Saturday, November 6, 2010
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children… for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 10:29 (NIV)
On the mission field, we found this verse to be true. We may have left our families and traveled to another continent but we gained a whole new family full of cousins and aunts and uncles! We children called the adult missionaries our uncles and aunts and we all grew up feeling as if we were something between siblings and cousins.
Aunt Jeannie was not my real aunt – she was my missionary aunt. She lived across the dirt road from me in Ogbomosho. I played with her daughter, Shirley nearly everyday. Shirley was my age and we were good friends. We spent a lot of time together. That is how it came about that we were spanked by Aunt Jeannie – three times for the same offense. Shirley and I were jumping on the bed at her house and Aunt Jeannie caught us…so she spanked us; jumping on the bed was against the rules. But after Aunt Jeannie left the room, she thought about the fact that we were jumping on the top bunk and we could have fallen and been hurt badly and she came back in the room and spanked us again. Then as she was walking out, she thought about the fact that the bunk bed was adjacent to a large window full of louvered glass panes. If we had fallen in that direction, we could have cut ourselves so severely, it could have even been lethal …and you guessed it, Aunt Jeannie turned around and spanked us a third time! But I loved Aunt Jeannie and I knew she loved me.
Imogene “Jeannie” Thomason Crowder was born June 5, 1925. She was a delightful person who always made people smile – or laugh. She was funny. She laughed all the time and she made others laugh. She loved large jewelry, and I mean LARGE jewelry! It was the kind of jewelry that not everyone can wear, but it always looked right on Aunt Jeannie. Once when she was very old, I saw her all dressed up in a beautiful, wispy blue dress. Around her neck was a huge silver cross. It was a lovely piece of jewelry; very large but beautiful. I complimented her on it and Shirley who was standing right beside her said with a twinkle in her eye, “Well let me tell you about this cross. A friend of mom’s bought it for her. She found it at a jewelry store and thought it was just perfect for mom so she bought it. Then she asked the salesperson if there was a chain for it. The salesman looked at her really funny and said, ‘Lady, this is a Christmas Tree ornament!’ The lady just laughed and said, ‘You don’t know my friend Jeannie!’”
Aunt Jeannie faced many difficulties in life. Her marriage failed. Both of her sons and a grandson died prematurely (one of the sons and the grandson died together quite tragically in an accident). Another of her grandsons was severely burned in a condominium fire. (That is actually an amazing story of miraculous survival and God’s ability to heal. His story is part of the “I am Second” series. His name is Lee Lucas.) Someone who went through all that Aunt Jeannie did might easily have become bitter or angry, but not Aunt Jeannie. You could not talk with her without her smiling and telling you about the goodness of her Lord.
A few years ago I saw her at a Nigerian missionary reunion. I had my one year old grandson, with me. Aunt Jeannie said, “I want to take him home with me. We don’t have any of those at my house….I used to have sons you know but God took them home.” I said, “Aunt Jeannie, I remember Paul and Timmy.” Aunt Jeannie continued, “Well, I wouldn’t ask for them back – who knows what God spared them from!” Her words pierced me! I thought, “Oh Lord! Make me like Aunt Jeannie! You took her sons yet she is so fully convinced of your goodness that she truly believes it was for the best.”
Aunt Jeannie passed away last May. I will miss her until I see her again. But there is something nice about knowing that when my time comes, Aunt Jeannie will run up to me with her big smile and her arms wide open.
Before she died, Aunt Jeannie asked her daughter Anne to write a thank you note to all the people who loved her. This was her note written on her death bed, “Constantly I am bewildered by the love God brings to us and that you love me so much.”
It’s Thanksgiving again. The past two Thanksgivings, Aunt Jeannie and Shirley have shared dinner at my house with my family and Lisa’s family (another childhood friend of mine). This year we will again have Lisa, Uncle David, Aunt Marie, my parents and family, and Shirley… Jeannie, you will be sorely missed!!