Thursday, December 16, 2010

Widow of Somalia missionary martyr dies

The Grove Family, 1960
Written by Jewel Showalter   
Thursday, 02 December 2010 10:06
CAMBRIDGE, Ontario – Dorothy Grove, 84, died November 6. She was the widow of Merlin Grove, a worker with Eastern Mennonite Missions who was killed in Mogadishu, Somalia, by a radical Muslim cleric in 1962.

Before going to Somalia in 1960, the Groves sold their Ontario farm business. “Merlin felt a call to go to Somalia,” Dorothy said in an article she wrote for the August 2000 Missionary Messenger. “We were assured that God had called us to this work.”

D. Grove
In their classroom in Mahaddei, Somalia, in 1960, Dorothy Grove homeschooled her children Pauline, Bruce, and David. Photo provided by EMM archives
In Somalia, Groves immediately began service at the Mennonite Mission’s boarding school for boys in Mahaddei. While Merlin worked as a teacher and administrator, Dorothy homeschooled their three young children, helped mother boys in the boarding school, and made friends in the nearby village.

The following year they were called to Mogadishu where Merlin stepped in as director of the Mennonite Mission.

Then on July 16, 1962, while Merlin was registering students for English classes in the capital city, an Islamic mullah fatally stabbed him.

Fellow missionary Harold Stauffer was also in the room registering students at the time of the attack, and the murderer turned to pursue him after felling Merlin.

When Dorothy, who heard the commotion, came to investigate, her husband’s killer turned from pursuing Harold and stabbed Dorothy in the abdomen.

Bystanders intervened, horrified that the man would attack a defenseless woman. As the murderer fled, the mission team quickly ministered to Dorothy’s wounds and took her to the hospital.

Merlin was buried in Somalia the next day, in a small Protestant corner of the Roman Catholic cemetery. The graveyard already held the tiny bodies of two Mennonite missionary children.

After several months of recuperation and closure, Dorothy and her children returned to their home in Canada.

“I was now a single parent with injuries and pain, unsure of my future health,” Dorothy wrote in the August 2000 MM article. The verse, ‘God is my refuge and strength in time of trouble,’ was my comfort.”

For the next years Dorothy worked as a nurse to support the family, but after sending her youngest child off to university in 1976, she joined an EMM Voluntary Service unit in Corning, New York, where she served for six years.

Then in 1984, 22 years after Merlin’s death, Dorothy and her young adult children returned to Somalia. They visited Merlin’s grave in Mogadishu, seeking to bring closure to their Somali experience. Amazingly, the children reconnected with several former Somali playmates, now young men.

D. Grove
Somali friends who planned the 2009 celebration in honor of Merlin and Dorothy Grove’s service in Somalia – Mohamud Siad Togane, Lucky Ali, and Ahmed Gedi. Photo provided by Shirley Sherk
Dorothy stayed on for six months, volunteering at an orphanage. In the August 2000 MM she wrote, “As I met Somali friends and heard their appreciation for Merlin, and received a royal welcome by the believers’ group, my questions were answered. The Somalis told me now they truly believed in reconciliation because I came back to Somalia with peace. Their love and acceptance was almost more than I could bear.”

In late 1986, Dorothy returned yet again to East Africa, this time to Kenya, where she served a three-month stint as hostess at the Mennonite Guest House in Nairobi.

In the January 1987 issue of MM, Dorothy wrote, “Africa is very near to my heart. Although life has been rich and full for me, I did leave a part of myself in Africa…”

On hearing of her death, fellow Somalia missionary Connie Stauffer recalled how the Groves were gracious mentors to her and her husband Harold, when they first arrived in Mogadishu as a young couple – “eager to fix the whole world.”

Connie said, “I honor Dorothy and her children. They were robbed of a fun-loving, gifted leader, and dear husband and father. They moved ahead with their lives conscious of the great loss but never appeared bitter or angry. They turned their deep pain into helping others.”

Another co-worker, Mary Gehman, said that through this whole painful experience Dorothy’s passion for and devotion to the Somali people was marked. Her strength, love, and perseverance were a powerful testimony on both sides of the ocean. Among the Somalis themselves, the killer was ostracized because he had dared to stab a woman.

Shirley Sherk, daughter of EMM Somalia missionaries and fellow Canadians Victor and Viola Dorsch, said that last year the Canadian Somalis, many of them alumni of the Mennonite Mission schools, held an event in Dorothy’s honor in which they presented her with two appreciation plaques.

“They wanted to express their appreciation for the sacrifice she and her family made in Somalia and for her continued support of Somalis, and especially for her forgiveness of the man who killed Merlin,” Sherk said.

Sherk added, “Dorothy was a real inspiration to me. She constantly encouraged us – former missionaries, staff, missionary children, and Somali student alumni – to continue getting together to talk and build bridges.”

Clair Good, representative to Africa for EMM said, “We give thanks to God for Dorothy’s life and ministry. Her faithful service and steadfast presence encouraged others to be strong in the Lord. She ran the race of life with excellence and is now enjoying the presence of Jesus.”

D. Grove
At a celebration in 2009, Dorothy holds an appreciation plaque presented to her by Somali friends and Mennonite Mission school alumni. Photo provided by Shirley Sherk
After learning of Dorothy Grove’s death, this tribute was penned by Mohamud Siad Togane, a Somali friend and former student of Merlin’s at the Mahaddei Mennonite Mission boys’ boarding school.


Rejoice in the Lord
Always and again
I say rejoice in the word

Though our grief is raging raw right now
I remember Dorothy bearing witness in the village of Mahaday Wayn
Rejoicing in the Lord

I am the Resurrection
I am Life
I say rejoice in the word

In mean Mogadishu Dorothy’s Dignity drubbed Death’s Pride
As Death mangled her and Merlin whose side she had never left
Rejoicing in the Lord

“My happiest years,” she testified, “are the ones I lived in Somalia.”
Where she daily dared to lose her life to find her life again
I say rejoice in her word

And now in my mind’s eye I see Dorothy Grove with Merlin
Basking in their Camelot in the sunlight of the Grace of their Love
Rejoicing in the Lord
Rejoicing in the word.

Mohamud Siad Togane
Montreal, Quebec

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