There are people who leave a mark on the lives of others, not because they set out to do so but because of who they are. Several remarkable women have left their mark on me. I have not been mentored by them, but I have watched their authentic lives over the years. Their gifts and passions have impacted the way I see the world and live my life.
They are like the apostle Paul, as Eugene Peterson describes him in his introduction to the book of Philippians in The Message: "This is Paul's happiest letter. And the happiness is infectious... Paul doesn't tell us that we can be happy, or how to be happy. He simply and unmistakably is happy..."
Starting with the upper left hand photo and continuing clockwise, here are some of the women whose infectious spirits have made a difference in my life.
Lois and Lavern Snider were the career missionaries I worked when I was in Japan in 1978-81. Their responsibilities included the oversight of several short-term volunteer English and Bible teachers and hosting and serving as leaders of a church that met in their home. Lois put her heart into her work as a gracious hostess, always respectful of the needs and interests of those she served. Over many meals and cups of tea at her table I got to know her heart for Japan in a way that heightened my vision for the people we served and helped me find my place there.
Delia Nuesh-Olver and her husband Paul are committed to each other and to the work of the church. Sometimes he's the pastor (Seattle's Rainier Avenue Church), sometimes she is (New Hope Church in Rochester, New York) and sometimes they both are (Brooklyn Free Methodist). Currently all of Latin America is their parish as Delia oversees the work of the Free Methodist Church in fifteen countries and Paul works in leadership development. The gospel is Delia's heartbeat and she joyfully shares it with people wherever she goes. Her welcoming smile and winsome ways are evidence of the Spirit's presence in her life.
Another ministry team, Dan and Carolyn Brannen, have impacted hundreds of international students in the Seattle area where, for years, Dan worked on college campuses through the ministry of International Students Inc and they opened their home to students. Unpretentious, Carolyn serves up meals to all who sit around her table. The food is delicious and the atmosphere inviting. When you are with Carolyn you have her undivided attention. I worked alongside the Brannens for several years and appreciated Carolyn's cordial servant heart and her genuine love for people.
The first time I met Charlotte Deuel I sensed her passion for the world. I remember when she first told me about her burden for an unreached people group, and I delight in the ways she has found to use her background in food technology to assist developing countries with agricultural programs. Courageous and faithful, God hears this woman's prayers and uses her in ways unique to her gifts and earnest heart for the world.
Muriel McDowell was a busy pastor's wife and mother of five. I worked with her and her husband, Bob, at Warm Beach Camp and with the youth group of our church in the mid-1970s. From time to time I sat at their table for a meal or a youth group planning meeting, where love and laughter flowed together. Indeed, laughter is the first of Muriel's outstanding qualities that comes to mind, even before her efficiency, her music, or her undaunted spirit. Your crinkly eyes, your beautiful smile, and the sound of your delighted laughter—such a legacy you left us, dear Muriel.
Miriam Adeney's worldview is founded on Christ's commands to love God, to love people and to spread the gospel. In the classes I took from her after I returned for Japan, Miriam encouraged me in my writing and equipped me to do a better job of it. I was especially challenged by her book, A Time for Risking, a call to Western women to look outside our own lives and reach out to our neighbors. She was proof that this could be done as she ministered to Muslim women along with teaching, writing, and raising a family.
I have spent hours with Deanne Lessley, enjoying together the richness of life in Christ. She loves Scripture, she's an avid reader, her conversation is honest and uplifting. I am always impressed with her passion; she lives out her faith with her every breath. Before I went to Burundi she told me she had some baby clothes she'd made, would I take them with me? I last saw her in August, just before she went to Canada to be with her brother and his family during his last days of life. Deanne lives her life in response to the charge: "Find a need and fill it."
Opal Townsend was nearly sixty when she began working with international students at Seattle Pacific University and she was my inspiration. I loved the students I met in her apartment during my college days and, after my three years in Japan, I looked her up again. Townie was still going strong, by then in her mid-seventies. We ended up working in International Students Inc (ISI) together for several years. She served the Lord she loved by offering weekly Bible studies, hosting meals and parties, and loving students who were far from home. Townie touched many, many lives, including my own.
Nancy Nelson prays big. This faith-filled woman who sees God at work in miraculous ways in her own life and the lives of others leads our Soulcrafters Sunday School Class each week in a time of worship as she shares a devotional and asks for praises and prayer requests. I have been challenged by her confidence in God and His promises, and the way she models the praying life. Hanging out with Nancy each week increases my faith and encourages me to pray boldly.
These women have had different gifts, different callings, and different personalities. Yet they have this in common: they all have loved Jesus and shared that love freely. I have been privileged to be influenced by these women of faith.