At this time twenty-one years ago, I was preparing to go to Russia with a group of people I barely knew to minister to a group of people I’d never met. While raising what was, to me, a mind-boggling amount of financial support, I spent a lot of time in prayer with those preparing to go alongside me. We prayed for the money to come, for the red tape to be dissolved, for the Holy Spirit to equip us and for our way to be prepared by His grace. It was a good way to get really connected really quickly.
Once the plane took off toward Russia, I was pretty much immersed in the company of these people I had only briefly known with whom I’d developed a deep spiritual connection. We ranged in age, some of us still in our teens and others up in our 60s. We’d come from Indiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Florida and most of us had never been out of the country. It wasn’t long before we were among few others speaking English. It was a great way to get even more acquainted really quickly.
Four weeks is all we had together in Russia. Four weeks to get to know one another–to laugh, to learn, to be patient, to encourage, to serve, to aggravate and to be patient some more. Four weeks.
Aside from the one I married, it has been two decades since I have laid eyes most of the people from that group. Twenty years. Some of us have kept in touch, and some of us have not. Regardless, those folks hold a special place in my heart.
I received news this morning that the oldest member of our group, Clarence, went Home this morning. His mind and body had steadily declined in recent years, and he no longer knew all that he had once known or could do all that he once did. I heard from his faithful wife, Bea, earlier this year, and she said that, in spite of his confusion and lost memory, he still told her he loved her every day. After more than 60 years of marriage, I’m thankful that some old habits die hard.
My husband has one of Bea’s paintings in his office. The scene is a bald eagle, wings outstretched, soaring among rocky cliffs. It is a picture of Isaiah 40:30-31:
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Clarence no longer stumbles. He will never again fall. His mind is no longer tired and weary. He is soaring on wings like only God can grant, and he has never been stronger.
Thank you, Clarence, for running the race God called you to run. This world was a better place because of you.
Bea, you are in our prayers as you mourn this loss of your life’s partner. Thank you for setting an example of faithfulness and steadfastness for the rest of us. You were a safe place for Clarence until the very end…which, as we know, is not really the end.
Come, Lord Jesus!