“When I finally get there, I’m gonna stay!”
I laughed, but it was okay because Muriel and I have been friends for awhile now. Muriel says lots of things that make me laugh. All these years (and hardships) haven’t diminished her witty sense of humor.
I had been reading to Muriel a few verses that she had written years earlier (when she could still see) on the front page of her Bible. She remembered most of the verses and said them along with me, especially Psalm 23:6 – “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
“When I finally get there, I’m gonna stay!”
Of course you will, my friend. Surely you will receive a beautiful reward from your Lord and you will joyfully lay every crown at His feet.
As we officially welcome summer this weekend, Muriel will celebrate another year on earth even as she longs for heaven. I understand her longing, but I’m thankful for more time with her – to chat and pray and read Scripture and talk about heaven. No matter what kind of day I’m having, time with Muriel changes my perspective. Let me share with you part of her story in her words, and you’ll understand why she is an extraordinary person:
“Seventy years ago I set sail for Africa to become a medical missionary. The war (WW II) was still on so the only way to get passage was to go as the ship’s nurse. We sailed in full blackout down the coast of the U.S. to Brazil where we began our trip across the Atlantic. Most ships that were going went in convoy in case of a German submarine attack. Ours was a very fast ship so we went alone. We got across the Atlantic near to the coast of Africa when we were sighted by a submarine. Because of our speed, we were able to outrun it and land safely at the Port of Matadi in the Belgian Congo.
I was assigned to a station on the border between Congo and Uganda. I was thrust into a place where I knew no French, no native language, and nothing about tropical medicine! I had to learn the native language, to sew up the wounds of Africans gored by buffalo or torn by lions and leopards, deliver babies, and treat tropical diseases. I was in charge of a dispensary where we treated 50 – 80 patients per day. Before work began we had a Gospel service that every patient attended.
At the end of five years I returned to America for a year of furlough. Then I went to Belgium for one year of study in tropical medicine – all in French!
When I returned to Congo I was assigned to a new station up near the border of French Equatorial Africa. There I was in charge of a leprosy colony of about 100 patients. There was no cure for leprosy then, only care of ulcers and making patients as comfortable as possible. I was there for 4 years, then a year of furlough.
About 3 years into my third term at the leper colony, Congo got its independence from Belgium and became a very troubled nation with much fighting among tribes for supremacy. We were evacuated from the country. I waited four more years, hoping to return, but the situation did not improve, so I resigned from the mission. I was thankful to God for the privilege of serving Him as His ambassador.”
These days, this amazing ambassador who nursed hundreds of broken people depends on nurses herself. While her earthen vessel is weak, Muriel’s spirit is strong. She chooses to be thankful. Some days are better than others, but Muriel chooses to look beyond what she experiences in any given 24 hours.
The lyrics to a song are taped to the door of Muriel’s room in the nursing home. I don’t know where the wrinkled piece of paper came from, but the words there perfectly describe how Muriel has lived.
Dearest Muriel, I celebrate your life with deep gratitude and rejoice in the eternal joys that are waiting for you. Thank you for your example of courage, sacrifice, faith, and obedience. I can’t see beyond today, but my prayer – if I live to be 95 or just one day older – is to, like you, “cling to Him the more.”
If We Could See Beyond Today – by Norman J. Clayton
If we could see beyond today as God can see;
If all the clouds should roll away, the shadows flee;
O’er present griefs we would not fret,
Each sorrow we would soon forget,
For many joys are waiting yet
For you and me.
If we could know beyond today as God doth know,
Why dearest treasures pass away and tears must flow;
And why the darkness leads to light,
Why dreary days will soon grow bright,
Some day life’s wrongs will be made right.
Faith tells us so.
If we could see, if we could know, we often say,
But God in love a veil doth throw across our way.
We cannot see what lies before,
And so we cling to Him the more.
He leads us till this life is o’er.
Trust and obey.