Henry Jones died last week. She could barely hear and her vision was failing. At 91, she expected to die and had for many months.
I went to visit her a few weeks ago. She was in bed, in a lot of pain, but she was alert and full of stories and questions. I had a question for her myself. "How did you get the name 'Henry?'" I said. She looked surprised that I would ask. "My mother gave it to me!" she responded. "She liked the name. My middle name is Etta."
We talked about her life, her family, her reading -- she read several books a week. We touched on politics and current events. She was pretty "with it" for a woman of her age, and savvy with the computer too.
But what she really wanted to talk about was Africa and Sister Connection. I took my laptop and showed her slides of my trip to Burundi in July. She'd never been to Africa, so the terrain, the colors, the faces of people she'd heard of meant so much to her. She asked questions I had no answer to, about the politics of the country and the geography. Her mind was alive with interest.
Henry had trouble sleeping and was awake many hours most nights. She spent those hours praying. She would pray for people in different parts of the world during the hours that they were actually awake, no matter what time zone they were in, because she was awake then, too! Of the many ministries she cared about, Sister Connection was especially close to her heart. A widow herself, she identified with the Burundian women who have lost their husbands and are struggling to survive. She sent small financial gifts when she could and usually included a note of encouragement or a scripture with each gift. But it was her fervent prayers and unflagging faith in God that had the greatest impact on Sister Connection. Denise Patch, the US director, told the widows at the retreat in July about Henry's prayers and her faith that water and electricity was coming soon to Mt Hope, the land given to Sister Connection by the government and being developed for the ministry. Even now, the well is being dug and the electricity will soon be connected!
So I'm wondering, what happens now that Henry is gone? Who will step up to pray in Henry's place? Of course there are many, many people who pray daily for Sister Connection. (There is a monthly calendar that goes out to people who are SC's prayer partners.) But when a fervent prayer warrior passes away, what happens?
Prayer is mysterious and I can't say I have it figured out. But I believe that God welcomes our prayers, delighting in them as sweet smelling incense (Psalm 141:2 and Revelation 8:3). The Holy Spirit prompts us in our praying, so that what we pray brings honor to him. He may not answer that prayer for a long time -- I'm sure you've experienced that! -- neither does he forget it. He gathers our prayers up and answers them when the time is right.
Yet when he calls a prayer warrior home, he desires people to take up the slack. We cannot depend on Henry's past prayers for the longterm work in and through Sister Connection.
My mom told me a story the other day that I'd never heard before. About 25 years ago she had a dream. She was talking to her friend Lucille, who had just died. She and her husband Clarence were in Heaven and she told Mom, "The only difficult thing about being here is that there is no one to pray for our children." Mom told Lucille that she would be glad to do that. When she woke up she committed herself to lift up the family to the Lord each day, and, to this day, she continues to do so.
Is there some person or ministry that the Lord is inviting you to pray for on a daily basis? Sister Connection could use a few more Henrys; your family, your neighbors, your local schools, the homeless shelter in your town, or any number of people and ministries could benefit by you carrying them daily to the Father.
Henry is gone now. What will you do to take her place before God's throne?