As I mentioned in DWW – Dear Donald, part of my task at Silent Blessings is to respond to fan mail. Sometimes they simply say hello, sometimes they ask about Lisa’s pink hair or Paula’s blue hair, and sometimes they ask bigger questions. Here’s one from today (yes, I changed the names).
My aunt Ruth Jarrell died recently, after my Divinely arranged meeting with the Executive Director of Silent Blessings. She and my uncle were full time missionaries in the British Isles. He died suddenly either before I was born or while I was an infant. My memories of Ruth are few and short. I remember watching her fix her hair for the day – she used a ruler to arrange her long hair in a roll on the top of her head. I remember the summer I spent with my grandparents, and Ruth joining us for the week of camp meeting. She was friendly and playful, and there’s an interesting conversation we had with my grandpa. I was in my early teens, and there was a budding puppy love between me and a boy I met at camp. Ruth told me about marrying Arthur, Grandpa’s brother, when she was just 13. Grandpa told her not to encourage me, and had a few words for me on the subject as well. I remember sitting in the back seat of the car with Ruth, and her nudging elbow and conspiratorial grin. She was a sincere missionary, and just as sincere of a human with personality. I’ve thought of her over the years, and occasionally got word that she had returned from the field, settled into a house, and was aging.
When mom called to let me know she was gone, I wandered through these few memories again. I heard a gentle whisper, “the mantle is passed”, and began to wonder who it was and how many generations back that someone prayed “may there always be a missionary in this family”. You see, my grandpa is the only one of his brothers to have had children, and the last one living (well, the last to go). Of his three sons who could carry on the family name, two had daughters. One of the granddaughters married, and then there’s me. There will not be any more Jarrells on our branch of the family tree.
Like Simeon and Anna long ago, Ruth lived long enough to see the next missionary in the Jarrell family. It’s a loose correlation, I know, but there’s a significance there for me. I wish I had kept in touch well enough to have shared with her that the closing months of her earthly life were during the opening months of my assignment. The prayer, whoever may have prayed it, that the Jarrells always have a missionary, was being fulfilled. Imaginative person that I am, I envisioned a party, perhaps in Grandpa’s mansion:
Gather around y’all, and watch this. She’s having meetings, signing papers, getting assignments. At long last and after many years of prayers, she’s a missionary. It’s not hard to imagine Grandpa hosting such a gathering, or the people he would invite, or the smiles around the room.
The mantle is passed. Pray I wear it well and faithfully.
I don’t remember what the trigger was, but suddenly a thought occurred to me and it stuck: Alpha is the difference between ‘prying’ and ‘praying’. Take a look – it’s right there, or not, and makes all the difference.
Alpha is the Greek name for the letter A. It is also one of the names of Christ (Alpha & Omega, beginning and end).
Some, when they learn of troubles, will ask and dig, also known as ‘pry’. Sometimes it’s for juicy gossip, a silent taste of revenge, or an honest seeking for a way to understand and be helpful. In my years, I’ve been guilty of all counts at one time or other. Wise people will quickly realize that the best help they can offer is to bring the matter to the One who already knows all the details and how to weave everything together for a good result. This verb is ‘pray’.
The relationship between yourself and the person(s) in a situation will of course dictate where the line of ‘prying’ is – closer relationships by nature come with higher quantities of more intimate information. As a matter of fact, most of the details will already be known by close friends. But no matter how close or distant the relationship, you can always be a representative of the person or problem in the throne room of Heaven.
The next time you’re tempted to pry, add the Alpha…prAy.
Honestly, when I think back on the missionary reports over my years of growing up in the church, I pretty much remember pictures and ‘blah blah…support…blah blah…new school…blah blah…thank you’. Other than the pictures and native songs & artifacts, it ranked right up there with the annual church business meeting for best time to tune out (sorry, Bren). Now, I’ve spent 4 years telling people I’m going to be a missionary to America’s deaf community, I’ve graduated, I’ve taken a major road trip that included a national deaf conference, and it’s past time for a report – inquiring minds want to know (at least, a few do). Now it’s my turn to make ‘blah blah’ sound, well, less ‘blah’.
I have no problem filling half an hour of conversation about the trip, what I’ve learned, who I met, hanging out with Murphy (famous for “if it can go wrong, it will”), and the really cool gospel presentation the Baptists came up with based on the Deaf Olympics souvenir pin from Taiwan. Yet, it still seems that I should have something else to present – something with a “wow” factor to it…something that shows hands down that I’m right where God wants me to be, and all things are falling into place in a way that only He can arrange. I am, and they will, but there’s nothing necessarily impressive to report right now. I can say, again, that God is still good, and we’ve had some interesting conversations, and He’ll do as He has promised in me and among those who haven’t gotten a fair opportunity to meet Him yet.
When I take the time to sit down and write, I’ll tell some neat stories, and a few to make you laugh and/or cringe. In the meantime, we’ll all have to be satisfied with the following:
- I ministered to a family in crisis, and was able to fix a technical problem, thanks to one of my contacts
- I found a deaf church near my family, and learned how one church is encouraging another in a tough situation
- I helped some hearing people understand a little more about deaf life in America
- I encouraged a few people that they were important, and worth the time to stop and adjust my schedule
- I shared an important insight with some people who felt unfairly abused – sometimes knowing another piece of the story can make all the difference
- I made some initial contacts that could grow into great things in the future of deaf ministry
- I shared in celebrating a new home, a new marriage, and (over texts) a new little person
I was able to minister to others in meaningful ways – therefore, I declare the journey a success. I’d like for that to be a valid summation of my life one of these days.
Next on my list, and thus some items you could pray for, are:
- The right job for income, ministry value, and health considerations
- The ‘Faith Stories’ video project, and the friend that’s partnering with me on that
- The Bible Walk-through blog, and the personal Bible studies (and Bible study partners) that go with it
- Monthly camping trips where I can build relationships and perhaps introduce a few people to Jesus
- The next housing arrangement & location (the current one is decided through October)
Thanks so much for your encouragement, prayer support, and your variety of gifts. I’ve received funds, food, shelter, gasoline, and gifts of time & heart that can’t be put on a tally sheet, and I appreciate them all.
A few extra notes on the Temple Tours experience.
RE: the Monastery and the Benedictine Monks – their group prayer time with the chanting in the sanctuary occurs 7 times each day, each time with a focused topic of prayer, and they begin at 4:45 every morning. I don’t often _see_ 4:45 in the morning, much less be up, dressed, and functioning. Then there’s the vow of silence, which I can do very well when there’s no one to talk to, and I can do well over long periods when I’m communicating in sign language or as a clown – but to not communicate with other people who are right there? Can’t see that happening, for me.
Muslims pray 5 times daily, on a schedule, with a community call to prayer as available. Daniel, of the Old Testament, prayed 3 times daily at his window, refusing to alter this practice under threat of death. We are called to pray without ceasing, being always in communication with God, then our communication with others will improve without effort. Not that we are to make a spectacle, but, do the people who see you daily know that you are praying regularly?
RE: The surprise of the unlocked doors – Our professor was speaking to another student from another class over the weekend, and that student revealed that their chemistry class stopped for a moment of prayer focused on us the day we went to the Buddhist & Hindu temples. When he asked what time that was, it was precisely the time when we arrived early and walked to the Monastery & Church. I know I had been asking God to guard us all as we entered the realms of other faiths, I’m confident the professor and other students had been asking the same. Several of us were very thankful and blessed to have a bit of time in the houses of our Lord.