A Year of Morning Thanks
Stories that don't make it (2)
When she was in her nineties, she wrote her children weekly while her son and daughgter-in-law were on a sojourn in Egypt. In those letters, she let slip some sinful envy about their being in such exotic climes, reminding them of her own brief stay, seven long decades earlier in China, where she and her husband had planned to be missionaries. When marauding warlords made life impossible for foreigners, the two of them had to return to America, what they'd seen most heartfully as their calling, thwarted by powers I'm sure they relegated to none other than Satan himself.
The Heathen Mission Board told them there was this place in New Mexico--they must have heard of it?--where the church had begun a mission on the Indian field. Maybe they would consider a year there until conditions would cool again in China? They consented.
And never left.
When she was much, much older, her son asked her to recollect some early memories of her life, and all she could talk about was China.
Yet, when some of the local missionaries and medical people from Rehoboth climbed "the pyramid" in the Red Rocks just to the north, she went with, just as she had every Memorial Day for years, a hike up the pyramid for a mountain top breakfast. She was eighty-plus years old!
Her sons say she never turned down a stranger, white or red or green, from her door, and when someone asked her if, with six boys, she hadn't missed a daughter, she responded that one can't really miss someone one never had.
She graduated valedictorian from Hudsonville High School somewhere around 1917, and then again from Hope College, just a few years later.
She was a missionary, but she never considered her life a mission, as in something from which one returns. Her life was mission in the broadest sense, an eternal calling. Her boys insist that neither she nor her husband ever once considered their life on the edge of the reservation anything of a sacrifice.
You may want to imagine her as the mother of six rambunctuos boys, knee-deep in rattlesnake country. But me--I like to think of her way up there on the dome of Red Rock, some chunk of homemade muffin in hand, the incandescent New Mexico sun pulling color from a broad expanse of breathtaking creation all around, her eyes wide open to what she undoubtedly would have seen as God's glorious creation--and a prayer on her lips.
Right now, outside my motel window, a couple thousand cars pass the corner five stories beneath me. The sky is gray. The world is busy, too busy maybe. Me too.
Just the thought of that old woman up atop "the Pyramid" on a sunny Memorial Day, having breakfast, is enough to nourish the soul.
Seems to me the Lord's name is exalted high above our own hearts and souls by the lives of his saints.