Tag Archives: Chet Bitterman

The Letter in Virginia’s Purse

[Virginia]: To get back to the letter: When Chet [Bitterman] had been—no, it was the day that we found out about Chet, Mom and Dad and I had been out of town, not very far from our center [Loma Linda], that we were on a vacation. And when we were on that vacation, there was an American couple. They were oil people. And we were just chatting away and I just said, “Oh, I’d love to work for somebody who had money.” Now I wanted money, you know, and I just thought it would be great to live with somebody who had money.

So they just took my name down. I mean, they just somehow kept our names. And then they called. She went to a hairdresser that met this other lady and, long story short, they were the Bakers and they lived in Houston. He was a former Rams football player. Her family was the Swansons.

[Eric]: Oilers.

[Virginia]: Oilers, sorry. Wasn’t it the Oilers? What?

[Marcia]: [can’t hear] for drilling with us.

[Kathy]: Houston Oilers.

[Virginia]: No. Oh, it was his friend that played for the Rams. That’s right.

green-giantAnd her family was the Swansons. You know, Swanson Frozen Foods and Green Giant? And her family had all this money. Anyway, I ended up being a nanny for them for three summers after that.

But it was her letter in the purse that had our address on it that got the purse back to me.

Anyway, so I went—and it was just that the lady that we met in Villavicencio, which we called Villao, went to the same hairdresser as Carla Baker. They talked. Carla Baker—they’re good Baptist people—said they were looking for someone to help with the kids during the summers, so they got in contact with me.

Aunt Kathryn went to visit them to check them out. She did. There you go! She went and checked them out because she lived in Houston at the time and she went and checked them out to make sure that they were an OK family for me to go stay with. Yeah, so cool.

Anyway, so then when I graduated, Eric and Mary Lynn met me in her little Karmann Ghila. I had never really driven a car and they made me drive it. It was pouring down rain and it scared me to death because I could not see. I had never really driven. I mean, there was one Jeep on the center that we could all use or whatever. Dad had taken us out once or twice in that thing. But anyway, so I was driving her little Karmann Ghila.

I worked for them for three summers after that. They convinced me I was going to go to Dallas Baptist College. They convinced me I to go to Baylor, so I went to one year at Baylor University in Waco.

Then from there, because Bruce and Gail lived in Safford, I wanted to go to, I went there to go to Bible, no, to a camp, to a church camp, and then decided to return my second year to go to Bible college there. Then I went to that Bible college. It’s not accredited. It was just with a church. I went to a couple years there.

That’s where I met my husband. He was first friends with my sister and then she went off to nursing school. Then Bill and I. I mean, they weren’t romantically involved. They were friends, but—

[Bill]: That you know of.

[Virginia]: Then I met him and we were engaged and we were going to get married one date and then—it seems to run in our family—but, however, he was the one that stopped because he didn’t feel like I had gotten over Doug’s death yet. There was. . . .

[Kathy]: So you just waited and got married later.

[Virginia]: Yeah. Mom and Dad had already gotten their tickets and everything.

[Kathy]: Yeah, I was coming up from [can’t hear], of course, too.

[Virginia]: They ended up coming up twice, just because. So then we were married in ’85.

[Dawn]: What were the dates?

[Virginia]: We were married November 9th of ’85. And then our first daughter [Ashley] was born in July 29th of ’87. Then Doug was born 13 months later, or 13 ½ months later, September 9th of ’88, Douglas. He is named after my brother. Then Savannah was born two years later. She was born October 22d of ‘90.

story told by Virginia (Lee’s daughter) with interjections by Bill Gorman (Virginia’s husband), Eric and Kathy (Lee’s kids), Dawn (Steve’s daughter) and Marcia (Steve’s wife) to the family reunion gathering on January 11, 2014; transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter)

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  • What is the name of the place where Kathy was coming from in Colombia for Virginia’s wedding? It sounded like “Something anica” to me.

Doug Wants to Chase Somebody

[Virginia]: Every year, the seniors would go on a senior trip. There were all four of us seniors. There was only four of us. Two of us decided we would go to—there was a New Tribes base that was in a town a ways away. And they did let us go, but the other two seniors’ parents wouldn’t let them go because they were too afraid to let them go, which, as a parent now, I wouldn’t let my kids go. I would be like, “You’re staying with me!” At the time, being me, I stood up in the—we had meetings at the base so they could update them as to the what was going on and everything. And I stood up there and I said, “Guys you’re missionaries! You’re supposed to trust the Lord!” And that was my, I was kind of, I was mad because the other two kids couldn’t go. Their parents wouldn’t let them go with us.

[Heidi]: Those people wouldn’t trust the Lord.

[Virginia]: I know. I was like, “Come on!”

[Kathy]: [laughter; can’t hear]

[Virginia]: But anyway, then Chet got killed and of course that was very traumatic.

[Heidi]: Did that end the hiding?

[Virginia]: Yeah, then Dad was back.

[Heidi]: How did they figure that was the end of the crisis?

[Virginia]: I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t remember all of those details.

[Kathy]: I just reread the book. It’s called. . . .

[Virginia]: Oh, yeah. I knew Chet. I took care of his kids during conference.

[Kathy]: Called to Die. It’s very good if you want to read about the whole experience.

[Marcia]: Who wrote the book?

[Kathy]: Steve Estes.

[Virginia]: And someone said, who was it I was talking to? Oh, Jim Suderman. He said he kind of took, . . . or was it Jim? Anyway, he said they kind of embellished a little bit on that, in that book.

[Kathy]: It tells the story very well.

[Virginia]: Yup. Anyway, so then I graduated, and then Doug paid for you and Bruce and you were already down there for my graduation, right? Weren’t you in Colombia for my graduation?

[Gail]: [can’t hear] I don’t think he paid for my trip to go down there.

[Virginia]: No, I paid for your trip to go down for Doug’s graduation.

[Kathy]: No, I went down for your graduation.

[Virginia]: I think you were already—weren’t you already there because Allan was there?

[Kathy]: [can’t hear] Bryant College. Allan and I came—that was the summer we got. . . .

[Virginia]: Oh, Doug paid for everybody. I think, that could. . . . Oh, you didn’t?

[Kathy]: No, because we flew. Actually, Chet Bitterman’s sister’s, oh, no, Brenda Bitterman’s brother flew the plane down with the New Testaments. We flew with him from Dayton, Tennessee to Loma Linda in a little plane.

[Eric]: Where was I all this time?

[Virginia]: I don’t know.

[Kathy]: You were probably, I think you were in Peru.

[Virginia]: This was ’81.

[Eric]: Oh, we were still, we may have been, if this was ’81, we were still in the States. We had just gotten married.

[Virginia]: I don’t know, but I know that he paid for you [Gail] and he paid for Bruce and Brenda to come down. And they had Brett. Was it Brett?

[Bruce]: It was Brandon.

[Virginia]: Brandon. So, anyway, so they came down and the reason I brought that up was because then when I traveled to Bogota before I left, then—Doug had always said, you know, Bogota was notorious for pocket, you know, people that pick pockets and people stealing purses and whatnot. He used to say—you know, tough guy, as you all know—“I just wanna put money in my pocket. You know, I just wanna have the chance just to chase after somebody and grab somebody.”

[Kathy]: Egg somebody on.

[Virginia]: Egg somebody on.

Anyway, I had gotten this purse for my graduation gift. And we were in the taxi. We were in a taxi and I guess he and mom and I were in the back. Dad was up front with the driver. Well, I was sitting on the left hand side and I just happened to look up and there was a guy standing there. And I’m thinking, “I wonder if I should lock my door?”

Next thing I know, somebody’s knocking on the opposite side of the taxi. The guy that I had been looking at opened my door and pulled my, took my purse off my lap and started running.

Well, Doug had his chance. He and dad got out and they pursued those two guys and they. . . .

[Kathy]: Didn’t they go in opposite directions?

[Virginia]: Opposite directions, so Dad was going one way and Doug was going another way. Doug was so mad that he did not catch that guy. He was so furious with himself that he didn’t catch him, but Dad caught the other guy, the guy that did not have the purse. And they did take him to court, but—it’s just really weird—so the purse was taken, but somebody found it. They guy had gone through it. Didn’t find the money because I had the money in a pocket and he didn’t see it.

Because it had a letter—and this is another story I’ll go into—I had a letter from a couple in Houston, who I ended up going to work for. They had my address. Anyway, somebody called the group house and said, “We found this purse.” It was kind of cool. I still have that purse ‘til this day because of the journey it went on.

[Kathy]: So they took what they wanted, what they could get in haste because Doug was chasing them. Then they, in case they got caught, they just dumped the purse and kept going. So Doug didn’t catch them, but then the purse was returned.

[Eric]: So had Doug not been chasing them, they would have had more time to go through the purse. He would have found the money.

[Kathy]: Oh, yeah.

[Virginia]: Yup. I think he found the pesos, but he didn’t find the American money. There was American money that was still in there when I got it.

story told by Virginia (Lee’s daughter) with interjections by Bruce, Eric, Kathy and Gail (Lee’s kids), Heidi (Steve’s daughter) and Marcia (Steve’s wife) to the family reunion gathering on January 11, 2014; transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter)

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  • Who else has pick-pocketing stories that you can tell us?
  • Can you tell other tough-guy Doug stories?

Virginia’s Senior Year Wasn’t a Great Year

[Virginia]: I had my eighth grade year and then through high school, but of course, I got accustomed to the kids. Now I would say I am closer to those kids than I am to the Peru kids because it was in the high school years. So graduated in ’81. I went. . . .

kathy-gail-virginia-will-lee-doug-ca-1981

Kathy, Gail, Virginia Will, Lee, Doug; Texas, ca. 1981

Oh, and then my senior year was the year that Chet Bitterman, one of the missionaries, got kidnapped. They were after the director, who was my—Dad [Will Kindberg] was the director. During that time that Chet had been kidnapped and before he was killed, my mom and dad were in hiding. They had to keep moving and I was left by myself out at the base with one of the single ladies. But I didn’t know where my parents were and that was a very, very traumatic time for me.

[Heidi]: What? Really?

[Stephanie?]: Really?

[Virginia]: Yeah.

[Dawn]: So wait a minute. [Can’t hear], why didn’t they take you?

[Eric]: [Can’t hear] at all.

[Virginia]: Because they were after my dad, not me.

[Mary Lynn]: What do you mean, they were in hiding?

[Virginia]: They had to move from place to place to place so that the guerillas—so they were after the director and because they had to keep him hidden, so that they [M-19 guerillas] couldn’t find him. He was the goal. He was the target. They took Chet because Dad was not in Bogota. They were after Dad, so in order for him not to be, you know, them not come back and try to get Dad, Mom and Dad had to move.

[Gail]: But he was on the base the whole time?

[Virginia]: No.

[Gail]: Where was he?

[Virginia]: I think he was in Bogota.

[Lots of Voices]: He was one of the negotiators?

[Eric]: Right.

[Virginia]: He may have been, but he was not—nobody knew where. I mean, he was in an undisclosed location and he had to move around.

[Kathy]: They had to keep the base secure.

[Heidi]: So you knew that he was in hiding?

[Virginia]: Yes. Oh, yeah-yeah-yes. I didn’t know where he was, but I knew he was. . . .

[Heidi]: How long did that go on?

[Virginia]: It was only a few months. Oh, I cannot, I can’t remember.

[Kathy]: Well that whole ordeal, I think, was two months.

[Eric]: Chet Bitterman had been captured. He was held for a long time. It was probably a year.

[Virginia]: No. No, no, no. No, it wasn’t because it was during my high school months. And it was during that time that Dad and Mom had to move.

You guys [Steve’s family] were talking about soldiers. During my high school years, we always had soldiers around our house because when my dad was director. That was kind of weird because I had curtains that were almost like these curtains. You know, being a teenage girl, and these guys are right outside my window. You know, it was a shock, I mean, you know, when they’re not shot guns, but machine guns. So we had, we had a lot. And we had curfews during the whole time we were there. We had to be in by 10:00. There were shots, you know, occasionally we’d hear shots in the middle of the night and wonder what’s going on.

Anyway, so that was my senior year and so that wasn’t a great year.

story told by Virginia (Lee’s daughter) with interjections by Eric, Kathy and Gail (Lee’s kids), Mary Lynn (Eric’s wife0, and Heidi, Dawn and Stephanie (Steve’s kids) to the family reunion gathering on January 11, 2014; transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter) 

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • You mention your Dad/Will writing memoires. Did he publish those? Are those available? Is it possible to add them to this collection?
  • The Steve Duncan kids didn’t receive trauma counseling. Did Wycliffe/SIL provide any kind of trauma counseling for you or your folks? Was that a known necessity at that time?