| Jun 24, 2013
Day Eleven — Longview to Woodland, WA
21 miles walked today
47 miles to go
I ended my walk at Lewis River Motors in Woodland, WA, today at a reception attended by about 20 people, who came to celebrate the life of Ansgar Schei.
Ansgar Schei was born in Woodland and lived there his entire life. He founded Lewis River Motors in the 1950’s and worked there every day until a few months before he died at the age of 90 years old.
When Ansgar Schei turned 71, he decided to organize a banquet to support the work of what was then Northwest Medical Teams. The banquet was held at the Oak Tree, a local restaurant, in Woodland. About 250 people came and contributed generously to our work.
And a wonderful tradition was born.
For the next 18 years, on the last Saturday in April, Ansgar hosted an annual fundraising banquet for what became Medical Teams International. During the year, Ansgar would have lunch at the Oak Tree Restaurant almost every day. He knew many of the customers by name and didn’t hesitate to press them to sponsor a table and to invite their friends.
Each year, the program was almost the same. The pastor from Woodland Presbyterian Church would give an invocation. We’d all recite the pledge of allegiance. Then, the servers would bring out huge slices of prime rib (“no rubber chicken,” Ansgar always said.)
As dessert was being served, the program would begin. The M.C. was often a local television news personality. Volunteers who had just come back from the field would speak. And, then, we’d ask people to support a specific project that Ansgar and his committee had selected. Guests at the dinner would place pledge cards or checks in envelopes and then, always before 9:00 pm, the pastor of Longview Community Church would give the benediction.
At every dinner, the restaurant banquet room was filled to overflowing with colorful tulips provided by Benno and Klazina Dobbe, Dutch immigrants who owned a large tulip farm nearby. As people left the dinner, each couple received a bouquet of tulips to take home.
The highlight of the dinner was Ansgar’s speech thanking people for their support. Reading from a wrinkled page of a yellow legal tablet, Ansgar dryly checked off a list of people to thank, making off-hand comments along the way that had everyone laughing hysterically.
Over the years, the people who attended this banquet contributed more than $1.3 million to projects that helped us touch the lives of hundreds of thousands of people affected by disaster, conflict and poverty around the world. With support from these banquets, we built a clinic to provide sight to the blind in Oaxaca, Mexico; rehabilitated a burn unit for children in Moldova; helped mothers to save their children from malnutrition in Guatemala; established community health centers in Liberia; and touched the lives of people in many other countries around the world.
That’s an enormous impact for a small community of about 5,000 people. And, it all happened because a 71-year old man named Ansgar Schei decided to take what God had placed in his hands, the life-long relationships he had built in Woodland, to make a difference.
All those who knew Ansgar and his wife, Millie, loved them. All of us were touched by their grace, their humor, their compassion and their faith. And, through our friendship with Ansgar and Millie, we became friends with each other.
Over my 15 years as president of Medical Teams International, I have met many wonderful people like Ansgar and Millie--generous people with warm and open hearts who were determined to do what they could to make a difference.
I thank God for this wonderful couple and I'm so grateful for what they and many others like them have done to change the world through their support of our work.
And, that's why I had to stop in Woodland today.