"Our Love Story"
The Story of John &
Missionaries with New
Am My Beloved's"
Steps Along the WayJohn
Steps Along the
A Challenge and a Step of FaithLinda
A Challenge and a Step of FaithJohn
The Crossing of Paths
To the "Regions Beyond"
"Till Death Us Do Part"Linda
"Till Death Us Do Part"John
The Healing of HeartsJohn
The Healing of HeartsLinda
Happy Days Ahead!
An Unforgettable Honeymoon!
One Family, One Purpose
A New Ministry
Together, Their Journey Continues
"I love you."
John and Linda spoke those three little words to one another, for the
very first time, on June 9, 1982. The Lord had been preparing them for
this moment and He had special plans for their lives that would unfold
before them in days and years to come.
Every true Christian Love Story that is worth telling has a unique
history that goes far back beyond the time when two people first meet
and fall in love. An infinite number of circumstances, some big, some
small, and most, only known to an all-knowing God, must fall into place
before they fall in love.
This is a Love Story about John and Linda McGhee. However, it is far
more than just their Love Story; it is the story of how they became
laborers together, with God, in the ministry that God had
prepared for them. (I Corinthians 3:9) Their greatest "bond" is their
love for Jesus and serving Him. Their desire, Dear Reader, is that the
focus of their story be on God; that He can use anyone who is willing to
"step out in faith" and follow Him. The Bible declares, "A threefold
cord is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 3:12) God has bound
John and Linda to Himself with cords of love. "I drew them with
cords of a man, with bands of love." (Hosea 11:4) To God be the
Glory, for the great things that He has done.
"The steps of a
(good) man are ordered by the Lord:
and he delighteth in
John McGhee was the first and only child of Charles and his wife,
Irene. Charlie and Irene farmed the rich soil in Dufferin County, just
north of the small town of Shelburne in Ontario, Canada. John attended
a one-room schoolhouse that had eight grades and one teacher, Mrs.
McClain. In fact, John's father and grandfather had both attended this
very same school.
Much to the surprise of "Johnny," as he was called at that time, his
dad, at the age of 42, sold the farm in 1956, and moved his family to
Toronto. There his dad attended Teachers College and, a year later,
became a schoolteacher. That is how Johnny, the little 9 year old
"country boy" moved to the "big city" of Toronto.
Childhood innocence gave way to the teenage years in the turbulent
1960's, when names such as the Beatles, Vietnam, hippies, and radicals
became household words. At that time, John was not a Christian,
although unknown to him, God was faithfully working in his heart to
bring him to Himself.
was during John's first job at the County Registry Office, in downtown
Toronto, that he became aware, really aware, that he was a sinner and in
need of the Savior. Uwe Gustafson began working in his office and over
the next few months befriended him. Uwe and his wife were heading to
India as missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Through Uwe's
faithful witness, John realized that he was a sinner before a righteous
God and put his personal trust in the finished work of salvation that
Jesus had accomplished for him on the Cross of Calvary. The day was
April 15, 1967. Life changed forever for John on that eventful day. The
Lord had plans for him that he never would have imagined.
That very same year, John went to Central Baptist Seminary for Bible
training. After seminary, he worked for Bell Canada for three years.
It was during his time at "Ma Bell" that he married Lynn Betteridge in
Linda was born to Ralph and his wife, Gertrude, in Chicago, Illinois.
Linda was the third daughter. She was followed by two younger
brothers. Linda was raised in a loving, Christian home where she was
taught from the Word of God and by her parents' Godly example. Linda
attended The North Side Gospel Center, a church where the Gospel of
Grace was taught by her pastor, Lance (Doc) Latham. Doc and his wife,
Virginia (affectionately called Teach), worked with youth all through
their lives. The Lathams and Art Rorheim, who became the director and a
co-founder, began the AWANA Clubs in the basement of the Center. Linda
attended AWANA Clubs and Camp AWANA all of her growing-up years. She
eventually earned the very special Citation Award for completing the
entire AWANA program. Linda became an AWANA Club leader and a girl's
leader at Camp AWANA. She began studying the piano at the age of four
and became an accomplished pianist. She also sang in the choir and in
various other singing groups.
You couldn't attend The North Side Gospel Center and not be challenged
by Missions. Sending missionaries to the "Regions Beyond" was at
the very heart and "soul" of the Center.
After graduating from high school, Linda began attending Moody Bible
Institute Evening School. She also continued her piano training and
lessons through Eleanor (Sally) Sherry. During the same years of her
schooling and working in a suburb, west of Chicago, she continued to be
an AWANA leader at the North Side Gospel Center, and every summer she
took at least two weeks off from work to be a leader up at Camp Awana.
All this time, she worked at the Bankers Box Company (now called
Fellowes Manufacturing) for 8-1/2 years. She eventually became the head
accountant/auditor for the entire company. One day her boss asked her
an interesting question after she had witnessed to him for the umpteenth
time. "Linda, are you trying to tell me about how to get saved,
again?!" he asked. Another time, an unsaved co-worker who was attending
a Bible study at Linda's home, asked her, "Why don't you become one of
those...you know...one of those people who go overseas to tell people about
this?" That girl was saved a short time later at the Bible class!
During the summer of 1973, Linda was a Lodge Leader for high school
girls up at Camp Awana, and that particular time, Teach was teaching a
Bible Class which leaders could attend if they had time. Every time
that Teach taught from the Word of God, she seemed to be speaking
directly to her. Virginia quoted Scriptures like Romans 12:1,2, and
said that God doesn't want your money or your talents, He wants you!
That was the part about giving your life, "a living sacrifice." Linda
began thinking more seriously about how the Lord wanted to use her life
- really for what purpose was she here! Another special speaker that
summer at Camp Awana was Mel Wyma, a veteran missionary with New Tribes
Mission. He had told the group of girls at Camp Awana, "You cannot do
too much for the Lord." It was just as if Mel was speaking to Linda
personally. She began to pray about serving the Lord as a full-time
missionary, and kept finding verses about "going." So one day, she
even asked her Mother if she could go just according to the Word.
Linda's Mom was excited as she replied that "Of course, you can!" In
fact, that's the only way to know for sure what the Lord really wants
you to do. Linda's parents have always been supportive of her going
into missionary work. What a blessing to have Christian parents who are
Before the time that the Lord was speaking to her heart about missions,
a young man by the name of Tom Christensen began dating Linda. Through
time, their relationship began to blossom. It was during that time that
Linda was definitely challenged to become a missionary with New Tribes
Mission. Tom wanted to ask Linda to marry him, but could not find the
words and, before he knew it, Linda was on her way to the NTM training.
"I heard the voice of
the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said
I, Here am I; send me."
Challenged by the Lord to become a missionary, Linda left her wonderful
job in Chicago to enter the New Tribes Mission's Jersey Shore "Boot
Camp," located in the heart of Pennsylvania. The year was February
1974. The next semester, Tom Christensen was also challenged by the
Lord to become a missionary and, he too, began his training at Jersey
Shore. He entered the training, not because of Linda, but because the
Lord had really spoken to his heart about missions. Tom and Linda were
married several months later and continued on with their NTM training,
as husband and wife.
1973, John and Lynn McGhee were living and working in Toronto. The
previous year they had bought a pioneer log cabin, on 23 areas of land
that had a little trout stream running through it. They would drive the
75 miles to the cabin each Friday and return to Toronto Sunday evening.
Things appeared to be going well for John and Lynn. However, the land
and the log cabin soon became the most important part of their lives.
That is, until God challenged them with a question:
"Are you really satisfied with living your life
only for a pioneer log cabin on 23 acres of land, with a trout stream?"
The Lord used this question to speak to both of their hearts and they
had to answer honestly, "No, Lord, this won't bring us real
satisfaction. What do You want us to do, Lord?"
Soon, the log cabin and land went up for sale. It sold within a week.
Through the sale of their log cabin and land, the Lord brought them into
contact with a Christian mission organization called New Tribes
Mission. The Canadian NTM Headquarters and Training Center was located
just a few miles from their cabin. Just after their cabin sold, John
and Lynn stopped by the NTM Headquarters to ask if anyone could use some
of their old furniture and garden tools. They came away with a handful
of literature and a challenge from the Lord that there was work for them
to do on the foreign mission field. Never before had they heard that
there were still tribal people who had never once heard the Name of
Jesus. These were people who had unwritten languages and, therefore,
they didn't have the Bible in their own mother tongue. They were lost
for all eternity, with no one to show them the Way.
John and Lynn entered into the training with New Tribes Mission in
February 1974, in Canada, the same exact time that Linda had begun her
NTM training at Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania.
"I am the Lord thy God
by the way that thou
the summer of 1975, both the McGhees and the Christensens were asked by
their respective Mission's leaders to move to Durant, Mississippi, to
help with the refurbishing of a new training campus. It was there that
their paths crossed for the first time as families, living side by side
in little one-room cabins on the top of a hill. The McGhees and the
Christensens shared times of fellowship with one another over glasses of
Kool-Aid and bowls of popcorn.
Linda got to know her new neighbor, Lynn, who spent most of her days in
bed due to morning sickness from their first child, who was due the
John got to know Tom a little, while working on the refurbishing of the
main building. John's job was to help shore-up the foundation of the
old Civil War-era building, while Tom worked as an electrician in the
rooms above. Life was extremely difficult for each family at Durant
because of the long workdays and hot climate, not to mention the bugs or
After six weeks, both couples moved on to the Mission's Language School,
located a few miles from Camdenton, Missouri. Life became very busy as
each family settled into the routine of classes in the morning, work
detail all afternoon and then long hours of study each evening. John
and Lynn studied Indonesian and a variety of other subjects while Linda
and Tom studied Spanish and linguistics, as well as many other subjects.
Sarah was born in February, 1976. Linda and Tom visited the McGhees and
their new baby. That summer, the McGhees finished their formal NTM
training and left for Canada to begin their preparations to go to
Indonesia, the country where the Lord had challenged them to go.
The Christensens stayed on for another semester for more linguistic
study. They were challenged by the Lord to go first to Mexico, but at
the request of Mission leadership, this was changed to Venezuela.
Before leaving Language School, Lynn asked Linda if she would like to
keep in touch by letters. Linda readily agreed to this and, thus, they
were able to continue their friendship as families, as they both headed
to opposite sides of the world. Linda held 4-month-old Sarah in her
arms, as she and Lynn said goodbye to one another.
"And He said, Go, and
tell this people..."
was January 1978, when John, Lynn and Sarah, who was almost two years
old, arrived in Indonesia.
The Christensens with their one year old baby, Timmy, arrived in
Venezuela in July, 1978.
Both families had left for the foreign mission field, in obedience to
the Lord's command, found in Matthew 28: 19-20:
"Go ye, therefore, and
teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Teaching them to observe all things
whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even
unto the end of the age."
each family, God's command to "Go" was something personal, as
well as urgent. God had clearly shown them that tribal people were
living and dying without once hearing the name of Jesus. God's Word
tell us: "Neither is there salvation in any other (Jesus); for
there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be
saved." (Acts 4:12)
Each family earnestly desired to be part of the team of those taking the
wonderful Good News of the Gospel to unreached tribes around the world.
That is not to say that both families found it easy to leave their
families and friends and to move to a foreign country as career
missionaries. However, they trusted in their Heavenly Father words,
"I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." (Hebrews 13:5) and so,
step by step, they had prepared themselves to go to the foreign mission
The McGhees arrived in the city of Pontianak, Indonesia, in early
January, 1978. Pontianak is located right on the equator, along the
west coast of Kalimantan (formerly called Borneo). John and Lynn
immediately began studying the Indonesian language and culture.
Language acquisition was not easy for them but they continued to "plod
on" each day. They had to study by themselves, with only the help of an
Indonesian teacher who came to their house for just an hour or two each
week. Sarah had her second birthday that February.
Several months into language study, the McGhees visited the Embaloh
tribal people, who live in the dense jungles of Kalimantan. This was
John and Lynn's first visit to an actual tribe. The Embaloh people were
former headhunters and lived in enormous communal longhouses. Several
Embaloh people had put their trust in Jesus as their Savior. It was
thrilling for John and Lynn to attend a church service, sitting on the
bamboo floor on the front porch of the longhouse. They sang familiar
sounding hymns that had been translated into the Embaloh language. The
words were written phonetically so they could follow along while
day after returning to Pontianak, Sarah became deathly ill and was
diagnosed as having amoebic dysentery. An emergency flight was called
and an MAF pilot flew the family to the Baptist Hospital in a town north
of Pontianak. She was very close to death when she was admitted to the
hospital. John and Lynn watched helplessly as a little Indonesian boy
died of dysentery in the bed right next to Sarah's. She remained
critically sick for almost a week. It was only by God's grace and the
doctor and nurses' loving care that she was brought back from the brink
Back in Pontianak, language study continued for an entire year before
the McGhee family moved to the Island of Sulawesi. There they were to
continue their language study and begin to make plans to work in a
tribal location. They were greatly encouraged as they looked forward to
finally moving into a tribe.
After arriving in Venezuela, the Christensens spent much of their time
studying Spanish and the Venezuelan culture. Timmy had his first
birthday celebration before their arrival. Life was busy for them, but
it was also exciting to have finally arrived on the foreign mission
field after so many years of formal training. Tom was able to spend a
lot of time in town, practicing his Spanish with the local shopkeepers
and the many new friends that he was making. His study time each day
seemed to go by quickly. However, Linda, was required to study 8 hours
a day as well, while caring for an active baby/toddler at her side. Tom
and Linda had agreed only to speak Spanish in their home, even before
going to Venezuela, so many of Timmy's first words were uttered in
Just three weeks on the field, Linda came down with a severe case of
dysentery, which immediately sent her to the local hospital. Her
hospital room was quite a shock as the cucarachas (cockroaches)
raced up and down the walls each night. After spending three days and
nights in the hospital, she knew to be more careful about what she ate
from the local market, and did not want foods which were handled by
storekeepers' unwashed hands.
Tom and Linda were on the field for only 8 months when a telephone call
from Linda's parents in Chicago began a sequence of life-changing
Linda's youngest brother had suddenly died. What a shock! They were
delayed in flying back home for the funeral because of Holy Week
(Easter), but eventually were able to get to Chicago. Sadly, they
missed Danny's funeral by just one day. Her sadness at not seeing him again on this earth was
great. However, the Christensens did get to see most of Tom's family
and Linda's family, besides the privilege of being at the North Side
Gospel Center for a service.
Back in Venezuela, they once again resumed their Spanish study. They
were excited that that their formal Spanish study was now almost
completed and they were eagerly making plans to begin their ministry
with the Piaroa Indians.
part of his language study, Tom was required to work at a local
bodega (little store) for a week. His job was to haul 100 lb bags
of rice, flour, etc. all day long. After two days of this, Tom was so
exhausted that Linda suggested that they swap jobs. "They can't make me
carry such heavy loads," she told Tom. Little did she know that within
a few hours, something would happen that would change their lives
"Help me, O Lord my
Oh, save me according to
Six weeks after moving to the Island of Sulawesi, the Mission's monthly
voucher somehow failed to make it to Indonesia and John and Lynn were
literally down to the equivalent of one US cent, which was all of the
money they had in the world. It was at that time that Lynn was
encouraged by another missionary lady to go to a doctor to have a lump
checked in her breast. The doctor's voice was very serious as he told
her that she needed to seek medical help immediately. Someone lent the McGhees just enough money to purchase plane tickets to fly to the city
of Surabaya, on the Island of Java. Two days after they arrived, Lynn
was admitted to the Salvation Army Hospital. A six-hour operation
revealed that she had advanced breast cancer. This was probably the
longest six hours in John's life, as he waited alone in the waiting room
during Lynn's operation. Afterward, questions flooded their minds:
"What will we do now?" "Why did God allow this to happen when we
were right on the very brink of moving into a tribal ministry?"
Sarah had just turned three the day before her Mommy's
operation and she was too young to understand what was really happening.
After a month at the hospital, Lynn, John, and Sarah were on the long,
lonely flight back to London, England, Lynn's homeland. The Lord
had provided their airfare through John's parents, who had kindly wired
them enough money for their tickets. Leaving the mission field so
suddenly, with a very sick wife and their little girl, was the most
difficult thing that John had ever faced in his entire life, up until
that time. But for God...
"Precious in the sight of
the Lord is the death of His saints."
The evening was uneventful that Tom and Linda had made the decision that
Tom was not going to work at the bodega (little store) as part of
his language study and that Linda was going to take his place. Tom was
so exhausted from lifting 100 lb bags for the last two days that they
retired to bed early. That night, about four in the morning, Linda
awoke to the sound of a "death rattle" coming from her husband.
"Tom." "Tom! What is the matter?" Tom did not respond to her. She quickly ran
for a neighbor, and together, they got Tom into a car and drove him to
the local hospital. Timmy stayed with a neighbor. Frantically, Linda
prayed for Tom. She did not know what was happening and she pleaded
with her Heavenly Father to allow her husband to live. She was allowed
to be in the emergency room during the entire time and she could see how
very sick Tom was. He did not recognize her and he kept thrashing
around and had to be restrained. It was then that Linda prayed, "Lord,
not my will, but Thine be done." He had been taken to another room, but
it was right at the moment of that prayer that Tom went Home to be with
His Heavenly Father. Later that day, an autopsy revealed that he had
died of an aortic aneurysm and that his ruptured heart had been pumping
blood into his chest cavity. There was nothing that his doctors could
have done for him.
Later that morning, Linda called her parents from the telephone office.
She was in a quandary as to what to do with Tom's body; whether to bury
him there in Venezuela or bring him home to Chicago. Someone never seen
before by Linda came into the telephone office and began a conversation
with her. He said how sorry he was for what had happened, and that he
was a missionary in another country, just visiting in Venezuela. He
asked Linda if he could help her in any way. Linda shared with him that
she did not know what to do about Tom's burial. He asked her what she
would do if money were no problem. Without hesitation, Linda told him
that she would bring Tom's body back to America. He told her to take
Tom's body back, and that God would supply for her needs. She now knew
the answer to her question. That was the only time she ever saw that
man. She was not even sure of his name or his mission. It was as if an
"angel" had helped her to make the decision, and she thanked her
Heavenly Father for this answer to her prayer.
The next day, Linda and Timmy, who was just 23 months old, boarded a
plane bound for America. Timmy kept calling out for his Daddy, as the
plane taxied down the runway and soon was heading for America. Tom's
body was flown back to Chicago for burial about a week later.
After arriving back in Chicago, Linda began to make funeral arrangements
for Tom. Tom's funeral was held at The North Side Gospel Center, the
church where she had grown up. Tom's uncle, Dr. Dave Breese, officiated
at his service, which was held on a Saturday. Hundreds of Tom and
Linda's family members and friends came to the service. Many tears were
shed; as songs of joy and hope were sung and as each person attending
his service was reminded of the blessed assurance Christians have,
knowing that Tom was now with his Heavenly Father. Only God knows how
many lives Tom touched during his not quite 29 short years on this
After Tom's funeral, Linda was often heard to say how thankful she was
that they had obeyed the command of their Savior to "Go... and teach
all nations... (Matthew 28:19,20). All of their missionary
training, all of their preparations for the mission field, the heart
wrenching moment when they had boarded the airplane for Venezuela,
leaving their families and friends behind and then those few short
months in language study; it was worth it all to have obeyed the Lord.
"Only one life, twill
soon be past.
Only what's done for
Christ will last."
Tom's casket was slowly lowered into the ground in May 1979, a new
direction and challenge awaited Linda and her little boy, Timmy.
"When thou passest
through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they
shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt
not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee,
For I am the Lord thy
Isaiah 43:2, 3
John, Lynn and Sarah were allowed to live in the large parsonage next
door to Lynn's home church in London, England. This was a wonderful
provision of the Lord through her church family. Lynn's parents lived
only a few miles away and it was such a blessing to be able to visit so
frequently. The Lord provided them with some used furniture, various
kitchen items, as well as an old, used car.
For the first few months back home, life for John and Lynn comprised
mainly of trips back and forth to the London Hospital, where Lynn had a
long series of radiation therapy. This was followed by weeks of
chemotherapy. Radiation therapy made her weak. Chemo made her very
sick and soon her hair fell out. The Lord provided her with a wig.
Sarah turned four and attended a local pre-school. She looked very
sweet in her little grey uniform with white blouse and white socks.
For John, the hardest burden to bear, besides having a very sick wife,
was not being able to return to the mission field. At times, he could
"almost taste" not going back to Indonesia. Tears of frustration would
sometimes fill his eyes. Several people advised him "Don't lose your
visa. Visas to Indonesia are very difficult to get." This only added
to the pressure of not returning to Indonesia. However, most of their
friends and family gently told him, "You need to think of Lynn and
Sarah. Don't worry about not being able to go back to Indonesia.
God is in control and He will take care of you and your family."
Several months after returning to England, a letter arrived from Linda
Christensen, postmarked Chicago, USA. The first paragraph said it all.
Tom had suddenly died in Venezuela of an aortic aneurysm. Linda and
Timmy were back in the USA. John and Lynn cried tears of sorrow at this
sad news. Lord, why? Why Tom and Linda? Another family had been
suddenly taken off the mission field and there was so much more work to
After two years of fighting breast cancer, Lynn's earthly fight was
nearly over. Cancer had spread to her lungs. Her constant coughing
became worse, even to the place where she actually cracked several
ribs. More chemo followed. Her last days on earth were spent in the
hospital, as she became weaker and weaker and her cough persisted. On
her final day, John kissed her goodbye. She was, oh so tired and could
hardly respond beyond a faint smile before slowly closing her eyes.
The following morning around 6:00 am, the telephone rang.
A nurse was on the line. Lynn had passed away and they wanted John
to come to the hospital later that day to pick up her belongings.
John asked the nurse why they had not called him sooner. The nurse
shared with him that Lynn had told her to let him sleepthat he would
need the rest. A little later that morning, John told little
Sarah, as she sat quietly on his lap, that her Mommy had gone Home to be
Lynn's funeral service was a time of sadness as well as a time of much
joy. Her casket was slowly carried to the front of the church on the
shoulders of men from her church family who had had a special part in
her life, ever since she had first trusted in Jesus as her Savior, as a
teenager. The old hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul" was chosen by
John for its words that expressed the blessed peace that we have as
believers in Jesus.
When peace, like a
river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea
Whatever my lot, Thou
hast taught me to say,
It is well; it is well
with my soul.
Lynn was just 33 years old when she went Home to be with her Savior.
Thou hast turned for me
my mourning into dancing; thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me
Even after Lynn's death, John's heart still yearned to go back to
Indonesia. However, this was impossible at that time, with such a
young daughter to take care of. He asked his Heavenly Father for
guidance. There were many choices before him, but one thing he knew was
that he did not want to leave New Tribes Mission. Having put his
"hand to the plough", he wanted to continue in the ministry that God
had called him to.
After a trip back to Canada to visit with Dad and Mom McGhee, the Lord
wonderfully opened up the way for John to begin a new ministry at the
Mission's Bible School, located in central England. He rented a truck,
they said goodbye to their friends in London and he and Sarah were on
their way to a new home and ministry. John build a bunk bed for himself
and Sarah that just fit into their little 7' x 10' bedroom. Sarah slept
on the top bunk and John on the lower. The living room was small but
adequate and therefore did not require a lot of housework. There were
several children Sarah's age at the Bible School and together, they
attended the local Elementary School in the little village of Matlock
John drove the children from the Mission to school in an old VW van. He
worked on a variety of other jobs, which kept him busy, but John was
also allowed to be with Sarah when she returned home from school in the
After Tom's death, Linda inquired about the possibility of her returning
to Venezuela. Her heart longed to be back on the mission field. She
was told by Mission leadership in Venezuela that it would be very
difficult for her, with a young child, to be a missionary on the foreign
mission field. There was no child care on the field. Linda was advised
to look to the Lord for another ministry in New Tribes Mission,
somewhere in the USA. One decision that she came to was that she
definitely wanted to continue serving with New Tribes Mission.
After spending several weeks in Chicago alone in her parents' home (they
had just moved to northern Wisconsin), Linda was surprised by a
telephone call from Macon Hare, Sr, an Executive member who was serving
at the New Tribes Mission International Headquarters in Sanford,
Florida. Macon asked Linda if she would consider moving to Sanford to
work on the typesetting of the Ayoré New Testament. The Ayoré tribe was
the very first tribe that NTM missionaries had gone to, back in 1942.
All five of the first missionaries were killed by the savage Ayoré
Indians. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." No
words were truer, as literally thousands of missionaries have followed
their example in the decades since their deaths, in taking the Gospel of
the Lord Jesus Christ to tribal people around the world.
Linda and Timmy moved to Sanford in the spring of 1980 where she began a
new ministry of typesetting many tribal New Testaments.
"Happy is he that hath
the God of Jacob for his help,
whose hope is in the Lord
John had written just a line or two on the back of his prayer letter to
Linda after Lynn had passed away.
Now, over six months later, at the NTM Bible School, John decided to
answer a little note and poem that Linda had sent him. Dave Calderwood
had a lot to do with John writing Linda and Linda writing back. Dave
and his wife, Ann, had been in England and had visited John, but lived
at the Sanford Headquarters where they saw Linda frequently.
John sat at his desk, he had perhaps 20 or 30 letters waiting to be
answered. However, his thoughts were about Linda Christensen. Linda
Christensen. Hmmmmm...This time, John could hardly wait to write her
John mailed his letter to Linda. He really hoped that she would answer
him back. Her reply to his letter arrived a few days later.
Little did they know, that was the beginning of their courtship, an
The Lord had wonderfully allowed their first notes to get to their
destination safe and sound. Imagine if John's note, hastily written on
the back of his prayer letter, had never gotten to her? Or imagine if
Linda's little note and poem to John had been lost in the mail? Or if
John's letter back to her had been lost? That would certainly have
ended their courtship, even before it began.
John sent Linda a cassette tape recording of him and Sarah telling about
themselves and a little about what it was like to live at the Bible
School. Linda reciprocated by sending him a tape of her playing the
piano and a recording of her and Timmy singing a little song:
"Oh Timmy, do you love Jesus?"
"Oh yes, I love Jesus!"
"Are you sure you love Jesus?"
"I'm sure I love Jesus!"
"Oh Timmy, do you love Jesus?"
"Oh yes I love Jesus, because He first loved me."
"Oh Mommy, do you love Jesus?"
"Oh yes, I love Jesus!"
"Are you sure you love Jesus?"
"I'm sure I love Jesus!"
"Oh Mommy, do you love Jesus?"
"Oh yes I love Jesus, because He first loved me."
"Oh how I love Jesus!"
"Oh how I love Jesus!"
"Oh how I love Jesus!"
"Because He first loved me."
Photos followed the first few letters. John's first photo to Linda was
of him locked in the "stocks," when he and Sarah had visited the old
city of Leeds. Linda liked his smile. Linda then sent her first photo
to John. Linda's photo really looked great to him! The photo was of
her with Timmy resting his head on her shoulder. And so, their letters
literally flew back and forth to each other across the "duck pond."
Month followed month and soon it was January 1982. Secretly, Linda had
hoped that John would visit her during the spring break of 1982.
However, John wanted to wait until Sarah had finished her school year
before coming to America. One thing was certain though; their "love"
for each other was growing, despite the thousands of miles that
separated them. Although they never actually used the word "love" to
one another in their letters, their affection grew week by week.
John made the decision sometime in February that he and Sarah were going
to move to Sanford. By that time, he longed to see Linda and Timmy.
Linda was excited to hear this news! John asked her if he should sell
his linens, towels, kitchen towels and dishrags. Linda's answer was,
"You do what you think is best." She did not want to commit herself to
anything, without them seeing each other in person.
John began selling many of his things, including all of their furniture
and most of their household items. He packed everything that he could
into three tea chests. Everything else he would bring with them in
suitcases. The address on the tea chests and bill of lading simply
read: John H. McGhee, Port Authority, Jacksonville, Florida. He
planned to pick up the chests himself, once he had arrived in Sanford.
(The plan was if things didn't work out with John and Linda, John would
move to Canada with his tea chests and suitcases!)
Before leaving England, Linda wrote him to ask what he would like to
have for their first supper together. He promptly wrote her back,
dogs, please." The only hot dogs that he had eaten in Indonesia and
England were from a can!
"I am my beloved's, and
my beloved is mine..."
Song of Solomon 6:3
June 7, 1982 was a Special Daytheir first real "date"
together. John called Linda from Miami. Their voices sounded
wonderful to each other. The flight from Miami to Orlando only
took an hour or so, but it seemed like an eternity for both of them.
The moment had finally arrived...
Linda and Timmy met John and Sarah in Arrivals at the Orlando
International Airport. Both had secretly wondered to themselves what
would happen when they first saw each other. Would the person that they
had written so many letters to, be as they had imagined?
Linda asked John if he would like to drive them back to Sanford. John
took one look at her Chevy Impala Station wagon and the long "bonnet"
(hood) that seemed to stretch out forever and graciously declined being
their chauffer that day. All of the cars that he had driven for the
past three years were of the mini-variety. They held hands the entire
trip back to Sanford, while Timmy and Sarah got acquainted in the back
seat. Both Linda and Timmy were amused at Sarah's English accent. It
sounded very prim and proper and very English. John also used a
sprinkling of English words in his vocabulary, but he didn't have an
lovely dinner of hot dogs and freshly baked pecan pie awaited John and
Sarah in Linda's comfortable apartment in the Mission's main building.
Linda, true to her promise, had prepared hot dogs for John. His exact
word after supper"Delicious!"
Timmy had just celebrated his fifth birthday two days before John and
Sarah arrived. Linda arranged to take time off her work of transcribing
the Chronological Lessons from Trevor McIlwain's tape recordings. John
and Linda and each of their children were then able to spend quality
time getting to know one another. It was apparent, right from the
beginning, that Timmy and Sarah enjoyed each other's company. Sarah was
just 16 months older than Timmy was, an ideal age for a playmate (and a
"Whoso findeth a wife
findeth a good thing,
and obtaineth favor from
Three days after arriving in Sanford, John asked Linda if she would
marry him. Her answer, after a short pause and a twinkle in her eyes,
Never in their letters had John and Linda used the words,
you." Their letters were tender and "loving," but neither of them
never wanted to presume that they were actually "in love," without
seeing each another in person. Now the words, "I love you" could be
expressed. Timmy and Sarah were ever so excited that they were going to
have a new Daddy and Mommy. Timmy began calling John, "Daddy" in
public, even before it was officially announced that they were engaged!
Sarah did the same for Linda, her soon-to-be Mommy. Timmy had prayed
for a Daddy for a long time and now his prayers were going to be
After their engagement was announced, the decision was made by the
Mission's leadership that John could work in the Typesetting Department,
the same department where Linda worked on the typesetting of tribal New
Testaments. John would begin learning how to typeset the Mission's many
publications and eventually he was to take the place of another
missionary who would soon be leaving. John was to begin his training
after their wedding and honeymoon.
Isn't the Lord good?! Imagine the joy that John and Linda had, not only
to be married but also to continue together in the ministry that was so
dear to both of their hearts. Years before, they had "stepped out in
faith" as two different families, to serve the Lord and now they would
continue this "journey of faith" as a new family together, as husband
July 24, 1982, was John and Linda's Special Day. John's Mom and Dad had
flown down from Canada for the wedding. Linda's Mom and Dad had flown
from northern Wisconsin. Linda's sister, Shirley, had flown over from
Texas to be her bridesmaid. Timmy was the ring bearer and looked very
handsome in his new suit, as he proudly held the little white pillow
with the two wedding rings on top. Sarah was the flower girl and looked
very pretty in her new dress, as she held a little white basket
containing flower petals. John was dressed in a brand new suit and
looked very happy. And Lindawhat a radiant bride she made, in her
lovely wedding gown and the bouquet that she held in her hands.
John and Linda's good friend and co-worker, Mel Wyma officiated the
service and "tied the knot." He and his wife, Connie, had baked and
decorated the wedding cake. Mel and Connie had learned how to bake and
decorate wedding cakes during their ministry in the jungles of Bolivia
while working among the Ayoré Indians. The wedding took place at New
Tribes Mission, in the Paul Fleming Chapel. At that time, the chapel
still did not have air conditioning. Fans were strategically arranged
about the room. The sun shone brightly, without a cloud in the sky and
the temperature was in the high 90's. A perfect day for a very Special
"My beloved spoke, and
said unto me,
Rise up, my love, my fair
one, and come away."
Song of Solomon 2:10
John and Linda flew to Toronto, Canada for their honeymoon. Sarah and
Timmy rode back to Wisconsin with Grandpa and Grandma in John and
Linda's car. Mom and Dad McGhee stayed several extra days in Florida in
order to give the newlyweds time together at their home in Canada.
The first few days of their honeymoon were spent in complete bliss.
After a day or two at John's parents' home, they drove to Algonquin
Park, in northern Ontario and then east to Ottawa, the capital city of
Canada. They walked arm in arm along the Rideau Canal and ate in quaint
little restaurants in downtown historical Ottawa. They visited various
places of interest along the St. Lawrence River on their way back to
All too soon, it was time to fly to Wisconsin, to pick up Timmy and
Sarah, before driving back to Florida.
John gave the US Immigration officer his passport. His heart began to
beat faster after the US Immigrations officer asked him where he was a
resident. (He never did like going through Immigration when traveling
overseas.) He replied, "Ontario."
"How long ago has it been since you last lived in Ontario?" The officer
John thought for a few moments. "Around five years,
"Then you are not a resident of Ontario, Mr.
McGhee, are you?"
That is when John began to stutter and the more that he said the more
the Immigrations officer was convinced that he should not let him cross
the border into the United States of America.
"Sir, your wife is free to enter the United States.
However, you will have to stay in Canada because you do not have a
proper visa for living in the USA."
Linda quickly spoke up and informed the Immigration's officer that she
was not about to leave her husband in Canada! The glint in her eyes and
her firm voice said it all. She would stay with John! However, by that
time, all of their suitcases were already on their way to Wisconsin.
Thus, John and Linda's blissful honeymoon quickly turned
would have to stay in Canada.
The following nine days were filled with high tension. The US Consulate
informed John that he would have to apply for a US visa in order to
obtain his "Green Card". "How long would that take?" he asked.
"At least 6 months, Mr. McGhee" he was told.
John found out from the US Consulate that he needed both of their
original birth certificates, their marriage certificate, their former
spouses' death certificates and former marriage certificates, and
several other important documents. Of course, they did not have any of
these documents on their honeymoon!
They asked their friend, Gideon Bader, to go through their personal
paperwork in Linda's bedroom closet, back in Sanford. The paperwork was
then Overnight mailed to them in Toronto, and thus began the process of
applying for John's US visa.
John also needed a chest x-ray, a physical, visa application photos and
several Canadian references. Advice was freely given by many people,
which included crashing the border. This was too risky, and besides, it
was against the law. They even began making plans to live at the NTM
Canadian Headquarters in Durham, Ontario. Much prayer went up to the
Heavenly Father on their behalf.
Linda's Mom and Dad contacted their US Senator. John contacted his
Canadian Member of Parliament in Ottawa.
John submitted all of his paperwork to the US Embassy. Each day seemed
to crawl by. Then nine days after John had been refused entry to the
USA, he went in for one more interview at the US Consulate. This
interview resulted in some encouragement. He was told that perhaps if
he went to the airport right away and talked with the Immigration
Supervisor, something might be done to help them. They rushed home, and
hastily packed their bags and were off to the airport. This time John's
plea to the Immigration officer went much better.
"Promise me that you will not return to Canada until you
are called by the US Consulate in Toronto for your final interview, Mr.
McGhee, which may be quite a few months from now."
Ahhh...music to the ears!
"Yes, sir, I promise!"
"And one more thing, Mr. McGhee, you cannot work while
you are in the USA."
John promised, and he and Linda gave each other a great big hug.
The flight to Wisconsin went well and they were soon happily reunited
with Timmy and Sarah. The next few days were happily spent visiting
with family and friends. John met Linda's oldest sister and her brother
for the first time. The return trip to Sanford was a happy time. How
thankful they were to their Heavenly Father for allowing John to live in
America while his visa application was being processed.
"For we are laborers
together with God..."
I Corinthians 3:9
John began his training, as a volunteer, in the Typesetting Department.
Linda worked by his side, as she began to typeset more New Testaments.
was not until January of 1983, that John received word from the US
Consulate that he was requested to come to Toronto for his final
interview. John and Linda arrived on January 17, 1983, a bitter winter
day, with the temperatures in the single digits. The interview went
well for John and he was told that his precious "Green Card" would soon
be sent to him in Florida. He could now officially live and work in
America. God was so good!
John adopted Timmy and Linda adopted Sarah, soon after their marriage.
Timmy's name was officially changed to Timothy Thomas Christensen
McGhee. Even their birth certificates were changed to reflect their
adoptive parent's names.
Jeffrey John McGhee was born in 1984. Timmy and Sarah were very excited
and happy about having a little baby brother. Then eighteen months
later, the Lord blessed them with their fourth child, David Daniel
McGhee. John and Linda's family was now complete and they rejoiced in
the Lord's blessings and wonderful provision of four healthy children.
their family grew, the Lord provided them with a larger apartment, just
down the hall. By the time Jeffrey was born, the Lord had already
blended their lives firmly together as one family. It made them chuckle
inside when people would comment how much Sarah looked like Linda or how
much Timmy looked like John.
Several years after they were married, one of the Mission's leaders and
his wife went to a marriage seminar. They were asked to write down the
name of a family whom they most admired as being a happily married
couple. They wrote down "John and Linda McGhee" and later shared this
with John. This was both humbling and encouraging to John and Linda,
and they gave praise to their Heavenly Father for allowing them to have
such a happy marriage, as they served Him together.
Over the years, John and Linda continued to serve at the Mission's
International Headquarters. Several times, they expressed to the
Mission leadership their desire to change ministries and to go back to
the foreign mission field. Each time they were told that they were
really needed in their ministry at Headquarters. At least three of the
Executive Committee's wives shared with Linda that not just anyone can
minister, year after year at Headquarters. She was told by each woman
that they felt that the McGhees were well suited in their ministry and
that they needed to remain content where God had placed them!
"Thus saith the Lord,
thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the Lord thy God which
teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou
1992 Linda was asked to change ministries to the NTM Medical Plan's
office. At that time, John also changed ministries and began working in
the Mission's Finance Office. This was perhaps the most difficult year
for them as a couple, because, for the first time in their marriage,
they were separated from one another at work each day. They earnestly
prayed that they could once again be allowed to work in the same office
and one year later, the Lord graciously answered their prayers. John
was asked to take over the administration of the NTM Medical Plan. It
was wonderful to be able to work together in the same office again.
Linda was John's patient teacher in the Medical Plan office and soon he
was handling many of the daily tasks himself. Both John and Linda have
often heard to say; "We love working together! There's nothing
better then being able to work with your best friend in a ministry for
the Lord that you both love and enjoy."
"Many waters cannot
quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all
the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be condemned."
Song of Solomon 8:7
John and Linda have now been married since July 24, 1982. They have
never been more excited or encouraged in the ministry that God has given
to them. As laborers together, with God, they serve in the
ministry of planting tribal churches in the Regions Beyond, by
ministering at the New Tribes Mission International Headquarters.
Ask John and Linda about their ministry, and they will quickly tell you
that they really enjoy serving in the Medical Plan office. The NTM
Medical Plan is completely self-funded and, therefore, is owned and
operated by New Tribes Mission.
of the NTM Medical Plan is to insure that catastrophic medical bills do
not become the financial responsibility of a missionary and those who
support them financially.
An NTM missionary should not have to leave their field of
service because of high medical debts. Besides administrating the
Medical Plan, John and Linda are also responsible for taking care of the
NTM Life Insurance Plan and the NTM Medical Emergency Evacuation Plan.
John and Linda love their daily contact with their fellow missionaries
and the opportunity to help them. It is especially satisfying when they
hear of missionaries who have had to return home because of a serious
illness, heading back healthy, to their field of service on the foreign
mission field. Although they are not serving overseas themselves, they
are a vital part of the Team who are taking the Gospel to tribal people
around the world.
Each of John and Linda's four children are now grown and are walking
with the Lord, for which they are very thankful. Truly children are a
wonderful "heritage from the Lord" (Psalm 127:3-5).
Isn't the Lord good! He has allowed John and Linda to continue in their
ministry, despite the Homegoing of their former spouses, and their
having to leave the foreign mission fields.
Two separate families, each shattered by "tragedy," have miraculously
become one. John and Linda's "Love Story" is really the story of God's
faithfulness to His children, in their "journey of faith." May God be
praised for what He has done and will continue to do, in and through
their lives, to His glory.