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Thoughts about our one & only brother Paul

by his adoring sisters


I remember that in India as kids, Grace and I took it upon ourselves to train Paul, who had a habit of not finishing his food. We told him that if he didn't eat all his curry and rice, we'd put in the refrigerator and give it to him for breakfast. We did, too, at least once. We went home on furlough when Paul was 5 or 6, staying with Grandma Jungas. It was summer and she served watermelon. Paul looked at it and complained: "I don't want it cut like that. I want it cut in round squares!"

I remember sitting with Paul on the veranda of Nagarkurnool teaching him to read as the gnats buzzed about our faces. In Kodai he was at Kennedy Hall as a second or third-grader. I had to find him for piano lessons with Miss Page--he would be playing in the dirt with his cars. When he graduated from Kodai H.S., he and two other boys returned to the US alone, by ship. He remarked that on their sightseeing tour in England they got very tired of it. . . "The Crown Jewels, yeah yeah" (yawn). He had to take the train from New York to Mt. Lake (or somewhere). Having little money, he bought a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter, ate down so far on the loaf for breakfast, farther down for lunch, etc.

In Hillsboro, he worked for a cement company one summer; he'd come home at noon extremely thirsty and get cross if cold drinks weren't ready. Once somebody gave Mom a live chicken to eat. Dad was in Prairie View so it was up to us to butcher it. None of us girls was going to chop off its head, so this job was given to Paul, who couldn't get himself to do it either. I don't know what happened to that chicken.

And yes, he did learn to play the piano. Nobody at Tabor College knew this. One day the chapel leader announced that Paul Hiebert would play a piano solo. Uncle Leando Hiebert, on stage, watched the boys Paul was sitting with--they thought it was a joke ...Paul, piano? He went up and played "Spring Song' or something like that, quite classy--their expressions changed to amazed incredulity, to Uncle Leando's amusement.

Paul has a great sense of humor. Remember the 'dead-bug' act--lying on his back with all four arms/legs sticking straight up? And he is very intelligent. He used to read chemistry for recreation. Some of his ideas have been very helpful in loosening up conservative MB ideas, such as his 'bounded set' vs. 'centered set.' His books show careful analysis and research. How many books has he written, anyway?

Paul is greatly loved in India, I think because he talked to Indian people with respect, unlike some missionaries who took a condescending attitude. A friend of ours relates that when Paul preached in India, he involved the audience directly as in conversation, speaking sometimes in English and sometimes in Telegu. He helped wherever he could, e.g. he supported a widow named Maryamma for 33 years.

Paul, you are remembered and prayed for by people all around the world. With love and gratitude that your are my brother, your sister Phyl


I was Paul's shadow; wherever he was, I was there too.

We were best friends, playmates, especially during the early years in Wanaparthy. When he was learning to read, if he wasn't fast enough with the word I would provide it. Mom would tell me to skit-skat-skoodle so he would be able to get the words on his own. I was helping because I was impatiently waiting for him to be done reading and come play with me.

I was so embarrassed in Mt. Lake. He was playing in a basketball game and someone asked me who the awkward kid was. I was too embarrassed to acknowledge that it was my brother. I wish the kid who asked that would know Paul now and see all he's accomplished in spite of his lack of ability in basketball.

I remember Paul whittling an interlocking chain and a ball enclosed in a cage. In his pocket he carried a list of the world's unsolved math problems. He was not meticulous--doesn't pay attention to that.

Once Paul was taking a long bath and it turns out that he was sitting in the bath and reading--he felt strange and looked down to find he had forgotten to put water in the tub.

Later in Hillsboro he helped build a house to learn carpentry. He drove a cement mixer--he was the only one who would stay long hours to check that the cement settled right and see that no one walked in it. The cement mixer's brakes were no good. Paul would tell the boss but he wouldn't fix it because the truck was so old and the boss said he didn't know where to get parts. Paul had an accident on the 13-mile road; luckily no one was hurt and the mixer finally was fixed.

Paul was always absent-minded and kept losing things, especially his keys.


I remember:

-Paul taking Joanne and me on bike rides outside the compound, although reluctantly. He extracted much out of us before granting this favor.

-his struggle to behead a chicken for supper in Hillsboro

-a group of us (including Roxy Radcliffe) destroying the abandoned farm house when we lived outside of Reedley

-being with Paul and his family when Fran died. We listened to her favorite music, read her favorite Bible passages, and then stood around her bed as she took her last breaths. That is how I want to go--with all of my children around me!


-you had a little hallway room off our bedroom in Reedley where you'd whittle, making impossible carvings: interlocking chains, balls inside cages. I also remember you made interesting contraptions with your erector set and I loved watching you run your gyroscope along a taut string

-you were tall, shy, gangly, wore thick glasses, always thinking, your feet not quite on earth, your nose in a book. You were also kind and patient, as well as stubborn--very, very stubborn

-we'd call you Paul Garbage-can Hiebert because you'd finish up anything the rest of us didn't want to eat--and you'd never put on weight

-when we were in the streets of Madras, you were always hanging back, wishing you could help the little beggar kids surrounding you; Mom said you'd give the shirt off of your back if you could

-and then there's your devotion to arguing; you could argue any point; a favorite was: is the color red that I see the same color that you see?

-when you played Monopoly, you would talk Betty into letting you have all the land while Betty got all the money; it took awhile before Bets saw why she always lost with this plan. Sometimes you'd hide money so we'd think you were broke and feel sorry for you, letting you by on debts while you really were getting richer and richer....

-we sisters have had fun giving you a hard time as the only brother: dressing you up for our red hat society, shrinking of your head/honoring you; now we've made you a video: This Is Your Life, Paul Gordon Hiebert

-in reality, we figured you got special privileges because you were the only boy: Grandma Jungas always gave you special attention/more money for washing the kitchen floor; we girls had to crowd together in bedrooms; you got a room of your own (of course, in Reedley it was also Dad's office...). You got to go on tour with Dad and had a lot more freedom on the compound than we females ever did. Of course I would never dream of complaining....

-you would give me back rubs when I was really sad about Dad's illness

-I was so impressed when you started to date Fran; she was so beautiful, outgoing and popular and you were shy and hadn't dated at college; turned out to be the perfect match since Fran helped keep you in touch with the real world and you introduced Fran to the world beyond Oklahoma & Kansas, plus the two of you produced three fantastic kids

-I liked spying when you and Fran were dating; not much privacy in a house where a bunch of pestery sisters were around

-when you, Fran, Eloise and Barbie headed for India, Frank and I were lucky--we got to see you off at the train station in Chicago

-a few years ago we got to go travel in India with you, Gwen and Loey; we had a really great time. Loey was our travel agent, you were the historian; you ended up telling our self-appointed Indian guide at the Red Fort a lot about the history of the Fort

-we stayed at your house the night before we left for India, had breakfast together in Highland Park; we left for India via Taiwan, Kuala Lumpur while you went via Europe. When we got to New Delhi we were uneasy, not sure if you'd be there; it took a long time to get through customs; then we went to the waiting area, where we saw a sea of brown faces but to our relief we also saw one tall white-haired person who was patiently waiting for us; we could breathe again

-when we visited the Kodai compound, you were completely reluctant to go into Boyer Hall; still had the feeling that it was off-limits to guys

-throughout your adult life you were known as a teacher/writer/historian/missionary/anthropologist/ missiologist--but you have always been most loved for being a kind person who cared about others. You accomplished so much but you always retained a sense of being a servant of God, never becoming boastful. You represent to me what it means to be a Christian.

-for me, Paul, I respect the teacher, the writer, the anthropologist, but my deepest feelings are that I love you as my brother and friend.


My favorite recollections of my esteemed brother Paul...

Since I didn't really interact much with you, Paul, during early years in Kodai (being separated by age and geography), my first deep impression is from Hillsboro. There were several incidents which convinced me (rightly) of just how brilliant and clever you are. First there was the whittled wood object of a square or ball, with smaller balls inside it as in a cage. This looked like an impossibility, but you created it nevertheless. I was fascinated. Then you demonstrated all sorts of astonishing tricks with numbers and mathematics. Agile in both body and mind. Then there was Fran. Everyone told me you were shy with women, but I didn't know enough about such things to make that observation myself. So I wasn't surprised when you romanced this lovely young woman and she agreed to marry you. The whole episode was enchanting to me.

My next distinct memory is from Minneapolis, where Mom, Loey and I lived above the seminary offices for awhile. Being then pubescent and thrilled with romantic notions, I made note of just how handsome, gentle, charming and unique my brother Paul is. I determined that I would marry you. Someone (probably a sister) gently educated me about incest and the need to marry someone not related, and I felt a deep sorrow and the loss of innocence that is so painful in adolescence. I then avowed I would not marry until I found someone JUST LIKE YOU! I haven't succeeded in that, though I've tried several times. I have found some of your qualities in each of my romances: intelligence here, love of math there, charm and good looks in one, generosity and kindness in another, integrity fortunately in each. But I've had to resign myself to the fact that there is only one Paul Hiebert in this world.

Finally, when I was more developed in mind, I remember playful arguments with you in which I would start vehemently arguing one side of an issue. After about half an hour of vigorous arguing, I would realize that I was arguing with just as much conviction the OTHER side of the issue. What just happened here? was my startled question. You clever dog, Paul! I do think my love of discussion, debate and argument grew from sessions just as this with you. To this day, people fear arguing with me. Michael, my son, will tell people who start to engage in debate with me, "don't bother--she always wins."

There are many other wonderful qualities you possess that I know only from a distance and from tales told by others. I only regret that I didn't experience more of these first-hand. But I cherish the stories and what they tell me about you.

Thank you, dear brother, for providing an ideal model of a man and a human being by which I can measure others and make good choices. Thank you for teaching me about grace, humility, humanistic applications of intelligence, broad and generous world views, loving parenting, scholarship that isn't frivolous or self-serving, faithfulness to one's loved ones, and the visible results of letting your beautiful soul shine through.

Love always and forever,


-learning to drive the jeep on the roads outside of Shamshabad--racing the buffaloes who wanted to cross the road in front of us.

-finding the old stone age axe near Amrabad and avoiding being bitten by the viper in the "haunted house;" talking to Mogiyah

-sitting under the palms and eating "Moir" at Palm Lagoon in Kerala

-talking and talking on the porch of my house in Kodai while drinking cup after cup of hot Indian tea