A Dream Come True

By Fern Horst

During her own growing up years, Louise Witmer often found herself reading stories of children who had been abused and neglected by those who were supposed to care for them. Her heart went out to these children who so much needed someone’s love. In many of these stories, the child grew up to live a normal life as a result of someone rescuing and loving them.

Louise determined that when she herself grew up, she would work in an orphanage and take care of all the abandoned children who had no one else to love them. As she grew older, she realized that foster parenting had replaced the orphanages of days gone by. Her dream grew into a new one: to some day be a foster parent.

At age 22, after volunteering at a home for mentally handicapped children for a year, Louse approached her mother for permission to fulfill her childhood dream. At the time she lived with her mom, two older siblings, and one younger. Knowing that this was a long-time dream, Louise’s mother consented.

Within one month of completing all the preparation and paperwork required, an eight-month old baby girl was placed in Louise’s care. Little Tamara had been abandoned at a truck stop by her parents, and was in bad need of medical attention and – you guessed it – love. Louise and her sisters poured out all the love they had to give to her – which was just what little Tamara needed! When she left Louise’s home several month’s later, she was a healthy and happy baby.

One month after Tamara left, Louise received a sibling pair. Daisy (2) and Tommy (eight months) were with her for one-and-a-half years. They were eventually adopted by a couple who also adopted their two older siblings.

While she still had Daisy and Tommy, Louise soon received a phone call asking her to take another sibling pair. It didn’t take long for her to realize that these two precious children needed to be separated for a time. Having been left alone much of their lives, they had developed their own language, and between the two of them knew how to get into a lot of mischief!

And so Andrew, age three, stayed with Louise while his older sister was placed in another home. Eventually their uncle got custody of both of them when Andrew was four. In the meantime, Louise taught Andrew how to love, and she taught him the importance of obeying.

Although Louise had asked to have only one child at a time, for over a year she had three small children in her care, all very close in age. She found this to be a challenge and a dream come true, and gave them all the love she had longed for years to give to children like Tamara, Daisy, Tommy, and Andrew.

But it was difficult when they left, all within a week of each other.

By this time Louise could see the effects on her mother from saying good-bye to children that she’d poured her grandmotherly heart into. Although she didn’t take any more foster children, she soon became nanny to four children who lived alone with their father. For almost eight years she provided much of the nurture and care that a mother would have given them. Again, she poured her heart and soul into them.

As Louise looks back over her experiences as a foster mom, she finds a lot of comfort in knowing that she provided a home for at least a short time for some of the many children who needed to know what a loving home was like. “If I hadn’t taken care of them, where would they have been during that time? What would they have experienced?” At least for a short time, Louise’s children knew what love is. In her heart they are still her children, and always will be. She often wonders where they are, how they’re doing, and tries to imagine what they look like now.

The worst part about being a mom to someone else’s children? “Giving them up,” was Louise’s immediate reply. “But I’d still do it all over again.”

Does Louise feel like she gave up having her own life for the sake of the children she took care of? She says it doesn’t matter if she did. To rescue a child from a loveless childhood, to see them have the care they would not have had otherwise, to impact their lives and sow seeds in their hearts was not giving up her life. It was fulfilling her dream.

Louise’s Tips for Successful Foster Parenting

  • Take into consideration the child’s past.
  • Be consistent in your love and in your discipline.
  • You will likely need to teach the child how to love.
  • If you live with someone else, establish your authority so they know that you are the one who is their caretaker and whom they need to obey.
  • Remind yourself often that they’re leaving some day; acknowledge that this pain is part of the whole package.
  • Comfort yourself with the knowledge that you have chosen a task that rescues a child from possible abuse and neglect.
  • Find encouragement in the fact that you have sown seeds that may not otherwise have been sown.
  • Find income that you can earn from home, or make sure that at least for the first month you can be at home to establish your relationship with the child. Find a reliable and loving babysitter if you need to work away from home.
  • One final encouragement — even though I lived with my mother and siblings, I carried the full responsibility for their care and discipline, and did not depend on my family for babysitting when I needed to go shopping, etc. So I believe it’s feasible for a single person living alone to be able to fully care for a child, though single parenting is not God’s ideal.

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A Life Worth Living

Just the other day I attended the funeral of an 86-year-old gentleman I’d since I was a little girl. When our family first got to know Vincent 29 years ago he had just lost his mother and was living alone.

Vincent never married, though he enjoyed joking about the women who were “after him.” As a young man he had been engaged to a woman he truly loved. But when he came to know the Lord and she didn’t, there was no question as to Who came first in his life. From his comments through the years the effects of that choice weren’t always the easiest, though I never sensed any regret.

Fourteen years ago Vincent preached and recorded his own funeral sermon. Though in the last year or so he had become increasingly confused, coming through the sound system of the funeral home was the Vincent I had always known: a man whose number one passion was telling others about Jesus. As I listened to the familiar voice of the man whose body lay in the front of the room, I got a clearer picture of what Vincent’s life was all about and why.

Whether Vincent was in the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, or in church, he was compelled to give his testimony for Jesus. If anyone happened to dial the wrong number and get Vincent, he’d tell them they hadn’t gotten the wrong number. And then he’d ask them if they knew Jesus. “I love being a fool for the Lord,” he said in the recorded sermon. While we sometimes cringed at the ways in which he made himself a fool for Jesus, there was no denying the fact that his “foolishness” touched many people’s lives for eternity. For years he spent two 12-hour days a week in the local jail where he was known by the men there as the “Good News Gospel Man”. His desire was to show the love of Christ to these men who, as he said often, never knew what it was like to have someone love them. At the end of each day he’d report to the chaplain the names of the men who had given their lives to Jesus.

What was Vincent’s secret for turning romantic disappointment into a successful life for the Lord? His voice clearly and firmly told us the other day: “Whatever the Lord gives you, use it for Him. Love Him more than you do yourself. Our biggest problem in life is ourselves.” How true.

Vincent never knew what it was like to live with the woman he loved, to have his own children and raise them to know Jesus. But was his life worthless? Was it a waste? No. In fact, I don’t think any of us will ever know the number of those who were born into the Kingdom of God as a result of his labors. No one can say that his spiritual “children” are any less than the children the married man raises to serve the Lord.

Some of us may never have the life we’ve always dreamed of having, whatever that may be. But that is not the greatest tragedy. The greatest tragedy of all is when we refuse to take what the Lord has given us and use it for Him.

Neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better
than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name,
that shall not be cut off.

Isaiah 56:3-5

 

Epilogue

In the process of finalizing Vincent’s estate after his funeral, his pastor found nine little notebooks with page after page of names of individuals whom Vincent had led to the Lord. If laying up treasures in heaven is what God has called us to in this life, and He has, then Vincent was certainly successful. Because of his faithfulness, these individuals’ names are not only written in Vincent’s little notebooks, but in God’s eternal Book of Life. Vincent didn’t leave an inheritance to biological sons and daughters, but what a rich heritage he’s left to the rest of us who are challenged by his life!

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The Lord’s Handmaidens

By C. F. Derstine

Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted from a 1949 issue of the Christian Monitor. While the language and terminology (such as the use of “Old Maid”!) is different in some cases from what we would use today, the underlying message is just as relative now as it was then. Men, I hope you can also overlook the fact that this is addressed to women and apply it to your lives as well. The message is pertinent for both genders!

“On my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.” Acts 2:18

There is a class of women, that is the unmarried women, who often renders the cause of Christ a large service. This class is too frequently labeled with the stigma of “old maid”. There is something like an “old maid,” those who have much time on their hands, do very little, mostly mind other people’s business. Whatever stigma comes their way is well deserved.

Perhaps, there are some who are old maids by choice— God’s choice. These should take heart! God often has a great work for them to do. What pastor, whose arms have been sustained over and over by some noble unmarried maidens, who have both the heart, and mind, and the time to assist in the work of the church, has not been cheered by them? The writer is greatly assisted by one such.

The Bible text at the beginning of this aritcle takes us back to the day of Pentecost. Peter declares: This is not intoxication; it is inspiration. What they saw and heard was nothing else than the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. One well remarks here that even the illumination of the Spirit can never render the written word superfluous. The apostle, when filled with the Spirit, seeks a firm foundation in the word of prophecy (II Pet. 1:19). The last days referred to here include the whole period of the Spirit’s working—the entire Christian dispensation now far advanced. In this new dispensation, the prophecy notes as one point of advance that there shall be perfect equality in spiritual privileges. Not only shall the Spirit be poured out, far more largely and abundantly imparted, but in this outpouring of the Spirit all classes should equally partake, without distinction of sex, of age, of condition, or of race. There shall be no longer a Court of Women, or of the Gentiles, or even of priests, but all the partition walls shall be broken down; the very holy of holies shall be opened forevermore to Jew and Greek, to bond and free, to male and female, since henceforth, indwelt by the same Spirit, all are one in Christ Jesus. All this opens a wide door of opportunity to women in general, as well as those who are unmarried.

The Moody Monthly presents an inspiring article, from a pastor’s secretary, Miss Doris Louise Seger of Jackson, Michigan: “Dear Lord, if I have to be an old maid, please keep me from being an old maid!” This prayerful paradox was uttered recently by a healthy, attractive, young woman. In her heart was the shadowy fear, the haunting anxiety, that she might be an old maid. To see the years slipping by, from effervescent girlhood, hopefilled womanhood, to culminate in what Webster describes as a “precise, crotchety, unmarried woman,” is horrible to anticipate, and something no woman wants.

But is it so bad, after all, for a woman to go unmarried? Does living without a mate warrant the sneers and jeers, the laugh-producing caricatures, the multitudinous jokes at her expense? Does the fact that, either by choice or otherwise, a woman is pursuing a solitary existence imply that she is an oddity?

On the contrary, many of the most charming women live alone. In fact, some of the world’s most famous women were spinsters. No one could intimate that Joan of Arc was old-maidish, or that Florence Nightingale had spinsterish tendencies. Distinguished Clara Barton went husbandless. Even Queen Elizabeth, renowned ruler, found no one with whom to share her throne.

God Uses Maids

To top this fact is another of greater importance. God uses old maids! God discloses innumerable privileges and opportunities of attainment, with the promise of a full, exuberant life, redounding with blessing, to those who will look to Him.

One word which particularly describes the position of a single woman is freedom. Especially to the Christian woman is this true, for it means she is free to serve the Lord, free to spend her time, her talents, her money, without earthly hindrance or obligation. Perhaps the Apostle Paul had this in mind when he said to the Corinthian women, “The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy in body and in spirit; but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” (I Cor. 7:34).

We can say, then, that some women are old maids by choice—God’s choice. He sometimes withholds the joys of earthly fellowship, the pleasures of intimate home relationships, the blessings of motherhood, to give the supreme joy of a life given over entirely to Him. The love which might have been lavished on one’s own family is scattered and multiplied, the mother instincts are spread out to cover homeless waifs and children for whom no one else cares.

I am sure this is why Mary Slessor, famous pioneer missionary, free from earthly ties, could become “Ma” Slessor to half the continent of Africa. And why Irene Webster-Smith, for many years a missionary in Japan, could “mother” the orphan girls who would otherwise have been sold as geisha girls, saving them from a sordid life. And why Annie Johnson Flint, with an almost uncanny understanding of the human heart, could devote her entire life to bring blessing to others through the medium of poetry. She found in Christ the satisfaction of her heart, and expressed it this way:

But I look up—unto the face of Jesus, For there my heart can rest, my fears are stayed. And there is joy, and love, and light for darkness, And perfect peace, and every hope fulfilled.

God’s Choice Workers

Recently it was my privilege to read a letter written from the heart of Africa by one of God’s choice workers. With almost superhuman strength Martha brings physical and spiritual aid to the queue of two hundred or more natives that forms early each morning at her dispensary door. She operates, amputates, soothes, and mothers her huge family, doing the work of two doctors. Yet her letter bubbled over with humor, with the joy of living for her Lord. In the absence of a strong masculine arm, Martha leans all the more on the “everlasting arms” and is doing immeasurable good.

I shall never forget a service in which Helen Western, return missionary from China, was guest speaker. This tiny miss, endowed with a saucy sense of humor, started for the front of the packed auditorium. On reaching the platform she stubbed her toe and fell flat on her face. Rising with much dignity, and suppressing a slight giggle, Helen said, “I am so sorry. I just washed my feet and I can’t do a thing with them!”

Then began an hour of enchantment while we listened to her tell of God’s power in a life given completely to Him, living alone, but endowed with courage and charm that are priceless.

But we need not go to the far corners to find work for the Lord. Africa is not the only place for old maids to work. China does not present the sole possibilities for real service. Just around the corner—right in the next block—lies a fruitful field, fraught with opportunities.

One young woman, forced through the death of her mother to keep house for the family wanted to do tangible service for her Master. One day Alice sat at the window and watched the streams of children trooping past her home on their way from school, and she felt an urge in her heart to do something for them. As a result she now conducts a successful child evangelism class, with an attendance upward of twenty-five weekly. Many have found the Lord as personal Saviour, and the seed is being tucked away in fertile hearts.

Open Doors for Maids

In a neighboring city another “spinster” conducted a similar class. Becoming fascinated with her jubilant little family, she could scarcely wait for the day for Bible Club. While in prayer one evening the Lord laid upon her heart the need of countless other children in her city, unreached by the Gospel. Launching out by faith, she resigned her secular position, and is now the happy teacher of seven evangelism classes weekly, devoting her whole life to this vital ministry. “The Lord has abundantly supplied my financial needs,” she joyfully announced.

Pastors are always happy to supply names of shut-ins and neglected families for visitation. A real ministry may be discovered in this field.

I have yet to see the pastor who will not welcome a well-trained, sincere teacher for a Sunday school class. To become spiritual overseer to a group of growing, thinking lassies is a high honor. Unencumbered by housework, the single woman is free to spend time with her class, to take them on hikes, to really learn to know them.

Musical talents should be developed, capable teachers sought out, for the ministry of music brings rich reward, and is one much needed in the church.

In those long evenings when the pinch of loneliness is felt, letters to those in need of spiritual help, prayerful epistles freighted with love and sympathy, become real links in the chin of achievements for the Lord.

One young woman, yearning for little ones of her own to cherish, placed herself at the feet of Jesus and asked Him to comfort her. Instead, He placed her over the primary department of her own church. She became spiritual overseer to a hundred “borrowed lambs,” pouring out upon them all the love she might have given two or three of her own. They have proved more than adequate to fill the hunger of her heart.

Not only are single women free to give their time to the Lord, but their money also may play a large part in proclaiming the Gospel. Earned by themselves, with no dependents, many unmarried women have consecrated their purses to the Lord.

Single by God’s Choice

Mary is a Christian school teacher, and in recent months has discovered the joy of giving over control of her pocketbook to the Lord. She sends as much as one hundred dollars at a time to the foreign field. Her money is her own, to use as she pleases.

A local Sunday-school class of approximately twenty young business women, many of whom are unmarried, this past year sent sixteen hundred dollars to foreign missions, a feat impossible to accomplish had they had home obligations.

Down through the years, since the time the psalmist cried, “The Lord gives the Word: great the host of women who proclaim the good news” (John Nelson Darby), to the present day, a host of unmarried women have had a tremendous part to play in carrying the Gospel. One mission alone has 225 unmarried women on its African field, with fourteen stations “manned” entirely by “old maids”.

Spread across the world today are thousands of “unclaimed blessings,” charming, affectionate, intelligent women, flinging themselves wholeheartedly into the work of Christ, women with leadership ability, with stamina and courage, and above all, with singleness of purpose.

If you are one who is in this particular category, take heart. You may be an old maid by God’s choice. Perhaps He has something more wonderful ahead for you than you have ever dreamed!

Reprinted from the March 1949 issue of Christian Monitor by permission of Mennonite Publishing House, Scottdale, Pa 15683.

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Opportunities Abound

Dawn just returned from a one-week mission trip with Medical Missions, the fifth such mission trip she’s taken in the last six years. Though living on a nonprofit salary, she’s managed to save enough money to finance each trip. Dawn doesn’t wait for these one or two-week trips to be used of the Lord, though. She’s found various opportunities through the years. We’ve asked her to tell us more about these experiences. She is one example of those singles who have invested what they have been given for the Kingdom of Heaven, rather than squandering their freedom, money, and abilities for their own purposes and pleasure.

“For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” (Matthew 25:29)

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

What is Medical Missions, and how did you first start taking these trips?

Medical Ministries International is a nonprofit organization based out of Texas whose theme verse is John 13:15 “I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you.” Their mission statement is: MMI is an opportunity to serve Jesus Christ by providing spiritual and physical health care in this world of need. I first heard about this organization in 1994 when my friend’s parents returned from a trip with them and recommended MMI to their daughter and me. We got more information, and then went to the Dominican Republic in 1995, my first of four mission trips with MMI.

Tell us about each of your mission trips with MMI.

My 1995 trip to the Dominican Republic was with medical doctors, surgeons, and a dentist. My job was to greet the patients and take them to the appropriate Doctor. I also helped to weigh the babies that came to the clinic. Another aspect of my job was to help entertain the children as they were waiting to be seen by the Doctor. We had things like balloons and bubbles to make their wait a more pleasant one.

Every day we would set up our “clinic” at a different rural location. This was a great way to see the country, too. Each patient is asked to pay a very small fee for the doctor’s services. For example, surgery may be $1.50. MMI wants patients to appreciate what services they are receiving; however, if they cannot afford to pay no one is turned away.

On each MMI trip, while the patients are waiting to be seen by the doctor, someone on the team presents the Gospel to them. Those who become Christians are given a Bible. They are also encouraged to attend a health education “class” which teaches them learn how to purify their water so they can safely drink it. I really like the idea that MMI tries to reach people not only physically but spiritually.

My second trip with MMI was in July of 1996. I went to Honduras on an Eye Project, which was organized to treat people with eye related needs. My job on this trip was to greet the patients and dilate the patients eyes who needed it. I was also able to assist with minor eye surgery. I found it very interesting to see what eye doctors do and once again enjoyed reaching out to the whole person. The days were long, but we went to bed each night feeling very rewarded for our work.

Before our day would begin hundreds of people would already be waiting. Some walked up to three hours to get there. The most touching memory from this trip was a blind lady who after eye surgery was able to see her children for the first time. There wasn’t a dry eye among us who witnessed this!

Ecuador was the location of my third missions trip. We stayed in a beautiful town in the Andes mountains. I agree with Jim Elliot who made the comment that “Ecuador has such a haunting beauty”. We worked mainly with the Quechua Indians. They were a conservative, quiet group of people. My job on this project was to help in the “pharmacy” by counting and bagging pills and vitamins. I also did some greeting of patients and ran errands for the Doctors. It was a great trip realizing God is the God of all people, not just North Americans.

My most recent trip was back to Honduras on a dental project. I was in charge of keeping all the instruments sterilized and in an orderly fashion so the dentist and dental student could have quick and convenient access to them. I enjoyed watching teeth being pulled, maybe because I was on the other side of the chair! On this trip we did not have a specific preaching time, but did show the Jesus video in Spanish. Many people commented about it and how much Jesus loved people.

I will go again with MMI as the Lord leads and provides the way.

Are there other missions organizations you have traveled with?

Yes, I went to Russia with Operation Carelift, an organization which is part of Campus Crusade for Christ and which is run by Josh McDowell. We went into the public schools in Russia freely giving our testimonies to the classes. We were warmly received. Along with sharing Christ, we had gift boxes of school supplies for each child. Another part of the ministry was to hand out gospel bracelets, which use different colored beads to share the plan of salvation in a very simple yet powerful way. I will always remember a Russian man stopping me and showing me the bracelet he had received the year before. He told me that he had become a Christian through the message he heard regarding the bracelet.

Once a year, for a two week period, Josh McDowell Ministries has a warehouse in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where they make thousands of these gospel bracelets and pack gifts for the orphans and students they will be visiting on their winter and summer trips. I always enjoy helping out as my schedule permits. People are invited to come and help from all across the country.

How do you finance these trips?

Sometimes I have written letters to my friends and family. Often people have given without my asking for money once they heard about my trip and what I would be doing. The Lord has always provided the way, down to the final cent.

What do you do for a living?

I worked for eight years as secretary and bookkeeper at a Christian elementary school. In June I switched jobs and work at a nursing home. I primarily do cleaning and feeding of the residents along with some office work. I enjoy getting to know the residents and forming friendships with them. I find it interesting that often the folks who never married have more visitors and people who are concerned about them than those with families. One lady even commented to me that even though she has children they rarely come to visit. So, we can’t assume that if we have children then our growing old years will be full of visits from children. They may or may not be.

Why do you take nonprofit jobs when you could make more money elsewhere?

I enjoy feeling like I am making a difference in people’s lives, not just bringing home a pay check.

Tell us about your voluntary service experience.

For a year from January 1991 to January 1992 I worked at a public school as a volunteer in Johns Island, South Carolina. I worked in the office part time and also had reading groups with children who had difficulty reading. I really enjoyed the friendships I formed with the teachers, staff and children. This assignment was through a missions agency. Our household, which consisted of around ten people, was all involved in reaching out to the community – like having kid’s clubs every week for the area children. The guys worked for Habitat for Humanity, volunteering their time and working with groups coming to help build houses for a week or two. Hurricane Hugo had recently gone through South Carolina and really devastated the area.

Are you currently involved in any other types of ministry?

I take care of an older lady on Tuesday nights. I have formed a very special relationship with her. She is a widow and her children are very busy so their visits are not as often as she would like.

Do you consider yourself a Purposeful Single?

Most days. I also struggle with the desire to get married. But I want to make a difference for God with my gifts and abilities now and in the future, either married or single.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being single in doing missions trips, volunteer opportunities, and the other jobs you’ve had?

The most obvious advantage is that I am not tied down to a husband or family, so I can travel easily. I know these trips can be done while married, but it definitely gets more complicated in making the arrangements and with the actual going. Also, it is easier to support one person on a “nonprofit” job income than a whole family.

The disadvantage is that it would be fun to share these experiences with a partner and children.

If you never marry, what would you like to look back at age 90 as being accomplish-ments in your life?

At age 90 I would like to look back and remember how I was able to go on these missions trips abroad, and how here at home I formed relationships and made sacrifices in the name of Jesus. The final command Jesus left for all of us, married or single, is to go and make disciples of every nation.

What encouragement would you like to give to other singles?

Use your talents and abilities to reach out to other people at home or abroad.

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