to the Lipscombs. “How much money does he need to pay?”
“Nothing. We forgive you,” the Lipscombs said. “We forgive you because God forgave us. Please do not take his job away from him.”
In tears, the driver could not believe they did not want revenge. The police report noted: “Victim forgave bus driver.”
“You fall off a bus and witness to half the city,” J.P. teased his wife.
Linda was medically evacuated to Bangkok the day after the accident.
Her craving for coffee became a joke between her and her nurses. She would laughingly ask J.P. for his when he came into her room with a cup. As her condition worsened and she was placed on a ventilator to assist her breathing, she continued to request coffee. Dipping a finger into his cup, J.P. would place a drop in her mouth.
During the next four weeks complications set in and she took a turn for the worse.
“Linda knew she was dying,” J.P. said. “We never had any respect for death. Death is given too much respect. … The only way you can get to heaven is to die.”
Linda accepted Christ as her Savior at 13. Five years later, she met J.P. at a drive-in. Four weeks later, they were married.
God had called Linda to missions at 16, but she did not go overseas full time until decades later.
The Lipscombs were retirement age and members of James Memorial Baptist Church in Gadsden, Ala., when they responded to a call to serve overseas. They first did medical work in the Philippines, sharing food and water with people while telling them about Jesus.
Over four years, they saw more than 300 Filipinos accept Christ, 39 churches planted and more than 40 pastors trained. Yet that was not enough.
“Send us someplace nobody wants to go,” J.P. said.
A fellow overseas worker had been looking for a couple to take on the challenge of evangelizing an unreached city. The worker knew the search was over when he discovered the Lipscombs, with their straightforward evangelistic presentation and their gray hair — a symbol of age that commands respect in Asia.
“Guys, this is difficult,” the worker told them.
The Lipscombs responded enthusiastically over the prospect of being “in a hard place.”
Every weekday students poured into the Lipscomb home in their new city, crowding around their kitchen table as they studied English. J.P. always emphasized, “We teach from the Bible,” using it as a textbook to start discussions that often led to eternal decisions.
Friends remember Linda swinging her short legs over the back of a friend’s motorbike, heading down the road to eat at a street-side noodle shop or taking a trip to the countryside to visit a student’s family.
“We would get a text message from them: ‘Another member added to the family today,'” said Julie McClendon*, a friend in their area.
The fruit of Linda’s life backed up the advice she gave Julie to be unselfish, embrace every relationship and to keep telling “The Story.”
Being unable to speak the local language didn’t inhibit Linda or J.P. They frequented local markets, businesses and homes. In their southern drawl, they bridged the cultural divide through their dependence on God. Someone asked J.P. what language he and Linda spoke. His answer was “love.”
Friends said it was fitting that Linda died on Valentine’s Day. From her eyes that showed how much she cared to the effort she made to befriend local shopkeepers, she embodied love.
“Her idea was not to sit on the front porch,” McClendon said. “I think many in retirement think, ‘Now it’s my time.’ I don’t think it was about that for her. All of her time would be His, to give it to His service. That is how she lived.”
*Name changed for security reasons. Dea Davidson is a writer for the International Mission Board.