Missionary recalls wife, daughter at service

Saturday, April 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FRUITPORT, Mich. (AP) _ At the funeral for his wife and infant daughter, an American missionary said he has forgiven the Peruvian pilot who shot down their small plane and said his wife would have done the same.

``I'm not bragging about my attitude. I have no idea why I feel this way,'' Jim Bowers said Friday night at the funeral for Veronica ``Roni'' Bowers, 35, and their daughter, 7-month-old Charity. ``God's given me peace.''

Veronica and Charity Bowers died after a Peruvian military jet, believing the pontoon plane was smuggling drugs, shot it down over northeastern Peru on April 20.

Jim Bowers, 38, and son Cory, 6, were also on board but were unhurt. Pilot Kevin Donaldson, 41, who managed to land the plane on the Amazon River, suffered serious leg wounds.

About 1,300 people attended Friday's service at a Baptist church in Fruitport, 40 miles northwest of Grand Rapids. The victims will be buried Sunday afternoon in Pensacola, Fla., near the home of the wife's parents.

Bowers, in a 30-minute eulogy, spoke calmly as he recalled fond memories of his wife and daughter, and thanked people around the world for their prayers and words of comfort.

``One sign that God was responsible for what happened is the profound effect on people around the world,'' he said. ``I'm hoping it will result in an increase in missionaries .... I'm sure it will; people are challenged now to go do what Roni did.''

He said he and his wife considered Charity, whom they adopted when she was 1 month old, ``their precious gift from God.''

Manuel Boza, Peru's consul general in Chicago, offered his nation's condolences during the service, and called the deaths a tragedy for his country as well.

``There are moments when really it's very difficult to find the words that could appropriately and adequately express our sentiments or emotions,'' Boza said. ``Certainly, this is one of those moments.''

Among the flower arrangements near the closed white casket holding the bodies of both mother and child were four dozen red roses with a note that said ``From the government and people of Peru.''

President Bush telephoned his condolences to Jim Bowers. The White House said Bush did not attend the funeral because he did not want to intrude on a private event.

In Inquitos, Peru, more than 500 people packed a university auditorium Friday night for a memorial service for Veronica and Charity Bowers.

``It's sad that we have been left without them, but we are also happy because we know there is eternal life,'' Baptist missionary Larry Hultquist said in opening the memorial service in Iquitos, a city 625 miles northeast of the capital, Lima.