In Memoriam of Wayne Kirkbride, NICS teacher
December 04, 2011 | Harvesters
By Jesse Newman
It was Wayne’s love of the mountains that called him to climb Mt. Antero in Chaffee County, Colorado, on a sunny September Sunday. He was an experienced mountaineer and had previously climbed 18 peaks above 14,000 feet. The Antero climb would be his last on this earth as he fell to his death on a steep slope. Although Wayne’s death was a shock to his family, friends, and colleagues, the memories of his life will leave a legacy for generations that is no surprise or shock. Brady Boyd, Wayne’s pastor, says, “Wayne was well-loved and a tremendous man of faith…he served all over the church and never missed Thursday morning Bible study. He was one of those guys who was just a light in our church. We’re going to miss him…”. One of his students wrote, “He was my teacher and definitely someone I looked up to as a role model and respected highly. I know where he is and I wait for the day I will see him again.”
Wayne was born July 13, 1950 in Denver, Colorado. He graduated from Adams City High School in Commerce City, Colorado, in 1968, and then attended the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, where he graduated in 1972 with a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering. He spent the next twenty-two years in the U.S. Army with duties in Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia. Wayne’s physical stature was on the small side, but he more than made up for that with his attitude and effort. One Army buddy vividly remembers Wayne’s mantra, “Five-foot two, eyes of blue…..and I can whip all of you!” Another Army acquaintance who knew Wayne as “Captain Crunch” recounts his amazement at Wayne’s physical effort. He was the “shortest human being I ever saw who could carry a mission ruck and smoke the big boys. Back in the days of the five-event Physical Training test, one event was the horizontal ladder. Bars are 18 inches apart and the goal is to cover as much distance as possible in one minute by using only your arms and hands. No skipping of bars or touching the ground was allowed. Crunch maximized that event by using both arms to ‘hop’ from bar to bar for about 25-30 meters. The other four events were child’s play for him.” The same soldier mentioned that Wayne caught a lot of flak for his small stature, but he always quieted the doubters “by his actions.” Before Wayne left the army, he was a master parachutist, pathfinder, ranger, and was air assault qualified. At retirement, he had achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
His army experience and work took him overseas to Panama and Korea. While in Korea, Wayne was stationed at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) when the incident known as “Operation Paul Bunyan” occurred. Wayne later wrote a book (Panmunjeom: Facts about the Korean DMZ) which included the account of this unprovoked attack on two American officers that led to their deaths and almost grew into an open conflict. Near the end of his military career, he went back to school and earned a Master’s degree in International Studies from Old Dominion University in Virginia and a second Master’s degree in Education Management from the University of Phoenix online program.
Wayne’s next years were spent as a teacher in public, charter, and Christian schools (at home and abroad) with some administrative experience mixed in along the way. Wayne and his wife, Yong Hui, moved to South Korea in late summer of 2006 to begin a teaching assignment at International Christian School (ICS)-Uijonbu. Rex Freel, Director of ICS, echoes many of the other things that have been written and said about Wayne: “Wayne had the gift of encouragement. He was always encouraging teachers and students and could tell when they may be having a bad day. You would think that a Special Forces guy would be gruff or harsh about realities, but Wayne had a very soft heart for people and we shed tears together as we prayed for individuals going through hardships. Wayne will be sorely missed. We have lost a true prayer warrior.” The Kirkbrides served in Uijongbu for three school years, and in the fall of 2008 Wayne also began teaching science for NorthStar Academy (NSA), NICS’ online school, during his last year at ICS. Barry Bennett, NSA Director, says that Wayne was known as “a man of his word, of integrity…You could trust him and you knew where you stood and he was just a really good man.”
During the latter part of their tenure at ICS, Yong Hui was diagnosed with lung cancer and it became necessary for a return to the States for treatment and follow-up. Her 18 month battle with cancer ended in October 2009. Wayne dedicated his book When God Says Yes: The Prayer of King Asa (published in 2010) to her. The couple had been married for thirty-three years and were blessed with three children. The last time I saw Wayne and Yong Hui was September 2009 when traveling to Colorado for a conference. Barry Bennett and I slipped away from the conference to visit the Kirkbrides in their home a few miles north of Colorado Springs. We went to encourage them and have a time of prayer for Yong Hui, but we were the ones who were ministered to during the few minutes we spent with them. It was a special blessing to see this man take care of his wife and to hear him speak of God’s faithfulness to them as a family. As we prayed, God’s grace and presence was heavy in the room. Wayne’s humble spirit and his love of God and his wife were very moving. In the book he dedicated to her, he wrote a few paragraphs in the Epilogue about her war with cancer. Although the book is about God saying “yes,” Wayne understood that some prayers are answered “no.” He and Yong Hui, along with a host of prayer warriors, had been praying for her healing for many months. He wrote, “As her health deteriorated, Yong Hui continued to thank God for being a loving Father. In the end, she waited for the Lord to take her home. Psalm 130 was so real as her soul waited for the Lord, ‘more than the watchmen wait for the morning’ (v.5). The morning she was taken home was so peaceful that I know the Lord came and escorted her home. When He said, ‘No’ that was good enough for us….Through every step of our life together—even through our fiery-furnace experiences—God proved over and over to Yong Hui and me that He was El Shaddai, God Almighty. He was Jehovah Rapha, our Healer. He was Jehovah Jireh and provided for all our needs according to His riches in Glory. He was—and is—all these and more.”
I am sure that Wayne missed his partner of thirty-three years each and every day after her promotion to Glory. Not only did he miss her, but I know that Wayne longed for the day when he would see her and his savior, Jesus, face to face. God indeed said “yes” to Wayne when He met Him face to face on September 25, 2011.
A note from the author: My path first crossed Wayne’s in the summer of 2006 when I interviewed him for a teaching position in Korea at the school I served as principal. I had several good phone conversations with Wayne, and called him back one afternoon to offer him the position. He regrettably informed me that not thirty minutes before my call, he had been contacted by Rex Freel, Director of International Christian School (ICS) -Uijongbu (the first NICS school), and had accepted an offer to teach there in the fall. I assumed that he had received a better offer from ICS, and had ruled out coming on board at our school. Several years later when I joined the NICS Home Office staff, and had the opportunity to talk with Wayne in person, I asked him about the two job offers that summer. He stated emphatically that had I called him before Rex, he would have eagerly accepted the offer at my school. It was simply a matter of “the early bird catches the worm” for Wayne!