Getting to Know the Roots
June 01, 2009 | Harvesters
By Jesse Newman
In the last issue of the CORE, we visited with a family that has served the longest period of time at one NICS school. This time around…
...we’ll visit with NICS staff alumni, Larry and Bonnie Roots, who have the distinction of serving at the most NICS schools… read on to find out how many!
Larry was born in Wichita, Kansas, and lived in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri as a boy. He attended Southwest Baptist University and Central Missouri State University where he earned a BS in Art Education and Commercial Art as well as a MS degree in education.
Bonnie was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and attended Southwest Baptist University where she earned an AA degree, William Jewell College where she earned a BA, and Central Missouri State where she earned a MS in Education.
The Roots met at Southwest Baptist University in the fall of 1960 and were married on June 1, 1963. They have three grown children--Lori Templeton, Amy Gwartney, and Richard Keith--and seven grandchildren. After spending their lives serving NICS students and their families, Larry and Bonnie retired in the summer of 2008 and have enjoyed some of their favorite activities together which include camping, boating, and biking. Larry enjoys drawing, painting, and reading. Bonnie also enjoys reading and doing crossword puzzles.
CORE: How did you first hear about NICS?
Roots: We met Joe Hale and his family while they were on furlough in Lynchburg, Virginia, where we were both teaching at a Christian school. In 1988, Joe called to ask if we would join the staff at ICS Uijongbu. We accepted the offer, and I (Bonnie) became a kindergarten teacher while Larry served as art teacher and Bible teacher at both the Uijongbu and Tong-ducheon school locations.
In addition to the kindergarten position listed above, I (Bonnie) have also served as a school principal, and a school superintendent. While at the NICS home office, I also worked as the Director of Mobilization for two years and as a Placement Coordinator for four years (two different time periods). Larry has also been an ESL teacher, a pre-school teacher, a school chaplain, and a pastor.
CORE: Here’s the question everyone has been waiting for….how many NICS schools have you served in over the years?
Roots: We have served in seven (7) NICS schools, and Bonnie has served in the Home Office twice!
We began in Uijongbu and Tong-ducheon and served for two years (at the same time in both locations). We then went to Seoul and served there and in Songtan for four years at the same time in both locations. We spent another five years in Seoul before going back to serve in the Home Office for two years. During this two year period in the US, Larry served as the art teacher at the Southern Baptist Educational Center (SBEC) in Southaven, MS.
Moving to Brazil, South America, we spent one year in Brasilia, two years in Belem, and one year in Rio de Janeiro. After four years overseas, we moved back to the US and Bonnie served at the Home Office for four (4) more years while Larry resumed his art teacher duties at SBEC.
CORE: Is there one location that stands out in your mind as your favorite?
Roots: We don’t have a favorite location. We enjoyed them all…especially the people!
CORE: What would you say is the greatest blessing you received in serving overseas?
Roots: We have loved being able to see so many students, parents, and nationals come to know Jesus as their personal savior. We have also loved watching them grow in Christ through the years.
CORE: What has been the most challenging thing you faced as you served overseas?
Roots: In 1990 we moved from Uijongbu to Seoul to help start the school there. We had enough teachers, curriculum, supplies, and furniture for 200 students. However, on opening day we only had 35 students. Also, one day before teacher orientation was to start we received a call informing us that Larry’s parents were both killed instantly in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. I (Bonnie) was not able to leave with Larry to attend the funeral.
After a few weeks, it was decided that since we had a large number of families in the Songtan area who wanted us to start a school there, we would take half of everything (including staff and teachers) and move to a building in Songtan to open a pre-school through grade six school. I (Bonnie) was the principal for both schools, and Larry was able to get a job with another company. There was not enough money to pay everyone their salary so each Friday they would be asked how much they needed to tide them over until the next Friday.
In December Bonnie was diagnosed with cancer and spent six weeks in the U.S. for radiation treatments. God used this time to grow us in faith and build us up in His Word.
All thirteen students in Songtan and all but two of 35 in Seoul were Christians by the end of the school year.
CORE: Share a couple of your fondest NICS memories with us.
Roots: Our daughter, Amy, went to Uijongbu with us to finish her senior year in high school. She was a great missionary and was a friend to all of the high school students. Each night about supper time, most of them would come to our apartment to hang out and have fun together. It was a great time to disciple them and to feed them as well! Many of them went on to Liberty University after graduation and are very successful members of society. It is great to connect with them whenever possible. Several have told us that they don’t know what would have become of them if there would not have been a NICS school for them to attend.
CORE: Any interesting story/event that you would like to share with the readers?
Roots: We gave many scholarships to families through the years. One in particular is very memorable. We gave a scholarship to a girl from Vietnam. She was a very good student and a great positive asset to the school. At chapel one day she raised her hand indicating that she was interested in accepting Jesus as her personal savior. However, when Larry talked to her she was not ready to make the commitment because of her family’s Buddhist background. We gave her a Bible to read during the summer, and when she returned in August she was all smiles and told us that after reading the Bible she knew that she needed Jesus so she prayed by herself and had been growing ever since. She also led her brother and sister to the Lord! She graduated from the school and one of the teachers was able to get her a scholarship to a Christian university in the US. She completed both a BA and an MBA and married a great Christian man. She plans to return to her home country and hire “tentmakers” to come there and serve.
One other story involves a Hindu family. After much prayer, we allowed a Hindu mom from India to help in our school as a teacher’s aide. Her husband’s company paid for her oldest son to attend, but would not pay for the younger one. Her son loved the school so much that she wanted to be able to come every day and have her four year old there as well. After a chapel service toward the end of the year, she came to Larry and told him that when he was having the children pray the sinner’s prayer that she prayed it too! She began reading the Bible and attended a Bible/English class for school mothers. When we returned to the school for a visit in 2008 the youngest son was a senior in high school. He was so glad to see us and immediately called his mom to tell her that we were there. She was at the school within 30 minutes holding a large bouquet of flowers and a huge smile. The first thing that she said was “I still love Jesus with all my heart, and I read my Bible every day. Both of my sons are Christians. Please pray that my husband will accept Jesus, too.”
CORE: Tell us what you have been doing since you retired from the Home Office.
Roots: When we sold our house in Southaven, we bought a large motor home and have lived in it this year. Our daughter, Lori, and her husband, Darrell, have fixed a really nice site at their place for us to hook up when we are not traveling. We spent two months at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year in Rio de Janeiro to help until the new director and his family arrived. We enjoyed being there with the staff and students.
In the fall, we traveled around North Carolina and South Carolina visiting fourteen Christian universities to recruit teachers for NICS/Oasis.
We spent the winter (2 ½ months) in Jinja, Uganda helping our daughter Amy and her husband Mark and the grandkids at the Good Shepherd’s Fold Orphanage. When we went we only had three grandchildren there, but when we left we had 90 children who were calling us “Poppy” and “Nanny”!
As soon as we returned to the US, we spent time recruiting in New York, and visiting family and friends in Iowa, Missouri, and Mississippi.
CORE: Finally, what advice would you give to teachers who are preparing to go overseas?
Roots: Always remember to stay in God’s Word and humbly obey what He asks you to do. Remember that the safest place on earth is in the center of God’s perfect will. We always ask God to show us a door to walk through and if He wants us to continue to walk through it to keep it open, but if not to close it for us.
CORE: It has been great to hear from Larry and Bonnie Roots, and we wish them well as they continue to serve the Lord and as they continue to help NICS…even after retiring from 20 years of service!
Jesse Newman is the Director of Human Resources at the NICS Home Office.