The other day I was having lunch with my mom after she had returned from a youth missions trip. She was showing me some pictures and pointed to one of their trip leaders. “She is 19” she said passively describing this girl. 19. So young. And then I thought I was barely 20 the summer I met Judy B.
It was Spring of 2005 and Chris and I had only just been married that December. Newlyweds and living as missionaries in Ukraine there was some major internal changes going on in the organization that we were a part of. The only base that stayed in tact during the upheaval was the Ukraine base where we were teaching English, visiting an orphanage bi-weekly and doing sports outreach to men and boys. Because of the upheaval the other missions bases were left without leadership. Chris and I had met in Bahamas and served there the summer before while we were engaged and so, because of this experience, we were asked to go lead the base on Grand Bahama Island for the summer. Of course, we said yes.
That summer I turned 20 in the Bahamas. I had been married 4 months. We were in charge of leading a staff of anywhere from 6-8 people. We planned outreach activities and work projects for 16 teams. We grocery shopped and cooked and cleaned and did laundry. Many of the contacts that the organization had worked with before on the Island had gone with the previous leaders of the base so we started from scratch with church, pastor and outreach connections.
What I remember most about that summer is being terrified every day. I would open my eyes and think, “I just have to make it to the end of the day and I can go back to bed.” The pressure was so much and daily we were pushed out of our comfort zones and into the faith zone.
Enter Judy B. A little more than a month into our time in Bahamas our Director told us that we were getting a volunteer. One that had years of experience with missions and leading, was a personal friend of our Director and 20+ years my Senior. Also, she needed her own room. Now if you know anything about missions, when you come to serve for a summer you room with other people. Our room situation was limited especially with the number of teams we had coming in that summer. So there we were preparing for the volunteer who was our Boss’s friend and who requested (demanded?) her own room. To say we weren’t excited for her arrival, would be an understatement.
My many insecurities drove my fear of Judy and if we are going to be honest, my judgement of her. But boy was I wrong. Judy was that summer and has continued to be one of my biggest cheer leaders, an example of trusting in God and seeking him in prayer. Even now when we have lunch, 13 years later, she brags about how I was her boss. Judy went on to lead with us the next summer in New Orleans as we did hurricane Katrina relief work and has continued to be a dear friend.
At the end of that summer as we prayed as a team and looked back at all God had done I was overwhelmed by how he had provided. He provided every single day for all of our needs and we had not only survived our summer, we had thrived. That night Judy B. led us in “Our God is an awesome God” and I cried happy tears to know how awesome God is and to realize how us stepping out in so much faith, even imperfectly, was rewarded by the privilege of seeing him work.
Judy B’s tendency to quote the Bible, break out in praise songs, say a prayer like I grab a cup of coffee, encourage, respect and lift Chris and I up like we were seasoned professionals has influenced my life greatly. She has chosen to be who she is, wherever God has asked he to go, and I am forever grateful for her friendship and example in my life.
Hey Juds, when I met you I was a scared, insecure 20 year old desperately desiring to see God work in my life and the lives around me. I am so thankful that God chose to intersect our paths, the way you have lived your life has rubbed off on me . Thanks for choosing influence. Thanks for being you, confidently, so I could learn to be me too.