"I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!" Philippians 3:10-11 (NLT)
A little girl was born in the 1920s whose mother's heart beat with God's own. Geneva watched her mother, Mrs. Haller, devote her life to the care of Congo's most rejected slice of society--little ones who had lost their mommies and daddies. In the days of superstition and evil, the Congolese looked at these innocent children as the cause of the deaths of their parents. The children were scorned and badly mistreated out of the fear that whatever wicked spirit possessed them and had killed their parents might come to destroy other families in the tribe. Satan always comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and through this misguided belief of their fellow clans-people, these most helpless little ones lived in despair and the constant wounding of their hearts. Not realizing the truth that religion that God the Father accepts as pure and faultless is looking after orphans in their distress (James 1:27), these parent-less children had little hope of surviving, much less thriving in this world--until God's heart was shown them through the love of Mrs. Haller.
Mrs. Haller was an elderly lady by the time we arrived in Congo, having lived far more of her life in Congo than the United States, the land of her birth. Her daughter, Geneva, had rarely been back to see her relatives in the United States. Although she was Caucasian by race, everything else about her was Congolese. She was much more comfortable talking the trade language of Kituba with my father than English, having become Congolese in every way except for her unchangeable skin color. When her mother died, there was no question in Geneva's mind whether she would stay in Congo or not to carry on the work. Geneva, like her mother before her, lived on a remote bush mission station devoting her life to something that received no recognition from her peers. Oh sure, everyone marveled at her sacrifice of a high-powered career, marriage, and children of her own. She was the most humble woman anyone ever laid eyes on, blessed with a God-given protection from any arrogance or pride about how she was spending her days and years serving Him obscurely. It was her passion and life's calling to give herself to those who could never pay her back. Many little lives flourished under the sunshine of Geneva Haller's love and found Jesus was the source of Geneva's unselfish offering of her own life.
Geneva lived and died as her mother did, not looking for any earthly reward or pat on the back. There were no huge fund-raising campaigns for an orphanage building, sacks of food, or clothing for the children. Geneva never lost the child-like faith in her heavenly Father to sustain her and her children and to give them their daily bread. Some will look at that and shake their heads in pity over what seems to be a wasted life serving a God she could not even see with her eyes.
(Dad and my brother visiting Geneva at Ntsueme, D.R.Congo)
The gospel of Luke tells of another woman who lived a "foolish" life in the eyes of her peers. There is so little said about Anna, that she can easily be overlooked:
"There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to [Mary and Joseph] at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem." Luke 2:36-38 (NIV)
Anna had been married only seven years when her husband died. A Jewish girl at that time could have been married as young as age twelve or fourteen. That means that Anna was either in her late teens or very early twenties when she became a widow. Scripture does not reveal that she ever had children, a horrible source of shame for every Jewish woman. Anna refused to become bitter. Although I am sure she had days of anguish, she chose to cry out to her God about them at the place where He had promised His name would dwell forever--the temple. Now a very old woman, her Abba allowed her to see the reward of her difficult life on earth in an eight-day-old Baby named Jesus. What was it like for Anna to be able to prophesy about the Son of God as being the Redeemer of Jerusalem one day? I can't even imagine the favor that God spoke over Anna in those few moments as she laid her eyes on the Word made flesh.
I admit it, girlfriends, fasting and praying day and night in a place where my gender would not have allowed me access past the courtyard of the temple does not sound like a fulfilling way to spend my life. But maybe that's the problem. Maybe my focus is all wrong. Maybe, just maybe, it isn't about me and my comfort at all. Maybe, like Moses, Anna and Geneva had the right focus:
"...[s]he persevered because [s]he saw Him who is invisible." Hebrews 11:26 (NIV)
These eyes miss so much because of what they are focused on. My father always used to ask a question of Geneva Haller which made her blush, "Geneva, can I sweep your porch in heaven?" knowing the reward ahead of her was so huge. No, not an earthly reward that lasts for a fleeting moment, but one that is eternal and will shout the praises of the One who will be invisible no more. Geneva never forgot the kindness her heavenly Father had shown her. You see, Geneva was not Mrs. Haller's biological daughter, but an adopted orphan chosen by her mother to be her very own. Sounds like what our heavenly Father does for you and me when He makes us His own daughters through the gift of salvation offered through His Son, Jesus Christ, doesn't it?
Jesus, Geneva and Anna inspire me so greatly. But is that all they do--bring tears to my eyes and conviction to my heart for just a moment? "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a [wo]man who looks at h[er] face in a mirror and, after looking at h[er]self, goes away and immediately forgets what [s]he looks like. But the [wo]man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what [s]he has heard, but doing it—[s]he will be blessed in what [s]he does."
(James 1:23-25 NIV)
Help me to have eyes to see the invisible--what is truly real--like Geneva and Anna had.