As I walk the streets of Erseka and talk to friends and acquaintances and members of our church, one theme is on everyone’s lips: the impact on our city by the man known by everyone as ‘Bobi.’ Dozens of people have stopped me over the past two weeks to tell me what Bob Osborne has meant to them.
The guard at the bank: “Seven years ago I was in difficult straights. I bought a sack of flour so our family could make bread. I borrowed a wheelbarrow to bring it home. Bob stopped and together we loaded the sack into his car and he drove me home. I’ll never forget his care and friendship.” Bob’s acts of kindness and his love for people – the time he took to stop and listen; to share and serve – is one of the most profound displays of the gospel that I have ever witnessed.
Two of the main doctors at our local hospital shared at the memorial service how at key junctures in their lives they went to Bob and Linda for advice and prayer. “They are truly parents for us,” they said. The stories at the memorial service were a tribute to how Bob had so often been a father to the fatherless.
After the service the mayor asked to meet me. We met for over an hour. With tears in his eyes he told me of Bob’s impact on the city. He plans to work with the local city council to have one of the main streets named in Bob and Linda’s honor.
Bob believed in the people of our church and the students in the Bible School. Blind Niko, one of our church leaders, learned to toss horseshoes, go bowling and drive bumper cars under Bob’s tutelage. Once when someone else took over for Bob momentarily, Niko’s bowling ball went dangerously sailing into the next alley!
One of the greatest gifts God has given us over the past 19 years of living in Albania is the friendship and love of Bob and Linda Osborne. Since both our parents live in the States, Bob and Linda have been like second parents for us and grandparents for our children. Seven to eight months of the year, we were able to spend a lot of special times together. Sunday lunch became a family tradition. We often shared Christmas as a family. The impact on our children from Bob and Linda was like no other. Here are a few of their remembrances:
Abi (17): Uncle Bob made me feel so special. He appreciated anything I did for him, no matter how small. One year I crocheted him a green hat for Christmas, and he wore it all the time. He would look at me with a twinkle in his eye and say, “I look so sharp in my hat!”
Beka (14): I loved the time he taught us soap carving. He always made time to do things like that. Uncle Bob was always so fun and encouraging. He would compliment me on my playing of the cajon box-drum in church, calling me “drummer girl.”
Jamie (12): We called Uncle Bob “The Postcard King.” The postcards he sent us were always so unique and we would laugh as we worked together to figure out what he was saying. I will also miss talking to him about football!
Stephen (10): I really liked how Uncle Bob always gave funny presents – like giving Beka a ball pump on New Year’s. He gave mom a beach bag one time with the note: “Take a break and go find a beach!” We all loved playing games with him too.
There are so many things we could say about Bob. How he never demanded attention but always gave it; how he always had time for people; how he added value to everyone he met; how he always noticed things and gave sincere compliments; how he remembered the little details that mattered in so many peoples’ lives.
The Apostle Paul says Acts 20:24: “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Bob finished his race following the marching orders from his God. He knew the risks of living in Albania due to his age and health, but loved his calling and brought his big heart each year. He testified to the gospel of God’s grace in his life right through his last week. Linda’s resolve of returning to continue the task the Lord has given them is a shining light – it is the gospel of the Lord Jesus in Albania.