Feb 15, 1963—Oct 20, 2016
The 2012 Winter Networker feature article was: “A Family Comes Home: God’s Good Story”. We used pseudonyms as the Wen Family had just returned from China.
Feisty and full of life despite having advanced metastatic cancer, Vickie liked to say, “If I’m not dead, I’m not done.” She had another favorite line: “This is a God story. And a God story is always a good story.”
Life leading up to China
Vickie grew up in small town Mississippi. She graduated valedictorian of her high school class, earned a business degree, and later landed a job with a forestry company that took her to China. Vickie felt strangely at home in the interior provinces of China, where she was once mistaken for a local minority person.
Returning to the US, Vickie met and married Art. They shared a heart for China, a love of the outdoors, and an affection for the 49ers.
Art was an engineer, but he enjoyed teaching English. After a second summer teaching trip to China, he felt ready for the big move. Vickie was more than eager. Rachel and Michael were 3 and 5 years old when they left California.
Love Zone was home
They were in China for seven years, the last five in a city they called the “Love Zone”. For Rachel and Michael, Love Zone was home.
In the US, Vickie was a power seller on eBay, dealing in kids’ clothes and cross stitch. In China, she continued to cross-stitch, but discovered a passion for teaching English. Vickie was creative and captivating, strict but fun.
When the holidays rolled around, their little apartment would be wall-to-wall students all week long. They watched movies, played games, feasted on Vickie’s desserts, and learned about Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and God’s special love for them.
Vickie had friends outside the school too. There was the woman who sold her vegetables and fruit, and the grocer who imported her drink of choice, Coke Zero! Into their fourth year in Love Zone, a shopkeeper finally asked Vickie for her name, as if to say, “I like to get to know you now since you’re not going to leave like all the other foreigners.” Art and Vickie had planned to be there for a long time.
Finishing well in China
Then, January 2012, Vickie was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. For many Chinese people, cancer was the monster you must not call by name. Cancer patients live in the shadows as if just waiting to die. But that was not Vickie. She shaved her head and made monthly trips to Hong Kong for treatment in order for the family to finish the school year and depart with better closure. Art also responded with quiet strength, took care of the children when Vickie was gone, and carried on with his usual teaching load. How they lived as a family during the last 5-6 months in Love Zone left a deep impression on their colleagues, neighbors and friends.
Fighting a good fight
Vickie completed the last two cycles of chemotherapy in California. For several months, all seemed well. Then the cancer came back with a vengeance, spreading quickly to the bones, the brain, and the liver.
Vickie fought her cancer with courage. Tallying the miles she had flown and driven for treatment, and the hours she had spent in clinics, Vickie was grateful for borrowed time—a full four years and nine months. She blogged about the journey and reflected on what it meant to live with cancer, lose friends to cancer, and face dying from cancer. Then she would sign off “in His grip”. Christ’s love was forever the foundation of her faith.
Living life to the fullest
Vickie’s will to live was strong. There was so much to do. The family went camping and traveled. Each child got a special trip with mom to New York City. Vickie talked to them about her cancer to help them process and be strong for the day when she would be gone. Just a few months ago, she and Art replicated an early romantic getaway—a trip along the Northern California coast.
Vickie had love and energy for everyone. She cared for Art’s parents, started the “I Want More Than A Pink Ribbon” campaign for patient advocacy, and led the English Corner for Mainland Chinese scholars and their families in their neighborhood.
On Oct 20, 2016, Vickie was called home to be with the Lord. At her memorial service, condolences from former Chinese colleagues and friends were read. It had been four years since she left the Love Zone. What a tribute to Vickie’s witness in China! There was also a video collage of greetings from Chinese exchange scholars, graduate students and their families, who had met her over the last four years—well wishes for Vickie’s 53rd birthday, which was her last.
Vickie’s was a good God story. She inspired everyone who knew her to love God, love others, and live life to the fullest. Vickie was hoping to revisit the Love Zone this summer, but she became too ill. Perhaps someday, Art and the children will. God’s good story does not end here.