Every family has that person. The one who is the glue. The one who everyone congregates around because you just feel better when you do. Aunt Jo was that person in our family. It was nearly impossible to walk in the home she shared with my Uncle Fay that afternoon. Because I had never been there without hearing her laughter and seeing her smile as she took care of all of us.
At the service, we heard story after story of how she affected the lives of not just her kids and grandkids, but of all of her "kids" that she took into her home. I'm not talking about orphans or foster kids here. I'm speaking of extended family members or friends of family members or just someone she met who was down on their luck. If Jo knew about their troubles and had her way, they weren't down for long. She gave many a warm bed and a full belly of home-cooked food, and even more important, an ear that would listen well into the early hours of the morning to any problem they wanted to share, if needed.
At first, I just thought about how much she was loved. Then as I heard about people who were helped by Aunt Jo and were now doing the same thing in their lives, it hit me.
Aunt Jo was a missionary.
She never went to Haiti or Africa or even Mexico that I know of, but she took the Great Commission into her world and sought out the lost. And through her love of Jesus, she put others' need to hear the gospel and Christ's love for them above her own comforts and needs and desires. She knew that everyone, no matter their problems, everyone just needed Jesus.
Sometimes, she threw in a little chicken and dumplins and a game of cards for good measure.
All this to say, I hope Aunt Jo can encourage you to be a missionary, too. Joe and I want EVERYONE to experience Africa, but we know that God doesn't have that in store for everyone. We also know, that just going to Africa isn't enough. We all have mission fields ALL around us- between the four walls of our home if we have children., and extending into our communities for all of us.
Go be an Aunt Jo. Show someone else Christ even if it takes time away from what you want to do. You won't regret it.
I had to laugh, because a recurring theme of the memorial service was my Aunt Jo's love of playing cards AND her penchant for cheating at them. Apparently she was good. REALLY good. But I laughed because I heard those stories, and I realized, everyone around her let her cheat because it meant more time with her. It allowed her to minister to them.
And even though she was a card cheat, I would bet every chip on the table that the moment she met her Savior, she heard
"Well done, my good and faithful servant."