|Keith and I with Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Herb (Andy)|
Approximately thirty(ish) years ago, Keith and I, newly married and backslidden as can be, landed in Hawaii to begin his three year tour of duty with the Navy. For this immature girl who had hardly ever been out of the South, it was a dream come true. I had always wanted to travel and Hawaii was definitely on my bucket list.
So here we were, on the other side of the world from home. But as God would have it, He had a divine connection planned for us. As it turned out, Keith’s uncle, Andrew Herbert Johnson (Uncle Herb to us), who was a Navy chaplain, Commander and former fighter pilot and his wife, Aunt Bobbie, were also stationed there the exact same time as we were. And this ‘coincidence’ changed the course of our lives forever.
Then we met Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Herb. There was something different about them. At the time, I was 21 years old and Aunt Bobbie was 50-something yet I looked for every opportunity to be around her. I know I must have gotten on her nerves sometimes tagging along but if I did she never once showed it. She just loved me, with my short skirts and all. She just accepted me as I was. She spent time with me. She invited me along shopping with her. She welcomed us into her home every Sunday and any time in between. She cooked delicious meals for us. (Her rolls themselves were reason enough to keep coming back!) But she spent hours of time with me. Just letting me hang out with her. She and Uncle Herb were there for us. They made us feel like we mattered.
It wasn’t so much of what she said, yes she would answer my many questions, but it was mostly just what she lived. She and Uncle Herb just lived love. They reached out to some of the most unlovable people on the base and invited them into their home. I would sometimes feel jealous at not having them all to myself. But it just flowed out of them. And when Aunt Bobbie or Uncle Herb prayed, we felt something we’d never felt before. We couldn’t quite put our finger on it at the time, but for some reason we were drawn to them. We just felt Good when we were with them. A hunger began growing in my heart. I had seen LIFE, and I wanted it too. They weren’t just Christians in word, they had someONE living in them. I knew this because I felt Him every time I was with them. And I wanted what they had. For the first time in my life I realized, there was more. Christianity as I’d experienced it wasn’t all there was. Jesus was really real. He was current. He wasn’t boring. He was fun. But nobody TOLD me this, I just KNEW it, because I knew Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Herb.
Now Aunt Bobbie wasn’t perfect. But she was real. And what a sense of humor she had! She would sometimes get tickled in church and couldn’t stop giggling. This was my kind of lady! She had fun and joy just bubbled out of her. Almost more than anything, this intrigued me. I guess I had thought Christians were dour, boring old sourpusses. But Aunt Bobbie was a hoot! That, I could relate to!
She and Uncle Herb invested in me and Keith. They didn’t preach at us, they just loved us and lived an authentic life, full of LIFE in front of us. We didn’t change right away. A lot of what was sown into our lives at that time didn't bear fruit for years. Actually it was so gradual that I don’t know if they were even aware of the impact they were making then. But something was definitely taking root in us. And it literally changed the course of our lives.
Now years later, we have raised four children and our family has grown to include a son-in-law, daughter-in-law and two grandsons. I am very proud of my family. I look at my husband and children and I am so grateful. Actually that doesn’t even come close to expressing how I feel. I am BEYOND grateful if there is such a thing. We’ve had people say how much they admire our family and they ask us what we’ve done. And I find that astounding. I really do. I’m not bragging, it’s just one of those things that happens repeatedly and I’m always left, like Mary, amazed and pondering these things in my heart. Because I honestly didn’t have a clue what I was doing 27 years ago when I became a mom. And 27 years later its still a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operation. I guess all I had was an intense desire- stronger than anything I’d ever felt before holding my firstborn in my arms- to do this thing right. And a revelation that I didn’t have what it took to do it. But I did have a God who did. There are no formulas and I don’t understand it, but God has blessed our family.
But one thing I do know- the blessing on our family today can be traced back approximately 30 years ago to a little speck of an island in the vast Pacific Ocean. The fact that my children are serving God today and impacting the Kingdom can be traced back to the influence of one simple couple, who saw value in two disillusioned, immature twenty-somethings and who chose to sow time, love and life into us. I will be forever grateful to them for the harvest we now enjoy. As I look into the faces of my precious grandsons, knowing how their parents will raise them to know the Lord, all because THEY know the Lord, I just want to weep with gratitude and to somehow repay them for what they gave us. But I know one day, that their reward will be handed to them by the Lord Himself and it will be eternal.
So never under-estimate the value of investing into one person's life. You may not see the fruit immediately. But it could have eternal and generational impact. Our family is proof of that. My children can thank Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Herb (and God of course ;) that they know Jesus. One life impacting generations and the Kingdom of God.
Blessed be the name of the Lord!