“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.” (2 Timothy 1:5)
Her name was Cora. She was a Midwestern preacher’s wife in the early twentieth century. She raised five children with stern discipline and a strong faith. Yet she also performed her myriad household duties with a song in her heart and on her lips. Hymns both expressed her faith and gave her more of it when she needed it.
Transients–called “hobos” back then—had a secret code that marked the property of folks who could be relied on for a handout. Cora’s house was marked, and the children saw her give out sandwiches, even when her own larder was scant. They always had enough.
Cora’s children grew to have deep faith and generosity themselves. There were five ministers among her children and in-laws. The youngest daughter became a nurse, an unusual vocation in a family of clergy, but nevertheless a life of compassionate care for the elderly. The second oldest was among those who married a preacher, just like her mother.
Her name was Joy. She was one of Cora’s daughters, and she was also a Midwestern preacher’s wife. Joy and John talked about serving in foreign missions before they were married. But then his father was killed in a farming accident, prompting a dishonorable discharge from the army so that John could tend to the matters back home. There was only one sister, so John and Joy resolved to remain stateside, close to his mother.
Over the next eleven years, six children were born to this couple. Household chores were easier than they had been for Cora, but it was still a busy life. John was never paid more than the minimum required by his classis. But gardening, creativity, and faith kept them afloat and enjoying life.
Joy inherited her mother’s generosity and faith that God would provide in the wake of her servanthood. In fact, it became her habit in each new situation to find the person most in need of help. If she couldn’t serve overseas, she knew there were still plenty of people to serve with the love of Christ. In their last call—a long one, lasting 21 years—she befriended one of the many Laotian families that migrated to Iowa after the Viet Nam war. The single mother had three young children whom she had courageously escorted away from her home country.
Joy enlisted her daughter to help teach them English. She helped them understand the many aspects of American life. The little ones grew to trust and love her, and ended up calling her “Grandma” for the rest of her life. I do not know whether she gave them money. I’m sure there were discussions about that between my parents.
Yes, Joy was my mother, and Cora was my grandmother. I was the daughter who helped teach Mom’s friends how to speak English. I can trace the compassionate trait from generation to generation.
After Mom and Dad retired, they moved to a new community. They hosted exchange students from the college and missionaries from Brazil when they were on furlough. Mom hosted Child Evangelism Fellowship Bible Clubs for children in their home.
When she had to move from a duplex to an apartment for the sake of her health, Joy began to befriend the single mothers in her building. Her pastor told us that once she gave a large check to her church, asking them to use it for the welfare of those families in her building. He knew she could ill afford the gift, and secretly informed a few members who made sure Mom had enough to live on, offering assistance as needed.
In her last years, Joy made decisions about her housing based on how it would affect her personal mission budget. We had to coax her into obtaining the best housing for the money, reminding her that she also could receive God’s blessings for her own sake. Still, she rarely indulged herself by buying new clothes or other “unnecessary” items. She lived very simply, and gave generously. I suppose she had lived on a tight budget all her life, and it was not hard to live this way.
Joy passed from time to eternity recently. She left behind six children who all have faith in Jesus. She left a legacy of compassion and generosity. By her example, we, too look for the people who need our help. I am a member of the Luke Society because of my mother, and her mother. I suppose I am fulfilling my mother’s dreams when I travel to Africa to support our faithful director.
When my family gathered to reminisce about her, my daughter revealed that the legacy lives on: “When I struggle whether to help someone, I think to myself, ‘What would Grandma do about this?’ And I usually end up giving just as Grandma would do.”