August 19, 2009

The Faithfulness 
of an Unremarkable Life

2009 1523 page28 caplone in the parlor of her Kansas farm home, Anna, a teenager in an isolated Adventist family, played softly on the pump organ in the corner of the room. Deep in thought and a bit lonely, she turned the well-worn pages of Christ in Song for words that seemed to match her mood.

The oldest of four siblings still left on the farm, Anna longed for friends her own age and dreamed of going as ?a missionary to some foreign land. But how? What chance did she have? Going to the academy for further education seemed a goal as far out of reach as attaining Mendelssohn fame on that old pump organ. Besides, her ailing mother needed her at home. Plus her dad, set in his old-country ways and a self-made success as a carpenter, saw no need for an education beyond the eighth grade, especially for girls.

2009 1523 page27So on this particular day, back in the Depression years of the 1930s, Anna’s eyes fell upon these words:

Ready to suffer grief or pain,
Ready to stand the test;
Ready to stay at home and send
Others if He sees best.
Ready to go, ready to stay,
Ready my place to fill;
Ready for service, lowly or great,
Ready to do His will.”

Playing her own accompaniment, Anna sang the verse, sensing how it seemed to express her own desire to ?be faithful to God’s call. Anna read her Bible a lot and believed in miracles. But she hadn’t the slightest idea how God would enable her to go through and fulfill her appointed part in His great plan.

Dear Anna
Later that summer, as the days turned toward fall, the mail carrier left a letter addressed to Anna in the old red mailbox down on the corner, a letter that would start to turn the seemingly impossible into reality. A minister’s family in faraway Topeka needed someone willing to work in their home for room and board while attending junior academy in that city. Would she come?

Would she! That was the kind of break she had been praying for. Now if only Mom and Dad would agree! Sure enough, they did. So off she went. Two years of academy taken care of, just like that! But what about the next two? What would be God’s next step?

A full year later Anna found another letter in the old red mailbox, this time from Enterprise Academy. Could she spend her summer vacation working to build up credit to help pay for those last two years? And would she agree to work full-time while taking classes? Her song had already said what her heart rejoiced to exclaim: “Ready to go—Ready to do His will.”

There was now no stopping her—even if she had to hitchhike!

After academy graduation, Anna began to think about college. She had no money and no one to sponsor her. God provided an answer, but it wasn’t in the form of an unexpected windfall one sometimes reads about.

Out on the prairies of western Kansas a country church school needed a teacher. Would she come? The challenge intrigued her! But what about credentials? After all, she had only an academy diploma; that, plus that girlhood commitment still unchanged: “Ready for service, lowly or great, ready to do His will.”

“That’ll do,” said the members of the school board. They also said they would pay her way to summer school at Union College for subjects preparatory for teaching. So Anna spent the next two years teaching, gaining professional growth, and developing a deepening trust relationship with her Lord, marveling at the mysterious ways God was leading her.

Raymond Dear
The next step in Anna’s pathway to service became the stepping-stone to the fulfillment of most young women’s fondest dreams. After another summer session at Union College, plus a full year thereafter in professional training on campus, Anna received an invitation to teach in a larger church school, this time in Colorado. Again, in keeping with her girlhood commitment, she accepted, not imagining the new joy that awaited her there.

What Do You Think?
1. What were your childhood dreams and aspirations? Have they become a reality in your life?
2. On a scale of one to five, with five being the highest, what was your level of spiritual desire when you were a child? What is it now?
3. What opportunities for serving Christ have you had that you’d never have imagined when you were a youth?
4. What dreams for building God’s kingdom are you still entertaining? What are you doing to see them come to fruition?

A young rancher, Raymond Kelly, shared Anna’s Adventist faith and total commitment to God’s will. He had been praying for God to provide just such a young woman to be his life partner. A wedding followed their brief courtship.

World War II took young Raymond into service for his country. Throughout those three years of military assignments, some perilous, his life was spared so he could return to his family. The trying experiences he went through, both at home and overseas, developed ?a character that prepared him for the responsibility of rearing their four sons to Christian manhood and dedicated adherence to the Adventist faith.

Then came an unexpected and unwelcome visitor: Anna was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease shortly after Raymond was called into the military. A diagnosis of Hodgkin’s was rare at the time, with no permanent cure. Anna needed the support of her companion. But a release from military service on the grounds of compassion was not the miracle God chose to perform. Instead, Anna was restored to complete health! Even doctors stood amazed and attributed her healing to a divine hand.

From the time they found each other until some 25 years later when cancer tragically took young Raymond’s life, their journey together continued to be blessed with one miracle after another.

Bridging the Generations
Anna lived long enough to transmit her faith in God’s promises to her ?children and grandchildren—faith that God has a way in every difficulty to bring relief and fulfillment. Her dream to go as a missionary to some far-off land didn’t come to pass, but she found her mission in a fruitful life of ministry in her home, in her classroom, and among her neighbors.
God honored the commitment Anna made in the parlor of her Kansas home when she sang: “Ready for service, lowly or great, ready to do His will.”

What a triumphant witness! What ?a wonderful God!

*“Ready to Do His Will,” Christ in Song, ?No. 600.

Ted Torkelson, now retired, served as a missionary and an editor.  He writes from Monmouth, Oregon.