That year when shock was all that we could feel as Christmas Day turned into grief and questions, I should have known that God can use death, too, to send a message. Stunned, I doubted. Dad prayed his lament: “Lord, why Jim? you know his work has only begun! Please send someone to carry on, to reach the unreached Nyarafolo!” I felt God squeeze my heart. But I doubted. “I’m just a girl! You can’t be choosing me for that!” I must be silly to even think that happened, I thought, and hid it all away. If only I’d remembered Mary’s sweet response of faith: “May it be so!”
The year that I turned 13 had been a phase of much deeper spiritual growth for me. I had realized that my childhood practice of waffling between following the Shepherd and going my own way had put me in a tenuous position, and at Easter I had vowed to be a devoted Jesus follower forever.
But on Christmas morning, all the missionaries were shocked when Jim Gould died in a car accident no one could explain. He was coming home from Pisankaha, the village where the first five Nyarafolo believers lived, having dropped them off there after the festivities at church in town. His car suddenly rolled over three times – no other car involved – and he died. His family (in the featured photo) were those hit hardest. But Jim (“Uncle Jim” to us kids at the time) was loved and respected by all. He had been working on learning Nyarafolo for just three years, and had been discipling those Pisankaha believers. The missionaries working in Ferke gathered in my family’s house with Lois and her kids, Lori and Greg, to pray.
I was the big girl and was put in charge of the younger kids, keeping them out of the way to protect the prayer space. Once they were absorbed in play I crept back behind the adults to listen. I had practically idolized Uncle Jim, who was fun and kind and was loved by the missionary team. When my dad followed the others with his prayer of lament, begging God to send someone to continue working among the Nyarafolo, my heart did feel an unforgettable nudge. That can’t mean anything, I thought. I’m just a girl.
Twelve years later when my husband Glenn and I were appointed as missionaries, we told the mission we would go anywhere that they felt we were most needed. I had a degree in journalism; Glenn was a medical technologist. They said that of their five hospitals around the world, the only one that had requested a med tech was the one in Ferke, where I had grown up. And then I knew that the nudge I had felt that Christmas had not been imagined. There was still no missionary learning Nyarafolo. Those continuing to teach the believers in Pisankaha all had to depend on translators. I told Glenn this history, and about the prompting I had felt; he immediately knew that it was a message from God, too.
God does choose whoever he wants, to serve in whatever way he has decided – even just a girl! I’ve tried to pass that truth on to other young people as well as adults of any age. It may be to do mission, or it may be to choose a different career path or to volunteer in some way. Who knows? Only the One in charge of the universe knows. And we can trust him to equip his servant to do whatever he asks them to do.
Mary found that out. While meditating on her story during this Christmas season I have been touched again and again by her humble response to the astonishing message that the angel brought. What was ahead would take a miracle! But she acknowledged her position as the Lord’s servant and said she would accept whatever the Master desired: “May it be so!”
Her faith in her Master’s purpose and his ability to accomplish it is stunning. She was, after all, “just a girl,” probably in her mid-teens. The story did not unfold in the way she expected, with all the twists and turns and difficulties involved. But she had said her “Amen,” a kind of signing over of her plans into the Master’s hands. And he brought her through it all.
When we were translating the Scriptures into Nyarafolo, my team and I realized that their borrowed word “Amiina” (Amen) had become a rote response to whenever someone said “Hallelujah,” or it acted like a period at the end of a prayer. Maybe it has become like that for many of us. It comes from a Hebrew verb meaning “truly, certainly,” and in the Greek New Testament was usually translated as “so be it.” It is a strong affirmation of what has been said. I kept hearing Nyarafolo believers saying “Ki- taa ki puu bɛ” before their “Amiina,” and realized that it was their traditional way of affirming what they had prayed, putting it into the Lord’s hands, because the phrase means “May it be so!” It was their true “Amen.”
This should be our response to whatever the Lord inspires us to be and do. If he asks it, it is possible. Our part is to humbly affirm his goodness and his right to reveal the way forward: “Yes! I will truly do as you say; I will let you have your way in me!” Looking back at the life mission the Lord had in mind when he nudged the heart of a girl named Linnea, I am deeply grateful that he found a way to make his message plain as time went on. His grace (“unmerited favor”) is evident in many parts of my story. How do you see this in what he has done in and through you? Recognizing such things, let’s exclaim along with Mary, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my heart rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble estate of his servant” (Luke 1:46-48 NIV). He asked much more of Mary than he does of us, but he does have a plan for each one of his beloved servants. He is a good, good Father, a loving Master, and he uses even those who are insignificant in the world’s eyes to accomplish his purposes.