AUTHOR: Shari Tvrdik
Hurried by life's pressures I tipped the review mirror to check my makeup before I went in. I saw the weight of last night's late school board meeting disguised as bags under my eyes. I looked what I felt, tired, brokenhearted, disappointed.
But Sue was waiting for me inside her house. I took a deep breath and set aside Shari the woman, replacing her with Shari the Missionary.
Shari the missionary is positive, chipper, hopeful. She’s a problem solver not a problem dweller. I like her, so do a lot of other people.
The trouble is, she’s not really, fully Shari.
As I walked to Sue’s front door I took note of the home she was living in.
Sue Paxton is a missionary from England to the United States.
Turns out, we need missionaries here in America too, pretty badly.
Sue and her husband Ian served in Romania for twenty-six years. They learned to speak Romanian and invested fully into the lives of the Romanian people. Sue told me they had planned to live there forever.
God changes things up a lot. He can never be accused of being a bore.
God clearly led the couple out of Romania in 2017 and just when they thought it was retirement time in the mother land, He called them to the United States, specifically Ottawa IL.
And this is how Sue entered my life.
My boss suggested I meet this woman that goes to his church, and happens to be a missionary. Missions is what we do full time at Cup of Cold Water Ministries so naturally I wanted to reach out to her.
I jumped into a relationship with Sue that was peer to peer, missionary to missionary.
Sue and I have worked together over the year on various projects and I like her.
But this day, I was about to see Sue in an entirely new way.
Sue and Ian's white house felt strangely comforting as I walked up to the front door. They had moved in a few weeks prior. I had missed their open house and regretted it as I approached Sue who was waiting to greet me.
“Welcome,” she said in her cheerful English accent.
Indeed I felt welcomed.
The inside of their home was charming to the eye but more than that, it was full of peace.
Sue pointed me to her couch and invited me to have a seat.
Something about her warmth and the way she looked at me when she asked, “How are you?” caused me to uncharacteristically step away from “Shari the missionary.” and back into me. Just me.
Me, Shari, the woman who was this day full of sorrow and heavy with concern.
It’s a total just me that I don’t get to be very often.
Sue passed me a box of tissues when the tears came.
She listened, leaned into my heart and took the time to fully embrace my current state of chaos.
When she got up to get me a drink I suddenly realized the uncanny similarities between Sue and myself on the mission field. I had been in her shoes countless times with Mongolian Christians, sitting near them in my home, listening, praying, offering words of hope and courage.
When they left I’d make a note of our conversation. These were the people I was here to serve. I wanted people back home to pray for them, I wanted to share with our mission board that I had made progress, connected well, gained friendships.
And Sue, she was here to serve not only my "people" but ME.
It dawned on me that Sue was my missionary.
God had sent her to walk with this American woman who desperately needed exactly what Sue had to give.
How odd to have the tables turned in such a way, for the missionary to become the mission.
I laughed out loud at the irony and then I whispered a thank you to God.
When Sue returned to the room, I was lost for words.
I looked at her so differently than I had just moments before.
I remembered what it was like to leave my country, my culture, my life behind me to go into all the world and to make disciples.
“Sue I’m so proud of what God is doing with you.” I told her. “But more than that, I’m thankful that you are here, that God sent me a missionary.”
Of course that wasn’t odd for Sue to hear. What took me a year to realize, Sue knew all along.
God had called her to Americans. He had disrupted her plans for a people she didn’t know, and a small town in Illinois that He would ask her to call home.
And Sue obeyed.
I was one of the people He had brought her to.
I left her house to catch my next meeting but I felt stronger than I did when I had arrived.
I was humbled, grateful and ready to face what came next.
It was a true joy to be a missionary, but it's a humbling blessing to have a missionary.
Sue doesn't know I'm doing this, but of all people I know what a missionary needs most! If you have a heart to support Sue and Ian in their work or want to hear more about what they are doing in Ottawa, IL , click the link below and ask them to put you on their mailing list! OR just send a word of encouragement to her!
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