Dying and Being Reborn

This week I was checking something on the website of our lifetime employer, the International Mission Board, and I came across something I hadn’t noticed before.  It was sort of like the “column 8” of a newspaper.  There it was: a full color, carefully crafted Obituary page (and pages and pages) of all of those amongst our more than 4000 missionaries who have “Gone Home” this year.

Talk about interesting!  And here I am writing about Heroes.

I was mesmerized for almost an hour, just gaping at all the names. There were so many that I knew from our long history with the Board; people who had stood alongside with us in Africa and Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong and of course so many in Japan. Added to that were the people we’d met in passing on our Stateside Assignment years, when our paths crossed while speaking at different churches.

It’s hard to explain the ‘camaraderie” that one feels when you find someone who’s walked a similar path with so many shared values and experiences.  I chuckled to myself as I remembered some of the unspoken ‘foibles’ that were left out, so that nothing but true saints in the Lord shown down from my screen.  But then, maybe that’s the way God sees us.

Anyway, I decided NOT to further this distraction by adding up the accumulated years of service, years those precious folks had dedicated to sharing their faith with the world.  Suffice it to say, it left me proud to have known these guys, and proud of the God who sent them out, and then took them back into His Loving arms. Some had served for decades, some for only weeks. I remembered reading somewhere that the average life expectancy of a missionary to Liberia, West Africa in the 1800s was only about four months. (Now it’s much longer thanks to medicine). And yet when each arrived at the throne of God, each heard those wonderful words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”. I must add that even though most of these folks lived in various forms of difficulty and privation, the average age of the bulk of them were in their late 90’s.  I’m sure someone could think of an appropriate comment …

As we continue along on our journey here in Australia, just living life as we can, we’re pretty sure we’ll be welcoming grandson #4 into the world this week. Be sure to look at all the “Letters to Schnicklefritz” on Tony’s Facebook page. Google Facebook, Tony Woods. It should be right on top. Or, drop me a line and we can send them to you.

I was happy to come across the following verse below in my Bible reading this morning.  I know it’s out of context; actually God is telling the Israelites what they missed out on, but anyway….  This is the version from my “Message” Bible (which I’m sure will raise a few eyebrows!), but it spoke to me, reminding me of the HOPE we have for the heroes of the future.

Isaiah 48:19 in the Message says, “Children and grandchildren are like sand, your progeny like grains of sand.  There would be no end of them, no danger of losing touch with me.”

I’m reminded that we are all ‘progeny’ of great heroes who have shown us the way.  Aren’t we blessed to have known them, and now we send that love down to our kids and their kids and their kids…….
God bless us all.

Marsha

Heroes Unawares

Hello from Chilly Australia!

If you’ve never thought the words “skiing” and “Australia” go together, just go to the internet and check out for images from one of our many ski resorts at Thredbo, down in the Snowy Mountains.  Granted, as a Colorado girl, I still miss the dry powder snow from my childhood, but for Down Under, one can’t complain! This year is particularly cold and they’ve been able to start the season earlier than usual, so much so that we may be able to go down and have a peek tomorrow.

Tony and I are in Canberra this weekend, celebrating the Queen’s Birthday (and my own, while we’re at it), but we came mainly in order to look up an old and very dear friend, Hillas Maclean, retired Head Librarian of the nation’s Parliament Library.  He’s a hero to us; he and his wife were our first Aussie friends. I’ll never forget coming here to settle permanently so many years after that first meeting, and finding beautiful cards written and individually posted to each of our children in our new mailbox, welcoming us and saying, “We will be your Australian family”.  His wife, Rhoda, passed away a few years ago, but Hillas, now 92, is still living independently and is a joy to be with.

I’m still on the “hero” theme, so in addition to the Macleans, let me tell you about some others whom we never met, but rather, met the products of their heroism.

Many years ago in far away Perth, on Australia’s west coast, we were introduced to some friends of our friends. It wasn’t long before this new couple had become our own friends as well. As we got to know them, the question of how they’d come to be Christians came up.

It seems that they, being quintessential Aussies; free thinking, laid back and full of energy, in keeping with their vibrant personalities, decided to quit their jobs and dedicate some extended time using up their youth and their savings to see the world.  This is a very common activity amongst Aussie youth.

And then it happened.

Somewhere in Europe …… in a hostel, they made a casual acquaintance with three backpacker guys.  Sitting around a campfire, these boys said in passing that they were Christians and, when questioned, basically explained what that meant to them. The next day they all parted ways.

End of story.

Or so they thought.

Months later, the couple returned home and in the process of settling back down, looked at each other and said, “We want to be Christians like those guys.” Sunday came around, they walked into a church, and the rest is history.

Recalling the events that led up to such a life-changing decision, this couple realized that they had never even caught the guys’ names, nationality, or anything else about them. The only reference they can give to this experience is taken from 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved …”

“That’s what these guys were,” our friends told us. “… a fragrance that stayed with us for the rest of our journey, and brought us at last to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.”

I’m pretty sure these unsung backpacker heroes would be delighted to know “the rest of the story”, but at least they will know when they get to Heaven and find each other!

Think about who you are and what you do in every day circumstances. Who knows? You might be changing a person’s life and not even know it! Next time you’re talking with someone….. pause for a second and ask yourself, “What do I smell like?” I pray it will be easy on the olfactorys.

We’ll see you back at home next week.  Nicki’s getting closer and closer to her due date, so stay tuned!

God is Good,

Marsha

A Girl Named Pandita

Hello fellow readers,

I’ve been enjoying traveling with you to different parts of the world on our search for Heroes.  I thought I’d grab another of Canon J. John’s heroes for today.  All is well here in chilly Australia except that we’re (the country, not us) battling an “Indian strain” of COVID.  Because of all the news, I’m seeing a lot of people turning their thoughts toward India and perhaps dredging up some past prejudices.  However, J. John has recounted an interesting story of an Indian woman I had never heard of. It’s a story I think needs to heard and remembered.

Pandita Ramabai was a truly extraordinary woman: reformer, educator and evangelist. She was born in 1858 into a British-ruled India that was dominated by the Hindu caste system. At that time, people were placed in rigid social levels and women were considered definitely as inferior to men. Her father was a high-caste Hindu priest who, defying tradition, taught both his daughter and her mother to read Sanskrit, the sacred language of the Hindu scriptures.

When she was 16, Pandita lost her mother, father and a sister to starvation, victims of a nation-wide famine. One brother survived, and the two walked all around India. She was gifted with an astonishing memory, and used it to recite Hindu scriptures in exchange for food.

Pandita was never one to abide by cultural rules, and soon married a man from a different caste. Sadly, her husband died, leaving her a 23-year-old widow with a daughter. Seen as an orphan, a widow and a single mother, Pandita was rejected by society, but that did not stop her from speaking out. She formed an organization that promoted women’s rights, the education of women and an end to child marriages. Eventually, her voice was heard among the British elite, giving her even more opportunity to speak her mind.

In such an environment, it wasn’t long before Pandita came across Christianity. She read Luke’s Gospel and was drawn at once to the way Jesus treated women with love and respect. She became a Christian, which made her very unpopular among the Indians who knew her, but actually increased her voice for reform. She traveled to England and America, joining with other Christian women activists but always focusing her harshest criticisms on her home country.

In 1888, Pandita returned to India and opened a residential center near Mumbai, where young widows could learn to read and write in a safe environment. “Mukti”, as the center became known, grew to over 1500 residents, producing some of the most influential women of the time.

By the turn of the century, word of the Welsh revival was being heard everywhere, and the Mukti Center welcomed the news, joining in prayer for revival in India. By 1905, thanks to Pandita’s encouragement, Indian Christians carried the Gospel all over the country in a movement similar to what was being seen all over the world. By now, Pandita’s life had a new power and joy and although she remained heavily involved in social work, she was now an evangelist, preaching to all a message that focused on Christ, the Holy Spirit and prayer.

Pandita was an extraordinary linguist – fluent in seven languages including Greek and Hebrew – and in the last two decades of her life worked to create a new and more accessible Bible translation in her own Marathi language. It was finally completed just days before her death in 1922 at the age of 64.

What an amazing story of an amazing woman! Sadly, Indian history has almost forgotten her. But I think it’s time for us all to be reminded of this true “Hero of the Faith”, Pandita Ramabai.

Never underestimate the power of a woman.

Till next time, Marsha

Those Little Heroes

OK, since travel is still up in the air, I thought I’d take you on a virtual trip back to Africa today, that is, if you’ve gotten over your jet lag from last week’s visit to Japan. I hope one day soon we’ll be able to REALLY get on a plane! It’s frustrating and at the same time encouraging to know that here in Queensland, with a population of over 5 million, we’ve had only 7 deaths to Covid, and one of those seems to be directly related to a glitch in the vaccine. Yeah, we’ll step up eventually for the “jab” as they call it here, but only because we want to have the airline’s approval to fly.

In the meantime, we still have our memories, and with the internet, can ‘travel’ all we like.  I talked for an hour with my sister, over 10,000 miles away, and it didn’t cost a cent! Life is good.

So back to Africa.  As you probably know, Tony & I spent our first overseas assignment in Zambia, central Africa, doing church and youth work, as well as teaching school.  We were 23 and 25, and had applied for a post in Switzerland or else someplace exotic like Bali, but the International Mission Board sent us on a much greater ‘adventure’ to Africa.  I’m sure it was a “God thing”, because we fell in love with the continent, doing two more “stints” in West Africa and Ethiopia, until we deemed ourselves too old for any more such adventures.

But I digress.  Here’s our ‘Heroes” for today:

This time instead of some famous names you may know, these were two eight-year-old boys, Claridge and Noah.

When we arrived in Zambia, we set out to convert the enclosed porch of our house into a “Youth Center”.  We lived in a home normally provided for British employees of a local copper mine. It looked like something out of an old Humphrey Bogart movie, with a screened-in porch around two sides, making it perfect for the task. We scrabbled together a ping pong table, a dart board, some Gospel leaflets and set up shop.

No youth came. We discovered that most of the young people we met in the surrounding churches worked every day, and besides had no way of traveling from their villages into Luanshya.

But we found no shortage at all of the “little neighbors” who lived and played all around us. After a few days of hesitation, they came, and they came in waves. From daylight every morning to well after dark, they were on our doorstep, on our porch and soon, in our hearts. Living in town, most of them spoke English and loved to practice it on us.

It didn’t take long to find the prime movers in the group: Claridge and Noah. Unlike the rest of the children, they considered themselves part of our family, to the point that we finally had to devise a flash card system for the front door. If the card was green, come on in! A yellow card meant, “Knock if you have business, but otherwise the center is closed. A red card meant “Even if the house is on fire, DO NOT KNOCK!” This worked for some of the kids, but Claridge and Noah happily disregarded them and continued to make themselves at home. And, I have to admit, we loved it, and them.

They were also a huge help in our study of the local Chibemba language. We would struggle for hours, often shouting out in frustration, “But why can’t I say it like that??” to which they would answer calmly, “Because it’s wrong.” Other times they just looked at us and giggled.

Fortunately, even though we never mastered the language very well, we managed acceptably, thanks to the ever-present Claridge and Noah. It wasn’t until later, when we got to Japan, that the language came between us and food, and we had to knuckle down and get serious.

But those “little neighbors” came faithfully, and our youth center thrived, becoming something like an ‘every day Sunday School’ where kids could come play a game, have a snack and learn about Jesus. Two years later, when it came time to leave, we were so sad, knowing that we’d probably never be back. There were no missionaries to replace us, so the house reverted back to the mine and the youth center was a thing of the past.

Now, fast forward about 20 years. We were in Japan, and I got a letter, forwarded to us by the International Mission Board.

“Dear Mr. Tony’, it began. “Do you remember me? This is Noah.”  Of course we remembered him.  He continued, “A few years ago, Claridge and I had been out drinking and fighting like we always did on Saturday nights. We called ourselves the “Fight Boys”, and were proud of how bad we were.

But one Sunday morning, I awoke out in the field, sleeping off the night before. It was still dark, but I heard someone walking by.  He was whistling that tune you taught us so many years before, “Jesus loves me, this I know”. Something in me stirred. I got to my feet, and found a church. Now I’m training for the ministry and wanted you to know.  Please pray for Claridge, he needs to remember Jesus too.”

In the words of a friend, “You just can’t make this stuff up.”  Claridge did remember. He came to Jesus, and today both of those boys are GODLY men. Noah is a Pastor, and Claridge is a leader in industry, looking forward to early retirement so he can preach the Gospel.

Thanks to the internet, we are able to keep in touch with them, pray with them and rejoice as God blesses them and through them blesses Africa as well.

Isn’t God just SO FAITHFUL!!

I hope you all have a blessed week. I hope you find some little ones to be heroes to you!

Marsha

Sister Heroes

Today, in thinking about heroes, I want to take us back a few years to a couple of women I mentioned in my blog before.  They continue to ‘impress’ me with their story, so here it is.  Back in the 50’s, right after the war, a young girl named Hiroko Nomura, came to know Christ as her Savior, thanks to the witness and direction of a missionary man named Bob Sherer  Like many others before her, Nomura san’s conversion was not met with welcome arms back home.  In fact, her entire family were strict followers of a militant arm of Buddhism, a sect known as “Sokka Gakkai”. Unlike most Buddhists, who are very open-minded when it comes to other faiths, Sokka Gakkai insists upon strict adherence to its beliefs, which span every aspect of life, including one’s finances, family ties and political persuasion.  So Nomura san kept her Christianity a secret for many years. Then, in a bold decision, she asked Bob to baptize her in their city of Kobe at midnight on Christmas Eve.  That must have been chilly! Nomura san continued working faithfully for her aunt during the daytime while secretly studying the Bible with the missionaries at night.  After a few years of this, Nomura san had made friends with several missionaries, including some in the mission office up in Tokyo.  One day, she was asked by the mission if she would consider moving to the far northern island of Hokkaido in order to live in and care for a mission house whose occupants were leaving soon for a one-year furlough in the United States. She did. About that time, a young lady from Arkansas by the name of Miss Annie Hoover appeared on the scene. From the outset, Annie felt called to Hokkaido but being a single young woman, the mission deemed it to be too “remote”, and assigned her instead to work in the Tokyo mission office. Annie never gave up her calling, however, and when a new missionary family moved to Hokkaido, Annie was finally given permission to move as well, provided she lived within shouting distance of the new family. It wasn’t long before Annie had started a church plant for Sapporo Baptist Church (which is still thriving) in her living room.  When the missionary couple on furlough returned, the church plant was going so well that Nomura san, instead of returning south to her Buddhist family, moved into Annie’s house to be an ‘aide’ in her work. These two adapted to life together as sort of ‘big sister and little sister’.  It was such a good fit that they ended up working closely together in ministry for the next 40 years. We visited in their home back in the early 80’s, and I observed that Annie always spoke English to Nomura san. She said this was done initially to help her learn the language, but eventually became the norm. Nomura san, in turn, always answered Annie in Japanese…. unless of course there was a difference of opinion, in which case Annie would speak in Japanese “so that you are sure to get my meaning”, and Nomura san would reply in English “since you obviously have missed a few of your Japanese lessons.”  How funny the adjustments we all make to stay happy under one roof! As time went on, each lady did her own thing. Annie excelled at preaching and doing evangelism; Nomura san, being the faithful side kick, was great at writing hymns (more than 16, I believe) and doing pastoral care. They did corroborate in creating the first Bible correspondence course using the radio.  Annie printed all the materials for it in her garage workshop, and even later produced the Masterlife course in Japanese as well. Both ladies were instrumental in getting 6 churches up and going, including what is certainly the ‘mother church’, Sapporo Baptist. Some of you may not think that’s too many, but believe me, in Japan, it’s a huge achievement.   Nomura san would teach someone to play the small organ or piano that Annie always provided from her own money to the new churches. Both of these women are in heaven now, but they were truly “Heroes of the Faith”, as our devotional said this morning, “Thinking more of what God wanted from them rather than what they wanted from God”. Keep on keeping on, Marsha

Hero in Anybody’s Book

Good Morning Friends,

This morning I’m sending you an article I came across some time ago.  I think many of us can relate.

I’ve been talking about heroes the last few weeks, and one of the things that really speaks to me is the faithfulness of those men and women, even when faced with difficult or even dangerous situations. In fact, it seems to be those times of testing in the midst of the unknown that sets those people apart. The hero I want to show you today is Dr. William Leslie, a missionary in the Congo around the turn of the last century.

Just to stay alive in that place and at that time was a miracle in itself. The average life expectancy of a missionary to Africa back then was around six months. Dr. Leslie survived for 17 years, carrying the Gospel and treating the sick. The sad thing is, he finally went back home to Ontario, Canada, a broken, discouraged man. If he spoke of his time in the Congo, it was in terms of defeat and discouragement.

We could stop there, and gladly give this man “hero status” just on the basis of his faithfulness. But there’s more. Here are some excerpts from a magazine I came across awhile back. Unfortunately I’ve lost the name. But the article bears repeating:

“In 2010, a team led by Eric Ramsey with Tom Cox World Ministries made a shocking and sensational discovery. They found a network of reproducing churches hidden like glittering diamonds in the dense jungle across the Kwilu River from Vanga, where Dr. Leslie was stationed. With the help of a Mission Aviation Fellowship pilot, Ramsey and his team flew east from Kinshasa to Vanga, a two and a half hour flight in a Cessna Caravan. After they reached Vanga, they hiked a mile to the Kwilu River and used dugout canoes to cross the half-mile-wide expanse. Then they hiked with backpacks another 10 miles into the jungle before they reached the first village of the Yansi people.

“Based on his previous research, Ramsey thought the Yansi in this remote area might have some exposure to the name of Jesus, but no real understanding of Who He is. They were unprepared for their remarkable find. ‘When we got in there, we found a network of reproducing churches throughout the jungle,’ Ramsey reports. ‘Each village had its own gospel choir, although they wouldn’t call it that,’ he notes. ‘They wrote their own songs and would have sing-offs from village to village.’

“They found a church in each of the eight villages they visited scattered across 34 miles. Ramsey and his team even found a 1000-seat stone ‘cathedral’ in one of the villages. He learned that this church got so crowded in the 1980s – with many walking miles to attend — that a church planting movement began in the surrounding villages.

“Apparently, Dr. Leslie crossed the Kwilu River once a year from Vanga and spent a month traveling through the jungle, carried by servants in a sedan chair. He would teach the Bible, taught the tribal children how to read and write, talked about the importance of education, and told Bible stories.”

It was 84 years before his story of told, and he died never hearing it. But praise God, he now knows what his faithfulness accomplished.

Dr. William Leslie, a real hero is anybody’s book!

Every Day Heroes

Well, it’s been quite a weekend around here.  Good friends and brother-in-law to our daughter Nicki got married “again”…… to each other.  Last year about this time, in a small outback town, they stood in a church in front of a minister and no one else except for parents while they tied the knot. The whole country was in Covid lockdown, so all we could do was tune in on Zoom and wish we were there. At least their friends in town were able to swing by the church for a “drive by rice-ing”, but otherwise it was a pretty lonely affair.  Now, a year later, restrictions have eased, and we thoroughly enjoyed ‘Wedding: Take Two’. Tony even got to officiate this time, so he was quite pleased!

Then, seeing as how lots of relatives had come to town for the event, we threw a Baby shower the next day for Nicki. Such fun.

On the “heroes” theme this week, I wasn’t able to think too lofty, but as I hurried from kitchen to hair, to vacuum cleaner, I remarked to myself that we’re ALL surrounded by so many heroes in our lives.  Maybe you’d call them ‘Everyday heroes”.

Case in point: we had a friend in 1991 back in San Francisco.  I remember the time well because that was the terrible year when Tony’s Mom had a heart attack and proceeded to drop into a five-month coma, leaving us wondering if she’d ever wake up. She did, by the way, but that’s another story.

It was our year of “Stateside Assignment” from the mission, so Tony was teaching at Golden Gate Seminary. Our church had a weekly Bible study, and we always enjoyed the interesting people who attended. One of the guys was very quiet, usually sat over in the corner, and went by the name of Marcus Uzilevsky. Little by little, we learned his story, and what an amazing story it was!  Back in the 60’s, he was a lead singer for the New Christy Minstrels (If you’re in our generation, you’d know them immediately. If not, look them up), and even wrote and sang with Bob Dylan.

Our time in San Francisco was almost over. The last night of our Bible Study, we were sharing thoughts, and (believe it or not) I was too shy to say how I felt and how my heart was pouring over because of their love for us, and the thankfulness we felt because we thought that we were back on track with our lives.

I sat there mute, and then Marcus picked up his guitar and sang out a song he had written, (and we knew) from Psalms 30:11.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I’d sing it for you at this moment, but I have neither the voice nor the technology.

Here are some of the words he sang:

Arise ye people of the Ancient of Days

In Christ forever we will sing

For God is love and love is here to stay

The chimes of Heaven ring

And you have turned my mourning into dancing

You’ve taken away my sadness

From glory to glory, singin praises unto you

For you have covered me, with gladness

Again and again, over the next year, our world really did fall apart, between my mother-in-law’s heart attack, my dad’s failing health and to top it all off, our son’s eight-month losing battle with leukemia. Everywhere we went, it seemed, from hospital rooms to cheap motels, even in a government agency office where we were trying to put together our daughter’s adoption (the one, by the way, who as we speak is having a baby shower in our house), we’d run into Marcus’s paintings. Besides singing, he had discovered a passion for art, and you can find it today in just about every art shop in the country. Each encounter surprised us, but we could laugh and say that God hadn’t forgotten us and the influence this man had on our lives.

When you Google his name, you’ll see that he passed away in 2005.  We had contacted him a few times in the ensuing years and he was always happy to talk about the great things God was doing in his life, even though, as always, he seemed to be quite humble and in wonder of it all.

We all influence each other.  Can you think of someone who may not even know what a blessing they’ve been to you?  Have you told them?  I’d love to hear your “Hero” stories.

Hang on to your hats and realize that you ARE somebody’s hero!  Marsha

Perseverance

I still have a lot of heroes that I want to talk about, and today I want to tell you about two.  I can’t recall a lot of details about them because I only met them once for an afternoon about 48 years ago. But the fact that I do still recall the experience says something about the influence they had on me.

I’ve been rummaging through my “Africa Mementoes” for a picture of them, and finally remembered that, on that day in Zambia, I felt like I was in the presence of saints, and so taking a picture seemed somehow inappropriate. I do have a picture of their front yard and the wreckage of an old two-engine plane they had dragged in from the bush and set in cement like some sort of memorial.

The plane, they reckoned, was one of several that had been part of a challenge in the 1920s to fly from Cape Town to Cairo. This particular plane obviously didn’t make it, and there was no sign of the pilots, since by the time the wreck was discovered, nearly 30 years had passed.

Tony and I were short-term missionaries in Zambia from 1973-75.  We signed up and were sent from our affluent middle-class American families to ‘deepest darkest Africa”……. Well, not really. Our families weren’t that affluent and Zambia wasn’t all that dark, but these two old ladies stood out like beacons of light.

While living in Luanshya, Zambia, we made friends with a British guy named Keith.  Again, no last name comes to mind, but I’m sure he had one. How I wish I’d written more details, maybe even kept a journal…….. but alas,  the foolishness of youth. Keith was an engineer working on some sort of government project.  He came to our little church and we hit it off right away.

As it turns out, Keith was a pilot as well, serving as a volunteer with the Flying Doctors.  One Saturday he dropped by and said, “The doctor I was taking up has been taken sick himself, so would you two like to tag along for the ride?  I’ll be taking supplies and the all-important newspaper up to “the ladies”.

Of course we couldn’t resist.  Up we went, and within minutes were out of touch with all evidence of humanity, flying low over the African Savanna.

The way to get to “The Ladies” as they were known, was to fly north until you reached the Kabompo River, which marked the border between Zambia and the Republic of Congo, called Zaire at that time. Upon seeing the river, Keith turned east and started following it. “Wanna see some hippos?” he yelled over the engine noise, then immediately put the plane into a dive, leveling off just above the water. Sure enough we could see plenty of hippos, an occasional crocodile, and the frequent islands rising up from the middle of the river. Every time, Keith seemed to be surprised to see them and pulled the plane up sharply while Tony and I were clawing the padding out of our seats.

Skimming along over the water, looking at hippo tonsils, Keith suddenly sat up straighter and with the dignified voice of a pilot, announced, “Here we are”. We could see nothing different in the landscape, except for a crowd of ant-sized people running and shouting. With a quick “fly by” to make sure there was nothing on the airstrip, we banked back around and set down in what looked like a very small clearing, chopped out of the jungle. We learned later that the people, knowing we were coming, had given the area an extra cleaning, insuring there were no debris, animals, fires or children.

Rolling to a stop, we were surrounded by hundreds of people, happily shouting, dancing and singing.  We untangled ourselves, unloaded boxes and bags and followed the surge to the edge of the river where stood two outstanding double story brick homes.  They looked like something you’d see in Mother England.

We approached with our troupe to the nearest mansion and there, on the porch, struggling to stand out of their wicker chairs, were two of the most wizened and sweet ladies you’d ever meet.  They were the missionaries.

Ushered into the cool interior they showed us a table literally ‘groaning with food’ and as we gawked, they grabbed the newspapers from us. We sat and talked, laughed, prayed, sang and ate. Then we ate some more.

Too soon, but with an eye on the sky, it was time to repeat the plane trip home. The waiting villagers, who had been sitting in the dirt outside, jumped to attention and escorted us to the plane, again dancing and singing, reaching from all sides to stroke our arms and seemingly marvel at our whiteness.

What we learned in the having of the tea, was that these ‘girls’ had given their lives to this tiny tribe.  Long ago both husbands (the doctors) had died, but still the girls, who must have been in their 80’s by then, carried on, each living in their own house, ministering to the tribe and all their medical and spiritual needs.  They had no complaint whatsoever, especially if someone (like the Flying Doctors) dropped in with a newspaper and supplies now and then. They laughed that they hadn’t been back to England in 17 or 18 years; they’d lost count and really, “Why would you have any need to go?”

They mentioned having occasional trouble with ‘rascals’ who would boat over from the Congo side of the river with the intent of pillaging, but they always found that the villagers were way too protective of their treasure, so they slept well.

What selfless heroes.  Nameless except to the village that loved them and the God who gave them all their satisfaction. For these ladies, life was not a challenge, but a delight. In a way, they echoed the words of the Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:11, “…I have learned to be content with whatever I have.”

I’m sure these “heroes of the faith” have gone on to be with the Lord by now. I’d love to know the rest of their stories but I guess I’ll have to wait until I see them in Heaven. But one thing I can be pretty sure of is that the village where they lived is still a better place because of them, and generations from now, if the Lord tarries, there will be men and women whose lives were changed because these two ladies poured out their lives there. I’d be willing to bet they’ll have some nice ‘mansions’ up there too!

Next week I’ve got a more documented story about another ‘hero’ missionary. As you may have picked up, I can go on and on about this.

Stay tuned, Marsha

A Happy Man

This last week we said goodbye to a wonderful young German couple who have been renting our downstairs apartment.  They are strong Christians, well versed in the Bible, and they have been ‘stuck’ here in Australia for over a year because of COVID. We believe that God sent them to us because the timing of their coming was such a blessing! Tony had been suffering from severe back pain (He’s only just now getting over it after five months of misery), and was unable to do even the simplest tasks, like mowing the lawn. Paul saw his predicament and said, “I would consider it a privilege if you would let me mow your lawn.” Tony agreed, so from that day on, Paul handled the lawn while Tony and I looked on and thanked God for this answer to a prayer we hadn’t even put into words.Sadly, their time here has come to an end. They have decided to try and “escape” Australia. First up to Cairns, where they hope to enjoy the beach for awhile and then pick up an airplane ticket to some country where they will be able to “hop scotch” around until they reach their homeland. We’re trying not to pray that they will be unable to leave and have to come back, but I know God will guide them wherever they go.But a comment that they mentioned several times about us brings to mind another hero I want to post below. His name was Billy Bray.  Here’s J. John Philo to talk about him:
“One of my heroes is the Cornish evangelist Billy Bray. Billy was born in 1794 in Cornwall. Despite growing up amongst a Christian faith, he soon began living a life filled with drunkenness and violence. He married a woman who had been a keen Methodist but who had let her faith lapse. Nevertheless, his wife’s memory of a happy former life challenged Billy and in 1823 he became desperately aware that he needed to ‘begin again’. He eventually found peace through Christ, and not long afterwards his wife returned to her faith. Billy’s conversion was radical and profound and a sense of wondrous deliverance never left him. In the next four decades, Billy’s life was marked with an extraordinary and exuberant joy that he continually expressed in spontaneous jumping, dancing and shouting, whether at work down the mine or in preaching. He lived simply and served his needy community. Billy gave away money without any concern for how it was to be replaced, raised orphans and built chapels. Many people came simply for the spectacle of seeing him, only to return home converted.”Billy Bray died in 1868, and the final word on his lips was ‘Glory!’”I find four things that speak to me about Billy Bray:

1. I’m challenged by Billy’s joy. Life was tough in the mining communities of early nineteenth-century Cornwall and Billy was always a poor man living amidst bitter poverty. Yet every mention of him speaks of his extraordinary joy, happiness and cheerfulness.

2. I’m challenged by Billy’s witness. For many Christians, sharing the faith is something that has to be encouraged. There was nothing of that with Billy Bray: he was a man who simply couldn’t help telling other people about Jesus.

3. I’m challenged by Billy’s simplicity. Literacy and learning are good and I’m all in favour of theological colleges. Yet, in thinking about Billy Bray, I can’t help but wonder if we have not paid too high a price for the pursuit of academia. Billy preached the simple gospel: because Jesus died for us, we  should put our trust in him. It served him well in his day; I see no reason why it shouldn’t serve us as well in ours.

4. I’m challenged by Billy’s authenticity. I think it was the secret to much of his fruitfulness. Authenticity attracts and encourages trust.

J.John While Tony and I didn’t grow up illiterate and drunken, somehow, Paul and Isabella have observed that we’re happy people!  We don’t dance much these days, but they said they saw in us a love for God, for each other, and for life in general.I thought their observation was interesting. We’ve been told that kind of thing before (Praise the Lord!), but lately we’ve been having some trying times, mostly in the form of aches and pains which I supposed are associated with increasing age. But then last week, our son Nathan was diagnosed with Viral Meningitis. He’s slowly recovering, but it’s been so hard to watch him suffer, and also to see his wife and children watch him suffer. And yet the Germans think we’re happy.Well, truth be known, we ARE happy, when you get to the heart of the matter. God is still on His throne and we are so very blessed, how could we be anything but joyful? It might be my prayer, what is noted further down in Billy Bray’s story, “Many people came simply for the spectacle of seeing him, only to return home converted.”Hope this finds you happy as well.  Marsha

Daniel

As we continue examining some of the “Heroes of the Faith” that I’ve come across either historically or personally, this week I want to focus on some long standing friends of ours, who are among those who would definitely qualify.

A few weeks ago, their baby died.   He was actually almost forty, but because of a freak event where his mother revived him from SIDS and some pretty random genetic stuff (less than 25 known cases worldwide) he ‘grew up’ functioning at the level of a 6 month old.

The reason we knew this family was because for many years we worked together with them on and off as missionaries to the Japanese.  Daniel, as well as their other two kids were a part of our lives and we have some great memories together. These always included Daniel, usually smiling and cooing from his backpack or stroller.

You cannot say Daniel was not an individual, with likes and dislikes, opinions and personality. If you’re a parent, I’m sure you can remember the joys of having babies around. But part of the joy is in knowing that those adorable kids will move on and grow into toddlers, teenagers and adults. Daniel, tragically, never moved on.

The heroes I mention today are the parents as well as Daniel’s brother and sister who each made their own sacrifices.   At one point in time, Mom told me that not a day passed when she didn’t cry.  But she laughed as well.  She loved her family, she loved us and the Japanese with whom they worked. She loved God, and still does, even though the road has been tough and often very difficult at times to understand.

Daniel’s dad even today looks like a teenager, always enthusiastic and ready for the challenge. I remember marveling when I’d see this couple from a distance. You’d never know that they had a care in the world. Together they’ve made a real difference in everyone they touched.

When our own son went from healthy to dying rather suddenly at 16, Daniel was about 12 and, as least in our minds, more than ‘ready to go’. His mom and I cried together about our inability to understand God’s timing.  We both agreed that we’ll never know God’s mind……. but then, that’s why He’s God.

As I sat bereaved after Trevor died, I tried to feel sorry for myself, (and I confess that I did).  But I kept thinking of all the unsung mothers out there who had “lost” their babies, but not to death.  Those precious children somehow slipped off the rails and became a source of grief that never seemed to get any better. I felt so sorry for those families, whose burden was made all the more horrible because it seemed that no one came by to see if they were all right, or how they now felt about God and his Sovereign will. These are the real ‘left behinds’ in a grieving world.  My heart went out to them then, and still does now.

Daniel’s in Heaven now with a perfect body. We firmly believe that, even though it sounds like a trivial ‘pat answer’ to help a grieving family.  But that’s the “Hope of Heaven”, after all, and made all the more wonderful because it’s true.

Real Heroes do it tough, even when people don’t even seem to know or understand. Maybe that’s what makes them heroes, at least in my mind.  I want to thank God that I have these people in my life.

Please pray for this family as they adjust to their ’new normal’.

Marsha