Friday, November 5, 2010

Two Great Celebrations

I missed a couple of parties over the past week that I certainly would have enjoyed attending.

Townie leading a women's Bible study
at her house at age 100
Last Saturday Opal Townsend (Townie) celebrated her 104th birthday at Warm Beach Senior Community.  That is remarkable enough, but her guests were of many nationalities.

When I began college at Seattle Pacific in 1968, Townie was our resident director, our dorm mom.  She was also the International Student Advisor.  I spent quite a bit of time at Townie's those first couple of years, and her apartment was always filled with fascinating people and things from around the world.  She loved the students and unofficially "adopted" many of them.  When she reached her 70th birthday she was compelled to retire from SPU, so she joined the staff of ISI (International Students Inc) and worked with internationals for another 20 years.

People were drawn to Townie by her genuine love and kindness.  She accepted everyone; she shared her love for Christ with them freely and naturally.

There were always Bible studies in her home, usually followed by a potluck dinner.  It was such a joy to be a part of these opportunities to meet students from all over the world, to sing together, to watch as the students grew in their understanding and openness to the Gospel, and to fellowship together over foods from their home countries.

Townie and friends at our house
Townie is the reason I worked in international student ministry myself.

At her party last week I'm told that, after the entertainment, her friend Carol, the emcee, handed her the mic.  "Townie, I don't know if you want to talk or if you want others to.  It's up to you."  And for the next 45 minutes, Townie interacted with the party-goers, asking one to share how they met, filling in forgotten details, then reminiscing with another while the everyone else listened in as they ate their cake and ice cream.  An Austrian woman who now lives in the Northwest was there.  "Townie visited me in my home many years ago," she told the group, "and she led my sister to the Lord.  That changed our whole family."  Versions of that same story could be told by scores of others worldwide. 

Townie's daughter approached her mom and suggested she thank the people for coming and then say good-bye.  Townie smiled and nodded and, holding the microphone firmly in her hands, greeted another of her guests.

Tom and I missed the party but we stopped by on Sunday to see her.  Her breathing was difficult and her color was poor.  "I'm dying, but I don't know when," she told us.  And so were we, we assured her.  Our visit was short, but, as all my visits with Townie have been over the years, very sweet.  I bent to kiss her on the forehead and tell her that I loved her.  "That's what everybody says," she told me.  "I just hope I loved you all enough."  Oh, it was indeed enough, yes, it was enough.

Carol called yesterday, Thursday, to tell me that Townie is now in Heaven with her Lord.  Her Mexican "son,"who now lives in Turkey, had arrived and went to her room to see her.  "Hola, Mama.  Este es Carlos!" he said.  She opened her eyes and smiled.  "I know you!" she said, then closed her eyes. 

Moments later she was with Jesus.  And as she arrived, I suspect Heaven exploded with joy as all the folks who are there because of Townie welcomed her Home.  That's the other party I'm sorry I had to miss!

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