Living Grand: Judy Meyer

Judy Meyer couldn't have imagined how a pastoral childhood spent outside Sioux City, Iowa would create opportunities to teach locals in Papua New Guinea.

Growing up on a farm near Sioux City, Iowa, was a mixed blessing for Judy Meyers. Farm life taught her a lot about independence — she learned to sew her own clothes and developed the confidence to tackle projects on her own rather than waiting for help – but the schedule was demanding, and farm chores were rarely much fun. 

“I didn’t like it at the time,” said Meyers, now 82 and living in Tacoma, WA. “Your whole life is taken up with animals and keeping things together. Then you’ve got to get eggs from under the clucking hens. They peck at you and bite you.” 

Those farm-honed skills did come in handy in a surprising way later in life, however. Judy’s husband was a pastor, and after he graduated from the seminary, the couple was assigned to do missionary work in Papua New Guinea. There were plenty of adjustments that went with such a move. None of the natives wore much in the way of clothing, and neither Judy nor her husband spoke the language. But there was one moment when Judy felt right at home. 

“The natives thought drinking milk would make them strong, so they got a cow and they said, ‘How do we get the milk out?’” Judy said. “So, I sat down and they didn’t believe I could do it because I’m a woman. But I sat down and, squeeze-push, squeeze-push, I showed them how to milk a cow. I could still milk a cow today, I think.” 

Judy was 27 when she moved to New Guinea, and six months pregnant with her first child, Elizabeth. When Liz was born, the family lived in a bamboo house with floors and walls made from woven reeds. Judy just about caught the next plane out the first time she found rat droppings in her daughter’s bed, but she stuck it out, and ultimately had a second child, David. The family didn’t leave New Guinea until Liz was ready to enter sixth grade. That’s the age when missionary’s children move to Australia to attend boarding school, so the family packed up and moved to Chicago, and then to Hawaii.  

Despite the challenges, Judy called living in New Guinea a fantastic experience. 

“It was the kind of experience that gives you a perspective on life and makes you realize how gracious God is to bless you in the ways he did,” she said.  ” 

Keeping family close

Living in a foreign country built tight bonds in Judy’s family, but as the years went by, staying in touch got more difficult. While the family liked to get together for holidays, those gatherings became more and more difficult. Liz still lives close to her mother in Washington, but David is in Arizona, and Judy has sisters in Minnesota, Phoenix, and Reno and a brother in Iowa. Judy had both a cell phone and home phone, but she rarely answered either. 

“We all had different lives,” Liz said. “It was hard to focus on one thing for any length of time.” 

Tired of missed calls, Judy’s sister in Minnesota bought her a GrandPad about three years ago, and it has transformed the way the family stays in touch. Today, Judy calls her grandchildren a few times a week. Her son calls regularly for video chats. And Liz, who sees her mother regularly to help run errands, uses the GrandPad regularly for voice calls to stay in touch between visits. She’s found her mother is more likely to answer the GrandPad than she was to pick up the phone. 

“The buttons are so big, they’re so easy for mom to use,” Liz said. 

Judy has some technical acumen. She’s using her computer to write a book about her life, and she just figured out Instacart to order groceries. But she likes how easy her GrandPad is to use. She uses it primarily for communications, and she loves how it helps her stay in touch. 

“It’s just an easier kind of communication,” she said. “It’s a wonderful thing. I’ve told lots of my friends about it.”