On a recent flight I was alone and was seated by a retired woman who easily began conversation with me. I’m usually the one to initiate conversation but actually intended to sleep most of this flight. She began sharing with me that she and her husband had been missionaries in east Africa for 35 years only to retire 6 years earlier. I asked her how she got to Africa and this began a beautiful almost 2 hour story. She shared about being a missionary kid to Hawaii during her childhood, and knowing she was called to be an international missionary at the age of 10. Her family moved to Oklahoma and after college she went to Ft. Worth, Tx to seminary.
She told about meeting her husband for the first time and how it was love at first sight.
Pure. Beautiful love.
But they had a problem…he wasn’t interested in being a missionary overseas. He wanted to be in youth ministry. In her sweet kind words she said, “That was a struggle for a long while. I just kept praying for God’s direction.”
Then he spent a summer as a youth minister in The Dalles, Oregon and everything changed. He wrote to her saying he was open to being a missionary and surrendered his life to preach and pursue being a pastor. I asked what she thought when she read that letter…
She smiled really big and got tears in her eye and said, “oh, I was thankful and yelled in celebration!” After all these years, telling about this moment still brought joyful tears to her eyes…lovely.
Kind of wish I could have been there to see that.
She went on to tell me how she remembers the first time he held her hand. And after they were married, how they served at a church for a few of their young married years, then she went to a missions conference that was highlighting missions in Eastern Africa. She said, “they were giving out the Comission magazine so I took one and brought it home.”
Apparently he read it. Because he came to her and explained the article he read and she even told me the picture that he was looking at in the magazine that God began to use to send them to Africa(men holding a log with 9 on one end and only 1 man on the other end). The article said something like who needs your help?
He told her we need to go help that one man in East Africa.
I asked her what she felt in that moment…she said, “Thankful and excited. We were going overseas…where I knew God had called me to go long before. God had given me peace to wait and now we were going.”
She told of discovering they weren’t able to have children and how God orchestrated them to adopt two children, just coinciding with their visits to the states. She told me how both of their boys had loved God and how they had walked away from God at times, but one is walking with Jesus now. She spoke tenderly about the son who asked them years ago not to talk to him about God anymore.
She had tears in her eyes again. Because of her love for her son and her Jesus. She simply said, “We keep praying for him even though we can’t talk to him about Jesus.”
I cried with her. We had a mom heart-to-heart moment.
We continued our conversation until we landed…Becky and I. A woman whose heart was gripped by Jesus at a young age and never looked back. A woman whose life is rich because she followed Jesus where He asked her to go. A woman who encouraged me with her story and whose faith was evident even when life didn’t make sense.
I had been at a large Church planting conference that week and as we talked she shared that she lived in the area and had attended some of it as well. One of the speakers quoted someone saying, “what matters at the end of your life is what continues when you are gone.” Her life mattered in Africa and continues to every Sunday they drive to a neighboring city to pick up their grandkids to bring them to church. No matter where she lives her life matters. To Jesus and for Jesus.
I want God to use my life to matter. I want my life to matter. I want to be retired and encourage someone with the ways I have experienced God in my life…simply by telling my story and how it’s really a part of God’s story. God is weaving and has been for over 2,000 years a greater story with Himself at the center of it.
I want my story to really be a story about Him.