Friday, January 14, 2004

January 14, 2004

10:04 PM End of a busy day in Florida. If possible, today was even nicer. I told the folks in the morning service it was “just another day in paradise.” After the service one of the missionaries (Jeanette Silver) said she had gotten a phone call from Carrie Cleaver in Oak Park. Carrie called to say that I am her pastor, and that she should take me to see Rowena Marion, an SIM missionary who is homebound and unable to attend the services. So Jeanette got on her bike and I followed in my golf cart (the primary mode of transportation in the SIM village). Rowena didn’t know we were coming but she was so pleased to meet me because she was born outside of Tupelo, Mississippi, which is a part of the country I know very well because when I was growing up, we drove through Tupelo many times on the way to my father’s family farm outside of Oxford, and because my brother Alan has lived in Tupelo since the early 90s. Turns out that Rowena (who is 89) was born in Mooresville–a little town between Tupelo and Fulton, and taught school in Tremont. We hit it off great and talked about important things like the virtues of Southern cooking, and the proper way to eat grits. She also told me that she attended Bob Jones College in the early 40s, then Providence College, and in 1949 went to Africa as a missionary. She spoke with joy about her years of missionary service–of the excitement of seeing God at work changing hearts, lives, families, villages and whole tribes by the power of the gospel. It’s been like that all week. I have yet to hear the first word of regret by anyone for their decades of service in distant lands. Today I talked to two people who casually mentioned that they started their training in 1939–65 years ago. One woman said she and three other women left America in 1943 for Africa while World War II was still raging. She told how an RAF fighter plane swooped down to check their ship and then flew on because it was Portuguese. She and the other young women traveled on a British troop ship from Freetown, Sierra Leone, to Lagos, Nigeria. There was such excitement in her voice as she spoke–it was if the intervening years had disappeared and she was 24 and starting all over again. No regrets. Tonight I ate with Ian and June Hay. Ian is the former director of the mission and is a true statesman. Three generations of Hays have served with SIM. There is a woman in the village whose father entered Nigeria as a missionary in 1914. The missionaries all knew their share of hardship, discouragement, opposition, sickness, frustration, loneliness, physical suffering, and spiritual warfare. But they do not dwell on these matters. They seem to have “counted it all joy” for the sake of serving Christ. And each morning they eagerly pray that God might grant further victories for the gospel around the world. It is inspiring and humbling to be around these great saints of God. The world barely knows they are here. In heaven their names are written in gold.

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