F.I.A.

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Ah February!  Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, shortest month.  For me it is a constant reminder of losing my hero who knew me so well—my mom.

I have moments that I still want to call her and talk about anything under the sun. No matter what time I called, she’d listen, encourage, and pray for me.

My greatest memory was her eagerness to evangelize those she talked to by phone or in person.   She never missed an opportunity to pray for someone or lead a person to Christ.  Just think of a gunslinger and how he quickly pulls the gun from his holster; Mom could do the same with the Gospel message.  She listened intently to people and would find an opening to witness to them.  It was an amazing gift she had.

I also miss seeing mom’s time with her 10 siblings.  We would laugh for hours listening to all of their stories. There were so many memories they had of one another.  The one thing they always agreed upon was that my grandparents made sure that they all served their close knit neighborhood.   They would remember “being” the church choir, the deacons, Sunday school teachers, or the visitation group to the neighbors. They would be “the church” to a community where church was known as a mere building.

Many times mom would speak about my grandpa and how he’d take them to various evangelistic crusades, jails, or orphanages throughout El Paso and Juarez.  These events touched mom greatly. She loved seeing people come to Christ.   She thought at one time she would become a missionary.  But the Lord had a different type of ministry for her life.

For all intents and purposes, mom’s marriage to my dad perhaps made her a stronger witness for Christ. I hate using the term “volatile” when it comes to describing my parent’s relationship, but at times it seemed that way.  While they certainly loved each other, mom’s relationship with the Lord was something dad could not understand.

My dad could be explosive for any reason.  I recall hiding in a closet at the age of 6 and praying for my parents to divorce.  I barely knew what divorce meant.  At that age, I had learned the term from a fellow kindergartener whose parents were divorced.  I thought life would be better without dad yelling.

The one thing that could easily set dad off was anything God-related.  As much as mom would talk to him about Christ or the church, he wanted nothing to do with it and most definitely did not want his family attending church.

The great thing about mom was that she was resilient.  She never backed down from dad and she never ceased praying for him at every opportunity. I always saw her on bended knee asking the Lord to save dad.

There were those times mom broke down in tears after an argument and I saw tiredness in her eyes, but her prayers to the Lord always gave her strength to go on.  She may have even asked the Lord why the man she loved the most was the most obstinate in coming to know his grace.  But no matter what, she kept right on praying.

A few times dad attended some of our church services for special occasions. I had hopes of seeing a changed man.   I learned that God’s timing is always best.  I needed to trust the Lord to increase my faith for dad.

In my early teen years, dad became very sick.   Without any real warning, his kidneys were failing.   We had never seen him ill before.  Then one day out of the blue, he reminded mom to place her hands on him and pray.  I thought his heart was changing, slowly but surely.

Over the next few years, there were the ups and downs of dad’s illness.  Dialysis took a toll on him as we waited for a donor. He slowly gave up working and went into retirement.  Mom at some point had to give up working as a church secretary.  We used food stamps and learned to get by on dad’s monthly pension checks.   Life was not easy but we never lacked for anything.  The only thing that seemed consistent was dad’s temper.   He could not understand the Lord’s grace and forgiveness mom spoke of.  Still through it all, mom remained strong.

Mom sometimes explained to us that there were things from his past that might have led him down a path of unbelief; perhaps leading to thoughts that God wasn’t there for him.  Or that maybe he did things he was ashamed of to receive forgiveness.  But no matter what, mom continued to be a prayer warrior and was determined not to give up.

I began to see another glimmer of hope in dad’s life.  Mom had been admitted to the hospital after collapsing. I remember being with my dad and brothers. One of my aunts stopped by that afternoon and I overheard sobbing in the other room.  I had never seen nor heard him cry.  He said he did not know what he would do without her.  We all knew she was the piece that helped keep our family together.  Again, continued prayers led mom to keep walking in faith.

Upon my graduating from high school, the only college I felt called to attend was Liberty.  I had never even been to Virginia.  The one thing holding me back was the thought of leaving mom.  Who would she talk to when she needed someone?   She reminded me that the Lord was there and He would be with me, too.  Even though we had no money, my parents took out all they had and sent me off by myself to begin my future.   Mom’s advice, “Once you are there, don’t call to say you want to come home, because we can’t afford to bring you back.”  In reality, her translation was Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  She knew I’d have struggles.   I would have to learn to face these and ask the Lord to guide me every step of the way—always pray, pray, and pray some more was the motto ingrained throughout my life.

While in college, I definitely phoned home all the time.  Mom readily encouraged me during those years, especially when I called to tell her about a certain young man named Mike Dewey.  Her letters and phone conversations always gave me the confidence to trust the Lord.

The first time my parents would see Liberty was at my graduation.  Of course, unbeknownst to us, this would be the final year of my dad’s life.  He would pass away 7 months later but not before giving his life to the Lord and asking mom’s forgiveness for the years of grief in their marriage.   After 24 years of praying, mom’s hopes were realized and we all knew we would see him again someday.

In mom’s last few years before going home with the Lord, she continued to minster to many people and traveled on a few mission trips.  Her life had been a representation of the heroes of the faith like the ones described in Hebrews 11 or the F.I.A. chapter (Faith in Action). As for me, I will always remember her as my mom, my hero.

A woman of grace ‘twas her fame

She sought neither glory nor wealth if they came

The mere souls she encountered were for eternity’s gain

Helping those in need, those in pain

Those living with loss

By leading them to the foot of the cross

“Salvation is what he has offered to you,

Take,” she said, “it offers life anew

Though you feel ashamed,

Your sins be as scarlet shall be whiter than snow, as proclaimed

Take him as your king this day

For the world only leads those astray”

As she ended her words with bated breath

She prayed to the one who took on death

“Lord, I thank you for your mercy

And though I am not worthy

It is for you I answer the call

It is for you I give you my all.”

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