1996 Alumnus of the Year - Lenardo Medina Pugyao '73-'75
This article originally appeared in the Spring 1996 MoodyAlumni magazine. (Vol. 46 - No.2)
by Byron S. Fujii '79 dg '80, Managing Editor
Our Alumnus of the Year has come a long way since his birth and early childhood. Born on January 31, 1949, and raised in a thatched roof home in the Philippines, Lenardo (Nard) Pugyao led a typical life for a small boy in the Isneg tribe. His parents Teodoro and Marabuc were farmers. He was the third of six children.
Life on the "farm"
Wycliffe Bible Translators were in his village, working on translating the Bible into the native tongue of the villagers. They had to learn the oral speech, create a written alphabet, and then translate the Scriptures into that previously unwritten language. The missionaries "recruited" Nard to help them learn the indigenous vernacular, even though his native tribal dialect was the only language he knew at the time.
It was during this time that God brought G. Richard Roe (Dick), a missionary with Wycliffe, into the life of our honoree. Through reading the Gospel of Mark in his own language, and through the influence and work of the missionaries, Nard accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior on Christmas Day, 1963.
Education, the key to...
Our recipient left his village to attend high school in the city. Imagine his fright and excitement, as a young boy, when he was strapped into the back seat of the missionary airplane and was on his way to the big city for the first time in his life. During those high school years, he spent weekends with Dick, who became like a foster father to him. A very bright student, he graduated from Bukidnon Provincial High School in 1968, 10th out of 174 students.
From high school, he attended Feati University in Manila for two years, studying aeronautical engineering. God had given Nard the dream of being a missionary pilot, flying missionaries into remote villages not unlike his own.
Alumnus William C. Powell '65 encouraged our honoree to attend Moody Bible Institute. Nard applied in 1970 but due to low test scores, was rejected. Always striving to improve himself, he asked the registrar why the Institute rejected him. He was given the reason and encouraged to get more schooling and reapply in the future.
Nard attended Febias College of Bible in central Philippines, for one semester. From there, he left the Philippines to attend LeTourneau College in Texas. He completed their program and graduated in 1973 with an aviation technician certificate and his airframe and powerplant license.
While attending LeTourneau, Nard spent summers and breaks at the Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS) center in Waxhaw, NC. During the summer after his first year at LeTourneau, he met and began dating Sandra Neumann, whose parents were working at the center.
Finally, at Moody
Determined, Nard reapplied to Moody, this time, specifically to the Missionary Aviation Program in Elizabethton, TN. Due to a time conflict, however, he could not be considered for that current term in Elizabethton. Moody offered the option of attending the Chicago campus for the immediate school term. His response was, "I would like to attend the Chicago campus this fall if at all possible. I know I would like to take some Bible courses which will better equip me with God's Word as I go on for His service."
After taking a year of classes at the Chicago campus, he went down to Elizabethton in June of 1974 and began training to become a pilot. In 1975, Lenardo Pugyao completed his course of study at Moody Aviation.
Preparing for God's work
After spending a year in Pontiac, MI working as an aircraft mechanic in preparation to go overseas, Lenardo married Sandy on June 13, 1976, in Monroe, NC.
The couple returned to Pontiac and began the long process of applying as missionaries with JAARS, and arranging and planning for a future overseas. They began their actual training process with Wycliffe's Summer Institute of Linguistics in Oklahoma and went to Jungle Camp in Southern Mexico. Further training took place at the JAARS center in Waxhaw. Nard was coming closer to the possibility of becoming a missionary to his own people.
There's no place like home
In July of 1979, the Pugyaos began their first term as missionaries to the Philippines. Nard worked as a pilot/mechanic on fixed winged aircraft. During this term, he had the proud distinction of flying in the very first copies of the New Testament to his home village. This was God's words to him and his entire village, written in their very own "mother tongue." This term also saw them increase their family with the birth of Steven in 1979 and continuing with P.J. (Philip James) in 1982.
It was during their first furlough that he received his helicopter's license at the JAARS training center in 1983.
They returned to the Philippines for a second term in the summer of 1983. With our recipient's additional training, he was able to broaden his expertise working now on helicopters as well as fixed winged aircraft.
The year 1985 found them back in the States working in the hanger at the JAARS center in North Carolina. A year later, Nard began teaching at Moody's aviation facility in Tennessee. He spent the next eight years preparing others to join in the ministry of missionary aviation around the world.
The Pugyao family headed back to the Philippines, in June of 1994, for the third time. As the end of that stay was nearing, they had a scheduled departure of July 7, 1995. His "dad," Dick Roe became very sick and was hospitalized. Somehow Nard knew that this was serious. He asked the Lord to let his dad have another five to ten years. The Lord's answer would not be what he wanted to hear.
It was decided that Dick should return to the United States and reservations were made for a first class flight, but he was wondrously upgraded. Our recipient's dad left the family behind on July 8, at 9:08 in the morning, for a VIP seat aboard a heavenly flight.
Dick left our Alumnus of the Year with a challenge to continue to be faithful to the Lord, to serve Him to the end. Nard will forever be grateful that God blessed his family by letting them be in the Philippines to share Dick's last year on earth. God's timing is perfect.
Memories and honor
Upon receiving the award in historic Moody Church, Nard shared the experience of bringing in those first New Testaments:
I was flying the first 500 copies of the New Testament back to Dibagat, my village. When I left the Philippines, in 1971, to come and train as a missionary pilot, I asked God to help me be the one to fly the New Testament back to Dibagat and God honored that request... As I was packing these New Testaments with my wife Sandy, I was asking the Lord "what if." What if Dick Roe said, "I don't want to go to Dibagat. I don't want to go there because they eat dog meat; they eat grubs. Why should I go there?" or "It's too far"? Well, he accepted the challenge... As I circled over the village I knew that down there, underneath those coconut groves, that's where God formed me. I said, "God, look at that little hut. That's where you formed me in secret. What a privilege, now I'm carrying Your Word back to my own people."... When I landed, I started to unload the New Testaments...I put the first box on the ground and then went back for the second box. As I was about to put the second box on the ground, I saw somebody carrying the first box on their head. I looked and saw that it was my oldest sister carrying the box to the side of the airstrip. I said, "Hey manang (older sister)," and she turned around with the box on hear head and responded, "Ading (younger brother)?" I asked, "Manang, do you know what you’re carrying?" She didn't. I said, "Manang, those are New Testaments in our language." She brought the box down and hugged it and said, "Are you serious? New Testaments in our language? You mean I'm going to have a copy of my very own? New Testament? In our language?" I could not contain all of the emotions in my heart... What a thrill! Now my manang can read the Scriptures in our language. It was the most exciting time of my life.
Since being in the States, Nard has returned to teaching with Moody's flight program in Elizabethton. He has once again accepted the challenge of multiplying his technical skills by teaching young men and women who will carry more precious cargo, such as God's Word and missionaries, into many more remote villages in other distant lands.