Karen and Tom Prischmann, of Fergus Falls, are examples of the humble and faithful servants as described in Matthew 25:34-40. Or as Karen so simply states, “We put feet to our faith.”
Those feet have traveled to India, Australia, Cameroons, Peru, New Zealand, Brazil and the Solomon Islands.
Whatever task they are assigned in their short-term mission trips, the retired couple tackle it with a quiet spirit and a servant’s love.
The couple have recently returned from a month in Alice Springs, Australia. While there, they helped organize a bookstore run by AuSIL, the Australian Society of Indigenous Languages.
Karen Prischmann, of Fergus Falls, on her first trip to India in 1990. Contributed photo
“All items in the Bible Place, as it is called, are produced specifically for the native aboriginal peoples of the area. The Bible is being translated into the languages of 15 tribes, countries or mobs as they call themselves. Many of the translators divide their time between the bush and Alice. Because many of the aboriginal adults cannot yet read, some of the material is not written, but taught instead by using symbols, DVDs of the Gospels, and CDs. Many of the aboriginal people who have become Christians buy the music in their language. They then play it when they visit relatives who are in hospices. Many natives have dialysis for renal failure, a common problem due to sugar or alcohol addictions,” said Karen.
“In the past,” continues Tom, “it took up to 30 years to interpret the Bible into a new language. First the translators had to learn the language, write the language, teach the people how to read using simple books, also written by the translator, and then finally translating the scripture. Now, due to technology available in most parts of the world, translators are using solar-powered computers to access the Internet, saving much time and money. Now a language using these tools can complete English to Arabic translation in seven years.”
The Fergus Falls couple said that their life has fallen into three stages-their childhoods, their marriage and raising a family, and their retirement, where they wanted to make a difference in the world. As it turned out, all three stages worked together.
“As a child,” said Karen, “a kind neighbor took me to church every Sunday for years. The pastor of the church was a retired missionary and made the mission field sound so interesting. Tom was raised in a Christian family that was very active in the church. When our children were growing up (all five were teenagers at the same time!) Tom was elder of missions in the church, so many missionaries stayed at our home and we all enjoyed that time. We found out they were ordinary people that God was using and that planted a seed in our family.”
“We encouraged our kids in summer missions, and they all served with Child Evangelism. One child went to Nigeria with CEF, and another went to India. One volunteered in the “badlands” of Philadelphia and later went on to humanitarian trips to Haiti, Mexico and Hong Kong.”
Karen and Tom Prischmann (far right) with other volunteers at a book store in Alice Springs, Australia in April 2012. Contributed photo
Between the five Prischmann children, they have 25 years of involvement with missions. In the back of their minds, Tom and Karen wondered if maybe someday they would get a turn.
Life went on. They were busy in Bismarck, N.D. Tom worked as vice president of investments with A. G. Edwards. Karen worked for Northwest Airlines for 23 years. Kids went to college, moved away, got married, and suddenly one day, the family changed. The children had grown up and the nest was now empty.
Karen had joined Airline Ambassadors, a group of active and retired airline employees who used their pass privileges to fly humanitarian aid into areas needing assistance. In 2005, a deadly earthquake struck Peru.
“I remember going to WalMart and loading up my cart with many, many pairs of children’s shoes on clearance and standing in the checkout line. A man behind me remarked about my large family, and I explained the shoes were heading to Peru. After hearing my story, the stranger handed me a $10 bill, and I was very moved by his act of kindness.”
In 2006, the couple moved to Tom’s hometown of Fergus Falls. Together they custom built a new home, making accommodations for Karen’s mom to live with them. It took them a year to complete the house.
Continuous short-term mission trips fill their retirement days. Besides humanitarian aid in Peru, they have done a great variety of things starting with Tom running a backhoe in Cameroon as a new international school was being built for missionary kids all over Africa. Karen ran a skill saw on the same project and also sewed curtains for the translation center.
Karen Prischmann with a band saw on a recent mission trip. Contributed photo
Since moving to Fergus Falls, the well-traveled couple have established several businesses – a pottery factory and gift shop; a landscaping business, (Pebble Lake Nursery); Winger Cabinets; and a gift kiosk, Reflections of India/Minnesota.
“Who would have thought that all of our lives have brought us to this time where we can share any skills that we have. But even more interesting is how God brought it all together. Remember the kind neighbor who befriended me as a child?” asked Karen. “He had polio and walked with a limp. Years later we adopted a little boy from India who had polio. Then two years later we adopted another little boy with polio. That man and his wife allowed me to be loved into the kingdom of God and polio became just a word.”
In a certificate of appreciation from the staff of the bookstore in Alice Springs in Australia, they thanked the Minnesota couple for all they had done. “You have blessed us by your willingness to help out with anything, your patience with the heat, your listening ears, your creativity and your very presence. I am deeply touched by your servant heart!”
The well-traveled couple say they are the ones who have been blessed. They feel it has been a privilege to be involved in God’s work. They have enjoyed the beauty of God’s creation all over the world, in the landscapes and in the people. The foods are different, the dress is different, the languages are different, but the people are all the same. They are all precious in God’s sight.
And now, as Tom is fond of saying after being in Australia, “Grab your swag and the chilly bin, put them in the boot. Let’s head for the bush.” Translated: Grab your bedroll and the cooler, put them in the trunk of the car. Let’s head for the desert (o.k., maybe the lake).