Written by Kelly King, Women’s Ministry Specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources.
I’m not an expert at financial planning, but I learned some simple investment principles when I began working at a financial institution full-time right after college.
Invest early. Save consistently. Reap rewards later. Time is your friend.
These simple principles were great advice for financial help, but I also saw these principles displayed in the life of one of my mission mentors. Othella Thompson was my next-door neighbor from the time I was born until my family moved when I was in fourth grade. She and her husband Bill raised three boys in the home where she lived until she passed away a year ago at the age of 81.
While she never mentioned wanting a daughter, Mrs. Thompson taught my Girls in Action (GA) class at the small church plant where my family attended and where I came to know the Lord. Our church rarely broke the 100 mark in attendance, but Mrs. Thompson faithfully taught our GA class during my early grade school years. Occasionally, she sang solos in the worship service and her shrill soprano voice was a source of suppressed giggles among my friends and me.
For the most part, I was a fairly compliant child and loved learning about Jesus. Those early years learning about missions and missionaries were foundational stones that shaped my heart and made me tender towards others who sacrificed so others could hear the gospel.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Thompson didn’t always see how I was being shaped. For some reason, every Wednesday evening, I gave Mrs. Thompson trouble. I was a bit sassy and a bit of a know-it-all. Some people might say some things haven’t changed, but I always seemed a bit rebellious during that hour. She would gently scold me, and remind me that my behavior was unbecoming. She desperately tried to help me be a young lady, but she also challenged our group of girls to get dirty and serve others. I still remember our class planting flowers at church and how I shuddered at the thought of digging in the dirt. Even so, she smiled and encouraged us to serve Jesus by serving our church and serving others.
We may have literally planted those seeds, but she “planted” the seeds of missions into our young lives. I still remember learning about various countries, praying for missionaries, giving to mission offerings, and learning how we serve a big God who cares about the eternity of the entire world.
It would be years later before Mrs. Thompson would see the fruit of those seeds.
When my husband and I married, we began the task of finding a church. Because we taught teenagers at two different churches, one of our first big decisions was determining where God wanted us to serve together. After a few months, we joined the church where Vic was already a member. He had established relationships, but I was looking for ways I could be involved and make new friends. In a few months, I made the decision to join the church choir.
As I entered the choir room, I found a place among the alto section and tried hard to fit into the group. As I looked around the room, a familiar face waved from the soprano section. It was Mrs. Thompson! Little did I know she was a member of the same church. She quickly made her way towards me, hugged my neck, and welcomed me. In the back of my mind, all I could think of was the way I had misbehaved as a young girl. A few weeks later, I mustered the courage to approach her and ask her forgiveness. She winked and smiled, “I don’t remember any of that and I’m so proud of who you are today.”
For the next 29 years, Mrs. Thompson saw the rewards of investing in a small group of GA girls. She saw my calling into ministry and how God opened opportunities for me to serve. Each time we had a conversation, she would tell me how proud she was and how she prayed for me.
Even so, the reality is: I know her long-term investment in a young girl was the greatest gift I could be given. The impact of teaching girls about God’s word and God’s world was the payoff of a faithful woman who answered the call to teach missions education. That’s a great investment.
Who invested in you?