Posted by: calloftheandes | May 25, 2010

HCJB Global Retiree Helen Broach Swanson Dies of Cancer at 81

Surrounded by her family, Helen Viola Savage Broach Swanson, an HCJB Global retiree, died of cancer on Tuesday, May 18, in Vista, Calif. She was 81. During decades of ministry in Ecuador, she worked at Radio Station HCJB, but her home became a ministry hub as well.

Helen’s smile, hospitality and commitment to her Savior opened doorways of opportunity to share the gospel with Ecuadorians of all social classes. Calling her the “original multitasker,” HCJB Global’s Ron Cline said Helen “could conduct a Bible study and minister to the street lady at her door.”

Born to Pastor Henry and Bessie Savage in Pontiac, Mich., on Nov. 28, 1928, Helen aspired early in life to work in missions. “I invited the Lord Jesus into my heart and life when I was only 5 years old,” she once said, “and ever since I was 6 my only desire in life was to be a missionary.”

By the time she reached her teens, Helen’s brothers were missionaries in Latin America. “As a senior in high school I was able to visit Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela with my parents,” she said, “and my desire to be a missionary was reconfirmed.”

She graduated as a Spanish major from Wheaton College in 1950. A year later, on June 14, 1951, she married Dick Broach whom she had met at the Maranatha Bible & Missionary Conference in Michigan, a ministry founded by her father.

She and Dick attended Columbia International University, then lived in Texas followed by Spanish language study in Costa Rica. Then they spent four years with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) in Venezuela. In 1958 they began service with HCJB Global in Quito, Ecuador. “We applied to teach at the Alliance Academy—on loan from TEAM for one year—and we stayed,” Helen said.

“Helena was our spiritual mother,” said Ecuadorian-born Carmen Palomo, who as a teenager in Quito had accompanied her mother to Tuesday Bible studies at the Broach house nearby.

Helen answered listener letters to the English Language Service, made on-air appearances, prepared radio programs and helped at the bookstore. From the early 1980s to retirement in 1992, she was assigned to the Center for Evangelism and Discipleship (which later became Apoyo).

“Helen has always put others ahead of herself and served the Lord faithfully through music, teaching and counseling,” said HCJB Global retiree Doug Peters. “She was ‘Aunt Helen’ to our three children and a host of other missionary kids.” The Broaches hosted young people and children for barbecue parties, according to HCJB Global’s Germán Rhon, an Ecuadorian who met the Broaches at a downtown Quito church.

“With her warm smile, her loving eyes and her words of encouragement, Helena always encouraged me to work in ministry with women of the church,” said Teresa Lay, whose husband pastors Iñaquito Evangelical Church near Radio Station HCJB. “She knew the real need of every woman was to know Christ.”

“Helen impacted more people on a one-to-one or small group basis than anyone else I’ve ever known,” added HCJB Global’s Jim Allen. “Her singspirations, fun games, meals in the ping-pong room and using her bed as a desk are all legendary. Her feet were small, but her footprints were huge.”

The Broaches returned to Texas for two years as Dick headed a cooperating ministry of HCJB Global. Dick died in Quito on Oct. 8, 1994, and afterwards Helen continued in ministry. In 2003 she married fellow HCJB Global retiree Wally Swanson, a widower who served as a medical doctor.

Helen continued to lead Bible studies in a women’s prison and a home for seniors. She also made numerous contacts by telephone, personal visits and by hosting people in their home. The Swansons were also involved in Camino de la Luz Bible studies begun in Ecuador by Wally’s first wife, Char, years earlier. For several years, Wally and Helen split their time between California and Quito.

Helen’s renowned parties continued during her California years, according to Carmen Palomo, who remembered that “every sixth of December to celebrate Quito’s founding she’d stage a ‘Quito fest’ in Hercules, Calif.” Games, songs, foods and Ecuador’s national anthem reminded Helen’s Ecuadorian friends of their homeland.

“My children loved it because afterwards she sang and played piano,” said Palomo. “She always looked for ways to make people happy.”

Palomo also recounted that 25 years after those Quito Bible studies, her mother prayed to receive Christ at Helen’s California home. The mother’s baptism followed in the Palomos’ backyard swimming pool with Helen in attendance.

Helen is survived by her four children, Paul, Rickie, Tim and Peggy, as well as Wally’s five children, Tod, Jeff, Lori, Dan and Lisa, and 22 grandchildren. A memorial service was held at Community Alliance Church in Richmond, Calif., at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 22.

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