I’m walking in my maternal grandparents’ footsteps this fall, caring for the orphans and widows. In this day and age, where most singles and couples live without extended family support, these terms can apply to a wide range of people. And I think that this is one of the main roles of missionaries worldwide: Being financially supported, our time is more available for the needs of others. Kind of like stay-at-home mothers used to be for society. And because “acts of service” continues to be my love language, even with lower energy levels, Jesus makes my day when He puts together connections in serendipitous ways!
Let me share some recent examples in detail:
I had just delivered homemade soup to 2 English-speaking friends: Ben’s wife was out of town and had a sick daughter. Helen struggles with chronic pain and exhaustion and I launder her bedding twice a month. That day she also gave me her duvet to get cleaned. Ma Belle lives close to the laundromat and dry cleaners, so after checking prices and hours, I went by her apt. and no one answered. Looking at my watch, I realized that she would be walking home from a HoP set at church, so I headed that direction, spotted her and pulled over.
Since I had given away all my soup, I asked if she was hungry. She was, and since it was a sunny day, we headed to McDonald’s and had lunch out on the patio. Out of the blue, she asked me if I would help her deal with her chin hairs because her sister told her, without mincing words, that she was ugly. So we decided to go back to my house where I could give her disposable razors and show her how to shave. Her hair was pretty greasy too, so she took me up on a shampoo and trim as well! Happy day – She looked like a new woman! The root of the problem seemed to be a broken water heater (again) and no shampoo, so before taking her home, we stopped at a discount shop and got cleaning supplies, not only for her body, but also for her apt., since she warned me that it wasn’t in very good shape. Others had told her that her kitchen bins were the problem, but she seemed unable to tackle it. I hadn’t come by all summer, so it was time for a visual.
Upon entry, I was dismayed at the state of the kitchen. Despite lack of hot water and clogged sinks overflowing with dishes, we managed to get the floor and trash cans to an acceptable level of clean, (thanks to her bathtub) in about an hour. Her bedroom was heading down the same path, so I gave her a deadline to get on top of it or else I would come do it myself. I simply cannot imagine allowing all my hard work last year to be wasted. Her pride keeps her from asking, and she doesn’t like me working for nothing, but she admits that my occasional interventions really help her.
I’m putting on the pressure because I’m off to visit my parents for the 5 weeks around Thanksgiving and I want to make sure she’s in good shape for the winter before I leave. This brings us to the biggest crux in missionary life – while caring for others, we aren’t around to care for our own parents. In early September, my parents needed my support for the first time, but airfare and soon-to-expire visas don’t make it possible to fly out on a dime. Jesus got them over the hump, but I feel compelled to go out anyway. I think our family was last together in 2004 and I miss them. I’d also like to help my parents find a place closer to my sister before the next emergency. They are 78 and 82, so I don’t think I’m being too hasty.
Another precious moment happened after I had texted Christiane on a Sunday, our friend now in palliative care with lung cancer. I told her we missed her, esp. as she was the most faithful attender of David’s HoP sets and sent her a photo of the latest church wedding (see photo below.) She said that Mitzia, (a real widow) had wanted to come visit her as well, but needed a ride and Manuela (her daughter, our pastor’s wife and part of our house project) was in Israel. Maybe we could bring her on Monday, esp. as it was a Mitzia’s birthday. That was also a day when the intercessor scheduled to minister to Christiane was unavailable, so we could come without tiring her out.
So I called Mitzia Monday morning. She had no plans and invited us over for coffee beforehand. That morning, I also received cash in the mail from my pen pal (who was returning my efforts to contribute to all the gas she used during our vacation together.) So I ran to the florist for flowers for Christiane and to the bakery for some birthday tarts. David agreed to drive and bring his guitar. What a sweet time of sharing and worship we had that came together so easily, falling on a day when I was also rested and had the energy to pull it off. That’s what makes these days even more special – all these “widows” have more bad days than good ones, so I give Jesus all the glory for orchestrating these moments of mutual blessing.
Mitzia’s great grandchildren are the ones I will be living with, and they fit in the “orphan” category when mom needs extra help with babysitting and after school pickups, esp. when Grandma Manuela is out of town. (I’m really starting to feel like a member of the family now!) And we had another “orphan” over for lunch yesterday: “Ling” married into the church family last year (the 20’s wedding). Since then they have moved from the polluted, noisy city of 20 million in Beijing to an isolated Swiss village of 700! During the week, she lives in the school chateau with her husband’s parents (the pastor’s sister) and takes French classes, while her husband works in Switzerland. The last time we crossed paths, she said she missed speaking English and Chinese food. So we had her over and heard her fascinating life story: A rare first born girl who wasn’t aborted and has a brother, whose parents divorced and left her to fend for herself at around 14. Unwilling to conform to the Asian societal mold, she studied in England for a few years and then found her Frenchman when she returned. The quiet strength of his faith and family has brought peace and stability to her, though God is still a foreign concept. We planted more seeds when she asked why were in France.
All the handsome boys at church, who were Rachel’s age when we moved here, have fallen for and modeled a Christ-like love to orphans like her and won them over just before marriage. It is clearly our church’s most successful outreach program! So for Ling, it’s only a matter of time… Here’s Clementine being overwhelmed by Vincent’s vows of unconditional love that we witnessed this month as well.
If any of you are near Scottsdale or Las Cruces next month, let’s try to connect! Looking forward to eating turkey in the sunshine this year!