Category  |  Evangelism & Missions

The Babushka Lady

The “Babushka Lady” is one of the mysteries surrounding the 1963 assassination of US President John F. Kennedy. Captured on film recording the events with a movie camera, she has proven to be elusive. This mystery woman, wearing an overcoat and scarf (resembling a Russian babushka), has never been identified and her film has never been seen. For decades, historians and scholars have speculated that fear has prevented the “Babushka Lady” from telling her story of that dark November day.  

No speculation is needed to understand why Jesus’s disciples hid. They cowered in fear because of the authorities (John 20:19) who had killed their Master—reluctant to come forward and declare their experience. But then Jesus rose from the grave. The Holy Spirit soon arrived and you couldn’t keep those once-timid followers of Christ quiet! On the day of Pentecost, a Spirit-empowered Simon Peter declared, “Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36).

The opportunity to boldly speak in Jesus’s name is not limited to those with daring personalities or career ministry training. It is the indwelling Spirit who enables us to tell the good news of Jesus. By His strength, we can experience the courage to share our Savior with others.

Take the Time

Rima, a Syrian woman who had recently moved to the United States, tried to explain to her tutor with hand motions and limited English why she was upset. Tears trickled down her cheeks as she held up a beautifully arranged platter of fatayer (meat, cheese, and spinach pies) that she had made. Then she said, “One man,” and made a swishing sound as she pointed from the door to the living room and then back to the door. The tutor pieced together that several people from a nearby church were supposed to visit Rima and her family and bring Christmas gifts. But only one man had shown up. He had hurried in, dropped off the box of presents, and rushed out. He was busy taking care of a responsibility, while she and her family were lonely and longed for community and to share their fatayer with new friends.

Taking time for people is what Jesus was all about. He attended dinner parties, taught crowds, and took time for interaction with individuals. He even invited Himself to one man’s house. Zacchaeus, a tax collector, climbed a tree to see Him, and when Jesus looked up, He said, “Come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:1–9). And Zacchaeus’s life was changed forever.

Because of other responsibilities, we won’t always be able to spend the time. But when we do, we have a wonderful privilege of being with others and watching the Lord work through us.

The Fingerprint of God

Lygon Stevens loved to climb mountains with her brother Nick. They were experienced climbers and both had summitted Mt. McKinley, the highest point in North America. Then, in January 2008, they were swept off a Colorado mountain by an avalanche, injuring Nick and killing twenty-year-old Lygon. When Nick later discovered his sister’s journal in one of her satchels, he was deeply comforted by its contents. It was filled with reflections, prayers, and praise to God as seen in this entry: “I am a work of art, signed by God. But He’s not done; in fact, He has just begun. . . . I have on me the fingerprint of God. Never will there ever be another person like me. . . . I have a job to do in this life that no other can do.”

Although Lygon is no longer physically present on earth, through the legacy of her life and her journal she inspires and challenges those she left behind.

Because we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), each person is a “work of art, signed by God.” As the apostle Paul says, “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). 

Praise God that He uses each of us, in His own time and way, to help others. 

On-the-Job Training

When my son’s teacher asked me to serve as a chaperone for their science camp, I hesitated. How could I be a role model when mistakes littered my past, when I still struggled, stumbled, and slipped into old bad habits? God helped me love and raise my son, but I often doubted He could use me to serve others.

Sometimes I still fail to recognize that God—the only perfect One, the only One who can change hearts and lives—transforms us over time. Then the Holy Spirit reminds me how Paul encouraged Timothy to embrace his on-the-job training, persevere in faith, and use the gifts God had given him (2 Timothy 1:6). Timothy could be courageous because God, his power source, would help him love and be disciplined as he continued to grow and serve those within his sphere of influence (v. 7).

Christ saves and empowers us to honor Him with our lives, not because we have special qualifications but because we’re each valuable members of His family (v. 9).

We can persevere with confidence when we know our role is to simply love God and others. Christ’s role is to save us and give us a purpose that extends beyond our small vision of the world. As we follow Jesus daily, He transforms us while using us to encourage others as we share His love and truth wherever He sends us.

Faith, Love, and Hope

For ten years, my Aunt Kathy cared for her father (my grandfather) in her home. She cooked and cleaned for him when he was independent, and then took on the role of nurse when his health declined.

Her service is one modern example of the words of Paul who wrote to the Thessalonians that he thanked God for “your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

My aunt served in faith and love. Her daily, consistent care was the result of her belief that God called her to this important work. Her labor was born out of love for God and her father.

She also endured in hope. My grandfather was a very kind man, but it was difficult to watch him decline. She gave up time with family and friends, and limited travel to care for him. She was able to endure because of the hope that God would strengthen her each day, along with the hope of heaven that awaited my grandfather.

Whether it is caring for a relative, helping a neighbor or volunteering your time, be encouraged as you do the work God has called you to do. Your labor can be a powerful testimony of faith, hope, and love.

The Point of Being Alive

Lately, as I’ve been skimming financial advice books, I’ve noticed an interesting trend. While almost all such books have good advice, many imply that the primary reason to cut costs is to live like millionaires later. But one book offered a refreshingly different perspective, arguing that living simply is essential for a rich life. If you need more or fancier stuff to feel joy, the book suggested, “You’re missing the point of being alive.”

Those insightful words brought to mind Jesus’s response when a man asked Him to urge his brother to divide an inheritance with him. Instead of sympathizing, Jesus dismissed him abruptly before warning sternly about “all kinds of greed”—because “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:14–15). He then described a wealthy person’s plans to store his crops and enjoy a luxurious lifestyle—the first-century version of retirement planning—with a blistering conclusion. His wealth did him no good, since he died that night (vv. 16–20).  

Although we are responsible to use our resources wisely, Jesus’s words remind us to check our motivation. Our hearts should be focused on pursuing God’s kingdom—knowing Him and serving others—not on securing our own futures (vv. 29–31). As we live for Him and freely share with others, we can fully enjoy a rich life with Him now—in the kingdom that gives meaning to all of life (vv. 32–34).

Passing on the Legacy

My phone beeped, indicating an incoming text. My daughter wanted my grandmother’s recipe for Peppermint Ice Cream Pie. As I thumbed through the yellowed cards in my aged recipe box, my eyes spotted the unique handwriting of my grandmother—and several jotted notes in the small cursive of my mother. It occurred to me that with my daughter’s request, Peppermint Ice Cream Pie would make its entrance into a fourth generation within my family.

I wondered, what other family heirlooms might be handed down generation to generation? What about choices regarding faith? Besides the pie, would the faith of my grandmother—and my own—play out in the lives of my daughter and her offspring?

In Psalm 79, the psalmist bemoans a wayward Israel, which has lost its faith moorings. He begs God to rescue His people from the ungodly and to restore Jerusalem to safety. This done, he promises a restored—and ongoing—commitment to God’s ways. “Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation, we will proclaim your praise” (v. 13).

I eagerly shared the recipe, knowing my grandmother’s dessert legacy would enjoy a new layer in our family. And I prayed sincerely for the most lasting hand-me-down of all: the influence of our family’s faith on one generation to the next.

Grass or Grace

My friend Archie came home from vacation to find his neighbor had erected a wooden fence five feet inside his property line. Several weeks went by during which Archie tried to work with his neighbor to remove the fence. He offered to help and to split the cost of the work, but to no avail. Archie could have appealed to civil authorities, but he chose to forgo that right in this instance and allow the fence to stand—to show his neighbor something of the grace of God.

“Archie is a wimp!” you say. No, he was man of towering strength, but he chose grace over a patch of grass. 

I think of Abraham and Lot, who fell into conflict because their flocks and herds overwhelmed the land. “Quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and the Perizzites [the unbelieving community] were also living in the land at that time” (Genesis 13:7). Lot chose the best of the land and lost everything in the end. Abraham took what was left over and gained the promised land (12:12–17).

We do have rights and we can claim them, especially when other’s rights are involved. And sometimes we should insist on them. Paul did when the Sanhedrin acted unlawfully (see Acts 23:1–3). But we can choose to set them aside to show the world a better way. This is what the Bible calls “meekness”—not weakness. Strength under God's control.

Following Where He Leads

As a child, I looked forward to our church’s Sunday evening services. They were exciting. Sunday night often meant that we got to hear from missionaries and other guest speakers. Their messages inspired me because of their willingness to leave family and friends—and at times, homes, possessions, and careers—to go off to strange, unfamiliar, and sometimes dangerous places to serve God.

Like those missionaries, Elisha left many things behind to follow God (1 Kings 19:19–21). Before God called him into service through Elijah, we don’t know much about Elisha—except that he was a farmer. When the prophet Elijah met him in the field where he was plowing, he threw his cloak over Elisha’s shoulders (the symbol of his role as prophet) and called him to follow. With only a request to kiss his mother and father goodbye, Elisha immediately sacrificed his oxen, burned his plowing equipment, said good-bye to his parents—and followed Elijah.

Though not many of us are called to leave family and friends behind to serve God as fulltime missionaries, God wants all of us to follow Him and to “live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to [us], just as God has called [us]” (1 Corinthians 7:17). As I’ve learned, serving God can be thrilling and challenging no matter where we are—even if we never leave home.