As we get older, we sometimes define ourselves (or are defined by others) by our limitations or what we can’t do. This can be especially true in applying for jobs or trying to start a new business or ministry. We may be healthy and not look our age until we see ourselves reflected in the eyes of younger people. The looks we get can be condescending. They’re like a pat on the head and a silent suggestion: “Why don’t you just rest and be happily retired?”
Maybe that’s why I love the true story John Reid, an Australian pastor, told of a 73-year-old woman in his church. She had been a Christian for years, but at a missionary emphasis conference, she was suddenly struck with the concept of a lost world. She went forward at the invitation and told her pastor that God was calling her to be a foreign missionary to China. He said that was wonderful, but they would need to pray about it and see how God led. (A pat-on-the-head response.) What he didn’t say was that the chances of the mission board commissioning a 73-year-old woman to the mission field were non-existent.
The next week she noticed a Chinese exchange student in the church. Thinking he might be lonely, she invited him to come to her house for dinner one night that week. She noticed that his English was not very good, so they played Scrabble to build up his vocabulary. She began playing Scrabble with him every week. Soon he was bringing friends with him–other Chinese students. Before long, she was playing Scrabble several nights a week as well as corresponding with the students’ mothers and a missionary in China.
Several years passed. One day the lady went to her pastor and told him that God had shown her that she would die soon. She outlined her funeral service and asked that in his message he try to explain to her family why her life had changed when she realized what she had to do. Not long after their conversation, the pastor received an emergency call to come to her house. By the time he arrived, she had passed away.
At her funeral, the church was packed with flowers and people. And the first five rows were completely filled with Chinese students–most of whom had been brought to a knowledge of the Savior by a little old lady who played Scrabble. A lady with a heavenly purpose who found a gateway to the world without leaving her living room.