Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Tribute

I listened to former missionary to the far East, Ann Smith, speak at our North American Convention this past June. Ann represents a lot of special people among us that are worthy of a word of tribute.

I met Ann’s husband Nathan in the late 40s. I knew of his military service and his call to return to Japan--a peacemaker. Through the years, I noted the tragic death of the wife we knew.

Later, Nathan married the sister of my jovial friend Joe Espy, unknown to me at that time. Of course, we followed Nathan and Ann in their years of Missionary service to the Far East.

Eventually, a day came when we hosted the retired missionary couple at our church. They shared some of the hard lessons they profited from through the years--Nathan’s Multiple Myeloma, his life expectancy of six months to four years, the collapse of several vertebrae in his upper back, the result of his illness. Yet, he battled back, as vigorously as possible.

He endured two long years of chemotherapy, unable to walk for weeks. Losing more than half his blood supply, he faced eventual hepatitis, resulting in cirrhosis of the liver. Shingles attacked his right side. Months later, they struck his left side. His weakened immune system created additional problems.

Monthly chemotherapy brought eventual improvement and Nathan began to mend--slowly regaining some of his former strength. The cancer in his bloodstream diminished. Finally, the doctors began oral chemotherapy and discontinued his monthly hospital visits. This allowed Nathan to pursue a routine of daily activities relatively pain free.

Now four to five inches shorter than formerly--physically diminished but spiritually fortified--Nathan joined Ann in traveling about the country sharing their common faith for sixteen more years. Prayer, bible reading, and fellowship, enriched by friends and family, sustained them as they shared whenever opportunity presented.

Five positive practices guided Nathan as he and Ann sought renewal for each new today:
1. Find others to cheer.
2. Keep a positive attitude.
3. Eat and exercise properly.
4. Keep goals ahead.
5. Learn to relax and laugh more.

God works at reconciling people to himself, just as he fortified Nathan and Ann to create a new and improved future for themselves--until Nathan‘s untimely death. Since then, Ann has pressed forward, from her home in Anderson, IN, modeling ministry for all--a choice prophet of God in her own right.

Thank you, Ann Smith, for your example, your patience, fortitude, and for the beautiful spirit with which you influenced many of our lives across the Church of God. While God calls each of us to build patiently and creatively wherever life has planted us, we sometimes find the lessons hard to learn.

Charles Kettering, the electrical wizard, was also a pioneer in creative possibilities. One day, he gave one of the shortest speeches on record. He confessed to a leadership conference, “I am not interested in the past. I am interested only in the future, for there is where I expect to spend the rest of my life.”

With that he sat down to a thunderous applause, but his speech rings with the creativity Ann Smith has lived since Nathan’s death. Her example, and that of countless others, challenges us to living by our positive values while we continue focusing on the future.

We may live in a male-dominated culture, but you have taught us well. And, we salute you for being the messenger and model that you are.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

First time visitor to your blog--that was a beautiful tribute. Ann is truly an incredible woman and Nathan was such a gentle man of God.
They have impacted many!