Navigating a century, a span of 100 years, is no small feat! But she did it with joy. That’s not saying it was easy! What brought her through was the realization that she is never alone. She is daughter of the King, chosen and loved. She clung to the truth and let it overflow to others, wherever her life path took her. And she has now arrived at this outstanding milestone! We applaud her generosity, her love poured out along the way. Look around and see the fruit of a life lived well! The day that she was born God’s plan for her took off! She raised a family to be kind, love others, use their gifts. And here’s one special goal we know God had in mind: to reach the Nyarafolo! She helped to shape her son. Now look what God has done!
When I met Elva Boese I had just begun to date her son, Glenn. She was 49 then, almost halfway to the century milestone she just celebrated. Of course I had no idea back then what she would eventually mean to me. But I will never forget some of those earliest moments that showed me her sweet character.
The first time I ate with Glenn and his parents in Saginaw, Mom had prepared a special meal of a roast, with potatoes and vegetables. I was just beginning to cut my slice of meat when Glenn and his dad got up from the table. They were done eating! Startled, I noticed that his mom had just slowed down in order to accompany me as I ate. That was the day that I learned that his family inhaled their food and moved on to the next activity. I was used to a family that hung out together at mealtimes – my parents’ medical work often meant that it was one of the rare times we could be together. But I was touched by Glenn’s mom’s selfless change of her norm, for my sake.
Another time, I was told that Glenn’s oldest brother, Dan, was celebrating a birthday. Glenn was the youngest of six kids, and when I learned Dan’s age I realized that Glenn was only eight years younger than that firstborn! I told his mother that I was astonished at what she had done, giving birth to six kids in just eight years; what devotion and energy that must have required! She assured me that I had miscalculated, so I pointed out how true it was. She had never realized what she had done, just doing her best all those years of raising a family!
After Glenn and I had been in Côte d’Ivoire in ministry several years, she and Dad Boese came out to live with us and help as they could. I had just hired a young Nyarafolo man, Sikatchi, to help with housework so that I could devote more time to my linguistic work on his language and also begin homeschooling my daughter. Mom and Sikatchi had no language in common, but she mentored him, sharing her housekeeping skills. The most challenging was teaching him to sort the laundry by colors – not knowing that the Nyarafolo culture only has three colors (white, red and black)!
We were beginning to disciple the first believers in Sikatchi’s village, Tiepogovogo. Often we would go there just to develop our language ability as well as friendships. We were astonished at how much Mom loved being in that simple, traditional village setting. She became attached to one of the oldest women there, the chief’s wife, and would help her with whatever she was doing, such as shelling peanuts. No language was needed for trust and friendship to develop between them.
She still cares intensely for Sikatchi, asking for news about him, praying for him. We asked him to send her a message for her 100th birthday, and he did – we translated it. His special memory of her is the way she demonstrated her trust in him one night, grabbing onto his arm for security as she walked by a sleeping man that had some character issues. That gesture spoke to his heart!
She has touched the lives of so many people, from her youth to this milestone, dropping out of high school to work to provide for a younger sister’s needs (growing up in a poor family), giving her all to raise her family, sewing a huge number of items to send to needy people overseas or in her area. Now, she cannot do physical service, so she prays, tells her stories to friends, and reaches out to loved ones through Facebook!
Her life story can encourage all of us to live well too, never underestimating the impact of small gestures and selfless generosity. She passed that on to her son, my life mate, something that has blessed me as well as so many others in so many places. Loving a “neighbor” is, after all, the royal law of the Scriptures, the one our Lord and King sees as the key guide for the conduct of his people:
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”
you are doing right. (Jas. 2:8 NIV)
Most of us will not live 100 years, but we can make a huge difference in this world if we live every moment in a way that communicates love to those around us. In whatever circumstance we find ourselves, let’s be aware of how we can use our gifting or an act of kindness to meet a need or just build trust. We can cross the boundaries that indicate cultural and racial differences. We can work to meet the needs of the poor. And showing love might mean just accompanying a slow eater through their meal or helping someone shell peanuts. These are acts of grace. We never know how they can be used by our King!