Sometime in the early-middle of my serving as one of the pastors in Decatur, Illinois, there was a woman who impressed me in the area of prayer. We were hosting an “All Night Prayer” at Moundford Free Methodist Church. We weren’t a giant congregation, and many people had other commitments, families to care for, or work that prevented them from coming. But we knew it was important, and so planned to spend most of the night in the sanctuary, or walking from room to room praying over the ministry that happened there and the lives/homes of those involved as they came to mind.
Confession: I’m a morning person. When I stay up late, I drift off easily unless I’m doing something active or with a lot of people. Suffice to say, I was challenged by my abilities to stay awake around 11:30pm as we slowly walked through the church, saying and whispering prayers that came to mind. Yet in the midst of these things, I was challenged all night long by the presence of this older woman, Velva, who was almost 100 years old and seemed like she’d just drank 2 Red Bulls of prayer. She had obviously drank deeply from the wells of God’s Love, and was living from a continued gratitude for all He had done in her life – and an urgent heart that wanted her family and friends to know this same hope and love she’d discovered.
As the years went forward, her heart and prayers never abated. Even when she stopped leaving her home as much, she would text me her prayers once in a while. She prayed for our family as we fought to bring our daughter home from the DRC. She prayed for our family as we decided to become missionaries. I remember visiting her not long after we made that decision, with our daughters at her home. She prayed with us, told us how much she loved Jesus, and showed us some of her paintings. She was not only an artist, she was worshiping actively by connecting to the creative heart of her creator. It was obvious that she had tapped into deep wells of His Love and life, and it just oozed out of her whenever you were able to connect.
At one point, she asked if she could paint a specific scene for us – and what we might want. Sarah and I thought for a while, and then described the kind of scene we’d love to have her put onto canvas for us. It wasn’t long before she messaged that her artwork was ready, and we should come pick it up. Of course it’s beautiful, inspiring, and very much as we’d described to her. On the back, she’d even written for us to remember “From Velva….Age 103”. What a beautiful gift, and it hangs in my office today.
As we went to Hungary, I made sure she understood we could still keep in touch. She would text me (thanks iMessage, for helping people stay connected on the other side of the world easily!) and ask how the ministry was going, how the family was doing, or just to tell me she was praying for my “sweet family”. I would try to send her pictures of natural beauty that reminded me of the nature scenes she painted. We both agreed – His creation was beautiful, and deserved to be paid attention to.
I never knew when her text messages might arrive, especially when we lived in Hungary. Because of the time difference, sometimes they’d arrive in the middle of the night for me. But I always smiled when I’d check my phone, and see all the heart emojis, praying hand emojis, and a few words to remind me our family was in her prayers, and asking me to affirm, “Isn’t the Lord good??” Yes, He is good, and His Love endures forever. Our frail human bodies, however, do not. It didn’t seem like it could ever happen, but on February 25th, 2023, Velva finally went home to be with Jesus fully. Now she is with the Father, waiting for the completion of all He has in store at New Creation.
I am so thankful for Velva. For her prayers, and for the ways she encouraged and loved our family – even from a distance. I want to encourage you – reach out to your missionaries, your overseas friends, and the people who come to your mind and heart. It doesn’t take much – just a few emoji’s and a reminder “You’re in my prayers today. Remember you are loved.” Know that you are loved yourself as well, and take a moment to notice the beauty of God’s creation – even if it takes a while to find it. It’s worth noticing.
I smile, imagining that perhaps God would hand Velva the paintbrush for some grand sunset, and whisper “Here…you do this one…”