Fran Tracy ’56

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[dropcap3]J[/dropcap3]udging from its early days, one might call the journey God’s taken Fran Tracy on through life unlikely. “I’d only been saved for one year before I went to PhilaBI. I didn’t even take my Bible when I went the first day. It was registration; who needs a Bible for registration?” Fran looks back over sixty years with humor. When she had her admissions interview with Mr. Lufburrow, Director of Admissions, she was fairly sure that he wouldn’t let her in and started to leave. He stopped her, and asked what she’d do if he rejected her application. “I said, ‘I’d come back next year, because I’m sure the Lord wants me here.’”

Mr. Lufburrow let her come, and introduced her to Jennie Fitzwilliam, the Dean of Women. “She had a big influence on my life. We got to be friends.  She had been a missionary in China and I admired what she had done.”

Over the course of her three years of study and Philadelphia Bible Institute, Fran was able to take a variety of Bible and doctrine courses beyond the regular curriculum. Having already earned a degree in science from Mary Washington College in Virginia, she did not have to take many of the general curricula. “I practically went to the Kuyper Bible Institute. I took every course with Dr. Ralph Keiper that I could. I was just learning a lot; I’d been saved by reading the Word at home alone, and I just wanted to learn more.”

Fran didn’t think about being a missionary until near the end of her time in school. A friend, Lois Snyder (later Combs), who was planning to go to South America with UFM (now CrossWorld), started talking to her about the mission. “Neil Hawkins [a representative from UFM] came that last year I was in school and was talking about wanting to recruit twenty missionaries for Brazil and twenty for Papua New Guinea. I thought, well, this is it. Naïve as I was, I said to him, ‘Will you save a place for me? Don’t fill them up!’  I couldn’t believe he wouldn’t get the twenty people real soon, and I had a long way to go until I graduated.”

[blockquote align=”left”]I wanted people who didn’t even have a chance to hear the Word to know God’s Word.[/blockquote]Fran graduated in 1956, just months after the five missionaries were killed in Ecuador, and started the training for Bible translation and candidate orientation with UFM. “I wasn’t planning to go to the field when I started school, but little things throughout my time moved me in that direction. Lyrics to a song: ‘I gave my life to Him,’ or when I gave a sermon in homiletics on Isaiah, ‘Here am I. Send me.’  But overall it was just the conviction that I wanted people who didn’t even have a chance to hear the Word to know God’s Word.”

Fran’s journey to the mission field wasn’t easy. Her family was not supportive; her mother’s health was not good. The deaths of the five missionaries in Ecuador raised questions in many people’s minds – why would a single woman go to the jungles of South America to reach the violent natives? “But the Lord wanted me to go,” Fran says. “My prayers wouldn’t have meant anything if I didn’t obey the Lord first.”Over the course of the next 37 years, ten in Brazil and 27 in Guyana, God continued to confirm His direction. “Right before I left for the field we got a letter from friends of my father, who had died when I was a child, that said something about the Lord. I wrote back to the lady and asked her if she could tell me about the spiritual condition of my father before he died.  When I got to Brazil, her response was waiting for me. They knew my father well, and he was a solid Christian. It was such an encouragement.”

Fran’s primary work was Bible translation, beginning with learning the language of the Indians and then developing a writing system for it before even starting to translate. “I spent ten years with the Yanomami in Brazil, and just as we were getting ready to start full-time translation the Lord moved me over to Guyana to start all over again with the Wapishana.”

But her work was not limited to translation. She was a nurse, a teacher, a construction worker. “We did everything.”  Looking back, even in those things Fran sees confirmation of God’s direction. “The Lord prepared me in all kinds of ways. I don’t think people have to worry about that. Even before I was saved I learned about canoes and spent a lot of time alone in the woods. My father, before he died, taught me that if something is put together, it must come apart, and you must be able to put it together again. That stood me in good stead. I was in the Navy for a year and a half during the War as a weather observer. I was able to give the pilots a reliable weather report on the radio when they were flying in to pick us up.”

Fran has followed the development of PBU into a University with excitement. “I’m glad for the forward-thinking I see at PBU. I like the way of looking at education that students can be trained in Bible and get good training and education in other things, too. They can be strong Christians in whatever field they are in. PBU is bringing up issues like character and virtue that other people are inclined to drop these days – those are important for us to live lives that are pleasing to God.”

Fran doesn’t see anything particularly impressive in what she’s done in life: “God wanted me to go. That’s what I did.” Following 37 years on the mission field, she returned to the States.  In her eighties, she recently spent weeks in the hospital following a repair surgery for her pacemaker that went wrong. “I’m still here,” she says. “I kept thinking of that verse in Jeremiah when I was in the ICU – ‘I know the plans I have for you…to give you a hope and a future.’ And I looked up at the ceiling and wondered if the future would be to see another ceiling or whether the future would be with the Lord.  I had asked the Lord earlier in the summer for a more intimate relationship with Him.  Well, I got it. I’m not always going to feel His presence beside me like I did in that hospital room, but He gave us His Word, and that’s where I find Him.”

Now recovering from her surgery, Fran is looking forward to getting back to teaching in the Bible Study she helps lead. Over sixty women come each week, many of them unsaved. “We’re purposely trying to break the mold, to challenge what they think about Christians. We teach straight from Scripture.”

“God’s been good to me,” Fran says. “I’ve walked in the valley of the shadow of death. And I was not afraid. The Shepherd was there.”

[framed_box]Carrie Givens, M.A., has been a Communications Specialist at PBU since 2009 and an adjunct faculty member in the School of Arts and Sciences since 2008. 

1 Comment

  1. Carrie,
    Keep up the good work. I enjoyed the article on Fran Tracy. We did not know her well during student days, but liked your article. Just an editorial comment. Ralph Keiper was the professor not Kuyper. Doris and I sare still in Southern California where I serve as chief of chaplain service for the Long Beach VA Medical Center. Each summer we visit Ocean City and take part in the ministry of the famous OC Tabernacle. I also work as a police chaplain (community involvement with the Seal Beach Police Department). We both serve on the advisory board of the Guideposts Foundation. I only intended to correct Ralph Keiper’s name, but ran.

    In Ministry,
    George Vogel

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