I recently attended the funeral of a dear woman just weeks shy of her 91st birthday. The morning of the service, people gathered in the sanctuary—her church home of more than 70 years—to honor her life and say goodbye. It was a lovely service complete with her favorite pink flowers, the hymns she loved, and a host of lives she had touched. But the most beautiful, most evident part of it all was the legacy she left her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. That legacy was the love of Christ.
One by one her grandchildren and children got up to speak about the woman and the impact her life had on theirs. They shared stories of her sincere love for all people, even those she had just met in the gas station bathroom. They told of a life of service—teaching Sunday school to all ages and spending hours caring for her blind, widowed friend Ms. Frankie. They joked about her employer’s lament that he’d have to hire three people to do her work when she retired. They beamed about her devotion in marriage and motherhood. They cherished the grace and strength with which she walked the road of pain and suffering in the loss of her husband and oldest son. But there was no question that the true beauty of each story shared was the presence of Jesus in her life.
When cleaning out the woman’s home recently, the family discovered a letter they had never seen before—a prayer that she had written while attending a youth retreat at the age of 14. In the letter, the woman wrote about giving her life to Jesus at that retreat. She prayed that the Lord would give her strength to honor him with the life he had given her. That God would shape all aspects of her future—the family she might one day have, the friends whose paths she would cross, the life journey that lay ahead.
On my drive home from the funeral, I couldn’t stop thinking about her life—the stories her family told. Encountering Christ at that youth retreat when she was 14-years-old influenced the rest of this woman’s life. The lives she touched. The decisions she made. The way she walked through trials. And her legacy became Christ’s love—a permeating love that is continuing to influence the next generation.
I am reminded that in just a few short months, we will send our three kids and a dear, young friend to LLYC. For two of the four, it will be their first camp experience. And I pray that just like that 14-year-old girl, their encounters with Jesus would influence everything about their future. Everything.