A Tribute to Significant Women
A Life-Altering Knock
When Duane proposed to Jackie, he asked if she would be willing to go with him to Africa one day. Jackie loved to travel, and she loved Duane, so “Yes!” was an easy answer. When he was 12 years old, Duane felt God wanted him to go to the faraway continent as a missionary. The intelligent and purposeful young man decided a career in medicine was the vehicle with which he could most help people.
During their first years of marriage, Duane completed medical school. Following the grueling process of residency, he established a successful orthopedic surgery practice. In spite of long hours and the unpredictable schedule of her physician husband, Jackie relished her role and loved being mom to four bright, attractive, active children. She also found great support through women’s Bible study groups and soon was a well-respected Bible teacher. Her education degree and a passion for studying Scripture made her a natural.
Jackie grew up in the home of a thrifty Midwest banker. Prudent money management seems part of my friend’s DNA. While their active family lived happily and comfortably in a large home, our friends spent cautiously, invested wisely and gave generously to worldwide missions. When their three oldest kids had completed college and married, and their youngest was settled in college, Duane felt time had come to follow his childhood calling. He closed his practice, and soon they left for Africa.
For Jackie, leaving her home with its lovely lake view and moving to a two-bedroom house with concrete floors was challenging. Radical cultural, language and climate changes as well as unpredictable availability of water and electricity created personal and physical difficulties. For years Jackie had tended and actively participated in the lives of her children. When separated by more than 8,000 miles, she struggled with loss and grief reactions.
One ordinary afternoon in Africa, my friend heard what was to become a life-altering knock on her front door. Dr. Mary, one of the mission doctors, stood outside holding the hand of a beautiful, bewildered-looking seven-year-old boy. The doctor explained the child had been abandoned by his widowed mother after she remarried. Her new husband didn’t want the responsibility of raising his new wife’s son—a custom not uncommon in the African nation. The good doctor learned from villagers that relatives tending the child had nefarious plans for him, and the brave woman wasted no time developing a daring rescue plan.
Dr. Mary—not only brave but also brash—didn’t hesitate to announce that Jackie must care for the child until adoptive parents were found. Before long, Duane and Jackie realized this intelligent, athletic little guy was special, and they began praying for a good adoptive family for Jeremiah.
Months later, they returned to the United States on leave. A friend and I hosted a Sunday dessert gathering so our friends could tell about their missions work. During a PowerPoint presentation, Jackie lingered on a picture of Jeremiah, asking, “Do any of you know someone who’d like to adopt this little guy?” Like an eager first grader, certain she knows the answer, my hand shot up, and I said, “I do! I do! Jon and Kristine want him!”
Ron and I met Jon and Kristine through our church, and immediately admired these new friends and their three children. The whole family desired to adopt, and were anxious to accept a special needs child—someone rejected by the biological parents. We all assumed the process would be fairly straightforward. But, after several adoption attempts had fallen through, our friends began to wonder. Kristine and I prayed together several times. After prayer, we always agreed we felt certain God had something—someone—special in mind for their family, but we sure couldn’t figure out what God was doing and why it was taking so long.
Arriving home Sunday evening after learning about Jeremiah, I immediately called our friends, who hadn’t yet returned from a weekend at the lake. The message they heard that evening said something like, “Hey, Jon and Kristine, this is Sue. I’ve found a little boy for you to adopt. He’s from Africa, and he’s beautiful. If you want him, give me a call, and I’ll let you know what to do next!”
When the phone rang later, I was sure it must be Kristine. “Yes, we want him!” she exclaimed before saying, “hello.” Several months, thousands of dollars, and reams of paperwork later, Kristine traveled to Africa and brought Jeremiah to his new home and family in Coeur d’Alene. Jeremiah is a teenager now—tall, handsome, a star athlete and good student.
Before publishing this article, I asked both Jackie and Kristine to review it. As a writer, I know hyperbole is tempting, and it’s important to me that this—one of my favorite true-life tales—is accurate. Kristine wrote back saying, “Jon and I loved it! … It is hard to believe that it was only 8 years ago. It seems like Jeremiah has always been with us. He just fits!
Romans 8:28 was the verse of Scripture that came to my mind while reading Kristine’s comment. The Living Bible paraphrases it like this: And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.
This story of a determined doctor, caring Christians from Idaho and a little boy from Africa inspires me. Its chapters created a level of godly significance for two sets of dear friends. I consider the bit role I played in Jeremiah’s story one of the most significant roles I’ve been chosen by God to play.
Life journeys don’t stop, and Jackie’s story doesn’t end here. I’ve invited my friend to tell more of her story in her own words. Stay tuned for that…
Listening on Your Journey:
- When I began this series on Longing for Significance, I observed that, “Significance transpires as a result of individual decisions and choices.” In what ways does that statement relate to the various women (Jackie, Dr. Mary, Kristine and me) who were involved in this story?
- What life-altering knock have you experienced on your life’s door?
Without a doubt, I lost a piece of my heart to the many children we met during a trip to South Africa a few years ago.