As medical missionaries who'd spent years in some of the most troubled areas of the world, my mother and father were, in my estimation, true heroes. Both were "always abounding in the work of the Lord," and lived well into their 90s. Mother died in 1997 at age 97, and Father died three years earlier. Their gravestone in Turner Village, Maine, where my mother's parents lived, proclaims them "Servants of God."
However, in the last years of her life, my mother spoke despairingly of the family's first missionary assignment in Burma. Often, as we ended discussions about those pioneering days, she would say, "There is nothing left of our work in Burma. It was wasted effort, wasted years, all in vain." This surprised and troubled me, especially in light of Scripture, which gives us confidence that our work for the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).
Blazing a trail in Burma
Our time in Burma began in 1926, two years before my birth. That year my doctor-father, Richard S. Buker, Sr., took my mother, Minola, a nurse, and my older brother, Richard, Jr., to the border area of China and Burma.
A recent graduate of Harvard Medical School, my father had completed an internship at Walter Reed Army General Hospital before he moved the family overseas.
After taking a train to just north of Mandalay in Burma, the family traveled two weeks (300 miles) by pony through jungles, over mountains, and across the dangerous Salween River to a mission station in Yunan Province, China. They stayed there about 18 months and then recrossed the border to the Shan States of Burma, where they worked, along with my father's twin brother Ray and his wife Dorothy (both now deceased), until 1940 when World War II closed the area.1