When I was a child, I went to Mission Friends, and then to Girls In Action, and then on to Acteens as a teenager. Now I am in Women on Mission at my church. These are missions curriculums that teach about missions, encourage a heart for missions, and guide prayer for missions. I learned early on who a missionary is, and how their different purposes fulfill God’s plan to take His word to a lost world.
Because I grew up in a church with a heart for missions, now I pray for missionaries. I give to missionaries. I teach about missions. And I admire missionaries. Missionaries leave the comforts of home; lots of times the comforts of a modern society. In the case of my region of the world, they leave the “Bible Belt”, where there is a church on every corner, to go and plant churches and seeds of God’s love into the hearts of people worldwide.
That takes guts, people!
So here enters Donna Carr and her story of how God called a 66-year-old mama, grandmama, and now great-grandmama to the mission field in China.
I remember being struck by Donna’s story a few years ago as she talked about how she had always had an identity of sorts. Always. She was a wife, and not just any wife! Donna was a preacher’s wife. She was a mama. And she was a kindergarten teacher (oh, my heart!).
Donna recalls a moment in 1988 when her church had a special speaker, who was a retired teacher. “She was on her way to teach in China. I thought to myself about how wonderful that would be for me to do (with scant hope of it really happening).”
This moment would come back to Donna’s heart later on as God worked on her in a marvelous way for His purpose.
Fast forward 14 years. Donna’s identities were starting to fall away one by one, she felt.
“I retired from my twenty-nine years of teaching kindergarten and my husband and I found our retirement home.” No longer called “teacher”.
“We moved on October 28, 2002, so excited to have our own home–a lifelong pastor’s wife’s dream! My husband was to retire in June 2003. On January 7, 2003, my husband of 45 and a half years entered the hospital for a heart operation to ease his constant Angina pain. After surgery, he suffered a heart attack and went home to be with His Lord.” No longer called “pastor’s wife”.
Her children were grown and had houses of their own, and even though she knew she was Mama, Donna wasn’t needed as “Mama” every single minute of the day.
“Well, here I was, in a new community, with no job. No husband to grow old with. Four children who had lives of their own to live. I felt as if my life were over, with not much left to live for. But…I had left a large part out of this sad equation…GOD. Little did I know what He had in mind for me!”
Donna continued to worship at her husband’s church without him. This was very painful to do, and she shed many tears on the ride home each week. “God led me to a new church in Corner, Alabama, five miles from my house. It was such a warm, welcoming fellowship, and I felt at peace again.”
“I was introduced to a Sunday School class as a retired teacher. It was then I met a short steamroller named Laura, who was also a retired schoolteacher. She told me of her trips to China and said I should pray about going myself. Well, I began to do just that.”
There is no such thing as a coincidence!
“God’s time is not our time, and in January 2005, I heard Him say ‘Go to China.’ Now…to tell my family. No small feat in itself, especially my 85 year old mother!”
But God provided. He provided grace for Donna and her family in the”telling” and He provided the money, and just like that, 66-year-old Donna Carr was off with Laura to Wuxi, China. How brave is that?!?
“What a summer it was–I was as close to God as I had ever been and felt I was doing His work. I left China in tears.”
“When I arrived home, Mother told me she hoped that I had that ‘nonsense’ out of my head. But I told her God had called me and until He uncalled me, I would go to China. I was priveleged to go to China four more times! My last year was in Mongolia, to which my daughter said ‘Is that as far away from home as you can go?!?'”
Donna thought she had lost her identity as a teacher, but God was using her as a teacher in China. She thought she had lost her identity as a pastor’s wife, but she has continued to carry on the legacy of the gospel like her late husband did, even as far as Mongolia! She thought she wasn’t needed to mother her offspring anymore, but she enjoys a full and busy life with her sweet family as a mama, grandmother, and great-grandmother. And now Donna has a new identity. She is called missionary as well.
She is a brave mama! We can be brave, too, moms, no matter how old or young we feel. Donna ends by saying, “My point in this story is that God has a plan for every life, even as we grow older. God can still use us. I actually aged out of China trips recentlly but I know God has not “uncalled” me from service to Him. I will continue to listen for His word about what I can do at age 76 for His kingdom. ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’ Jeremiah 29:11”
Tis So Sweet Adapted by Paige Givens, 2014