Vera Mae Sell was born in 1922, she worked hard on the farm and walked two miles (3.2km) to school. She was a bright student in school at a time when young girls weren’t considered equal to young boys. She worked hard to raise money to go to Olivet Nazarene University to become a teacher. She married Dennis Kiper who was studying to be a pastor. After that Vera and Dennis worked together to shepherd people in Nazarene churches in Iowa, Ohio, and Indiana. Dennis was a pastor and Vera led Sunday School classes, Vacation Bible Schools, and anything else the churches needed. They loved missions and together they raised a family based on faith and love. Dennis died in 2011 at the age of 92. Vera went to be with the Lord this year.
Dennis and Vera never came here to Papua New Guinea. They never saw Kudjip Hospital, but they prayed for it. They knew Jim and Kathy Radcliffe, long-serving missionaries there. They believed in its work. Their granddaughter, a doctor, even came as a volunteer…. so why does the Hospital website have a tribute to Vera and Dennis Kiper?
A tribute is “an act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration”. When Vera went to be with the Lord in 2018, she and Dennis had left funds in their final will to go to their favorite ministry- Nazarene Compassionate Ministries as a final gift. The fact that a hard working couple of limited resources would save up to give one last big offering is certainly a tribute to their beliefs. Their family wanted to help make this a tribute that would truly honor the blessing that this couple was to so many people. They decided to use the money and add some of their own to sponsor a project through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries to Kudjip Hospital to build a staff house – a place special to Vera and Dennis.
The hospital put it in our building plans for next year. So while many of us here at Kudjip did not know Dennis and Vera, it speaks volumes of the lives they lived, the faith that they had, and their love for ministry and missions.
We talk about many things as important in our lives. We love to espouse our priorities and passions… but the truth of what we have truly valued is judged by the lives of the people we impacted. What will they say about our lives after we are gone? This project, this tribute to the life of Vera and Dennis, tells us something deeply about their lives. The family’s choice to honor them through helping missions at Kudjip continues the impact of their life and faith. It encourages our staff and missionaries to know that they are not alone. This ministry is built on the prayers and support of a host of people all around the world just like Vera and Dennis. Their feet may never touch PNG soil. Their physical hands may never touch a person here… and yet they are certainly a part of this family and this work. Their prayers have helped us touch Papua New Guinea, their gifts have brought the good news to many. They too have built the Kingdom of God right here in PNG.