I met Mrs. Evelyn (the name I knew her by) almost 2 years ago when my wife and a friend were doing Meals on Wheels in our city. My wife told me about her – how encouraging she was – several times. I was finally able to meet her on the day after Thanksgiving. Meals on Wheels did not deliver that day, so several of our friends got together to make meals and deliver them to the people on the Meals on Wheels route. That was the day that I met Mrs. Evelyn and several members of her family.
That day, I also met Evelyn’s husband Donald who was in the final stages of suffering from black lung. Over the next few months, I had several opportunities to speak with Evelyn and Donald. She always had some word of encouragement for me and others, while he usually talked about World War II.
She had not been able to gather with any believers for a long time because she had been taking care of Donald. I had great discussions with Evelyn about many different topics related to God and the church and family and faith… we talked alot about faith. Donald passed away early in the next year, and we were able to encourage and comfort Evelyn through that time of guilt.
Over the next year or so, Evelyn faced many trials in her life – looking for new friends her age, deciding where to live, etc. But, that was nothing new for her. Her life had been very difficult, growing up in the depression, living through World War II, facing difficult relationships, battling cancer.
Any time I talked with Evelyn, intending to encourage her as she worked through some of these trials, it always ended up that I was the one who was encouraged. When we gathered with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and when someone asked if anyone had a passage of Scripture, or a song, or a prayer request, or a praise that they would like to share, Mrs. Evelyn would respond, “I always have a praise for my Lord.” And she did.
She loved teaching people (especially children) through simple stories and object lessons. She loved to sing. She loved to remind people about the love of God and salvation in Jesus Christ.
Last Spring, Mrs. Evelyn found out that her cancer had returned. She was told that she only had six months to live. She was ready, whatever happened. She was in the hospital off and on a few times. Then, she got to the point physically when she could not eat or drink at all. As you can imagine, she became very weak and very frail.
And, she continued encouraging other people. Whenever I talked to her, she would ask me about other people that she had been praying for – my wife who had a persistent cough for a few months – some friends who were having their first baby – a friend who was having back problems.
My wife and I went to her house last Sunday (July 29), and we gathered around her bed with her daughters and a granddaughter (and a couple of dogs). We talked together; we sang together; we held her hands and listened as she told us how she trusted God and was ready whenever he was. She had such peace.
She asked me, “Do you have a Scripture passage to share with me?” To be honest, I had not prepared anything. But, I immediately thought of a passage in 1 Peter:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV)
Mrs. Evelyn passed away early Saturday morning, August 4. I shared that Scripture passage (and some of the stories here) yesterday when I had the privilege of speaking at her funeral, along with a few other people. One of those people was a 19 year old friend of mine who explained how much Mrs. Evelyn had encouraged him to both trust God during some difficult times in his life and also to demonstrate God’s love to others more faithfully.
She was not perfect, of course. But, she faithfully lived out the trust that she had in her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She faithfully submitted herself to the Holy Spirit and allowed him to use her in the lives of the people around her. Yesterday, we heard from just a few people whose lives had been impacted by God because of her.
I thank God for the many, many living examples that he has placed in my life… people like Mrs. Evelyn.