I met Phyllis on one of our international trips. She and her husband Andy stepped onto the mission field in their retirement, but I don’t think they understood the meaning of the word. I met them at the thriving Budapest Christian Library where they were the founders and entire staff.
I didn’t know that Phyllis and I would become friends so quickly, nor how deep our friendship would go. She radiated all the gracious wisdom and hard-won maturity a godly woman can contain. The Lord fed my needy spirit through the love and encouragement she provided whenever He orchestrated a visit.
Unable to Help Relieve Pain
Phyllis gave aches and pains little attention, choosing to carry on with the task at hand. The news of her cancer diagnosis caught me like a rap on the knuckles. Andy took her to every cancer specialist he could find. I’m not sure how special they were since none of them could manage any hope.
I was clobbered. My mentor and role model was fighting an apparently losing battle for her life and I couldn’t get to her. The Lord had scheduled me for a trip to her beloved Budapest just when she went to her sick bed in the USA. There was no way for me to be with her, to offer her a cup of cool water in His Name. I confess that while I continued to plead for her healing, I cried to the Lord over my own helplessness.
Email Communications Provide Comfort
The plane landed and a parade of images brought Phyllis into my mind’s eye. I found myself having virtual conversations with her; cheery, personal, interactive. I had to find a way to give them context so I began a daily correspondence – Emails to Phyllis. There was something of a divine nature that developed as I wrote.
The communication was one-sided. That doesn’t mean it was boring. I told Phyllis about what I was doing as if we were chatting over tea at the library. I let her know where I went to eat and how the food tasted, especially if it was a restaurant or meal we’d shared in the past. I was careful to share extra details about changes I noticed around the city she’d adopted.
A few days into my journal strategy Andy sent me an email. He told me he was reading my messages to Phyllis and that they made her eyes sparkle again. God had transformed my escape route into the cup of cool water I yearned to provide. I celebrated the city with Phyllis for the next 10 days, rejoicing in the gift of service I’d been given.
Serving & Comforting Others in the Same Way
Within days of unpacking my bags, the expected but dreaded email arrived telling me Phyllis had gone home to the arms of the Savior. I felt heavy and bereft. I wept for days. We’d only known each other a few short years, very little time. Some might say my grief was excessive. I know better.
In addition to the loss of a precious sister and confidant, there was something else that weighed me down. The Titus 2 mantle that Phyllis wore so plainly and powerfully was no longer available to enfold me. What was I to do?
The answer came slowly and was just as weighty.
Lord, thank you for making me your servant. Please empower me to bear the mantle you’ve placed on my shoulders with the same wisdom, maturity, grace, and joy you bestowed on Phyllis. Amen