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Lent: See you at the gate

Drawing water in Mali. Photo: ©2012 Steve Kay/World Vision

Drawing water in Mali.
Photo: ©2012 Steve Kay/World Vision

by Patti Francis, WOV East Bay, CA

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.. “Heb. 12:1-2a

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” 2 Cor. 5:20a

I just finished my second reading of Rich Stearns’ book Unfinished which our small group has been studying. It has been a challenging book, evoking lots of discussion. At the end, Rich encouraged each of us to write our own obituary. That is an intriguing assignment! Especially for me, since I had a stage III colon cancer diagnosed at age 36, now 25 years ago. Still being alive for my 60th birthday a year ago had an emotional impact on me that God still had me here for a reason. Have I missed His purpose for me these past 25 years?

A few years back, my Women of Vision chapter held a book study on Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. They shared in this life-changing book the plight of women and children in developing countries. I felt compelled to “do something.” I love traveling and had the opportunity to go with Women of Vision to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo several years ago. There I met many people who were helping the women who had been ravaged by rape from the rebels who were terrorizing the villages. They were getting rich mining the mineral coltran, which is needed to make all our iPhones, iPads and computers. (I just got my first iPad and iPhone and feel very guilty about it!)

In the book study, one of the women shared about something special she did for her 50th birthday-instead of gifts, she raised money for a well in Mali. In the next year, I was turning sixty and excited to do the same. I emailed everyone I could think of, even those who didn’t know it was my birthday, and asked if they would help out. I received gifts anywhere from $10-$5,000 and another friend joined me for her birthday as well. World Vision had a matching grant going on at the same time, so we raised enough to build two wells in Mali! When I think of running the race in this life and writing my obituary, I think of over 75 people who participated in making a difference. These family and friends will help girls in Mali be able to go to school instead of spending their day fetching dirty, disease-infested water. They will learn about health and not be married so early in adolescence to bring money to the family, they will learn a job skill that will help them survive and contribute to their village. And the great spin-off from this birthday project is that my two adult daughters now give me gifts that are to charities that they care about. Who needs more clothes, soaps or notepads?

As I think about writing my obituary, I want to be known for a woman who followed Jesus. One who cared for those less fortunate than me. One who represented Christ to the broken marriages, broken families, those who were sick, those who couldn’t make it in life. God’s given each one of us a set of gifts, along with resources, that can be used to build His Kingdom here on earth. It’s not going to look like the eternal Kingdom of heaven, but Jesus wants us to join Him, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to finish the work of making disciples and going into all the earth to share the Good News of the gospel – repent and believe (Mark 1). I only turn 60 once, so now what should I be doing to follow Jesus? Every day I need to surrender my will and ask God to show me His. I need to lay down my pride, fear and judgement and see who needs Christ’s love, forgiveness and grace. It could be my family, my neighbor, at work or at the grocery store. My heart needs to be full of God’s compassion and I need to make time to listen to those in need. When God calls for me to join Him in His work, He would not like to get a busy signal!

So if you were to write your obituary right now, what would you WANT it to say? All that you have accumulated or accolades you have received, or rather people you have influenced for God’s Kingdom? Several people who have died and came back to life have seen a taste of heaven. They consistently say that the people who have influenced their spiritual walk were at the pearly gates to welcome them. What a privilege it would be to anticipate going their many times to welcome those we knew and maybe didn’t really even know and welcome them into the heavenly kingdom. That would be a great obituary – “she’ll see you at the gate”!

This story is part of Women of Vision’s 2014 Lent series “A Spring of Living Water.” Read more stories in this series.

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