Two close friends had family members who passed recently. One was the mother of Justice Ekuban Jr. I met his mom when Darryl and I taught at a Bible Training Center in London, UK. I happened to sit next to her and during a break when we introduced ourselves she said her name was Elizabeth. I said, I won’t forget your name, because my daughter is also named Elizabeth. Elizabeth was from Accra, Ghana. She and her husband came to the UK, leaving their three children for two years as God led them to graduate from this program. When they returned to Accra they began their own Training Center. Darryl was invited to be a speaker at their graduation. I did not go the first trip, but went the second time, I believe. It was there in their home that I really got to know Elizabeth. She was a strong woman, who loved her children. She supported her husband’s call to sharing the gospel. In between Darryl`s first trip and mine we hosted their son, Justice Ekuban Jr. You could tell home much he missed his mother and how much he admired her. She impacted his life immensely. Her practical daily life was lived differently than mine, due to the cultural differences between the US and Ghana, but our hearts were the same. She had the most beautiful smile.
Isaac Johnson was brought to Oak Harbor through his 24 year enlistment in the Navy. He and his wife, Faye raised eight children. He loved the Lord and he loved his family. He was a man of few words, but his service drew the largest assembly of people we have ever had at our church. Listening to his children honor him by sharing stories about his faithful devotion to prayer, Bible study and worship brought an even greater desire to live my life for Jesus. One of his Navy buddies shared they called him “Rev” because of his strong beliefs and character. He was a simple man who was passionate about Jesus,sports and of course, his family. He loved to sing and praise the Lord every where!
I am reading through the book of Chronicles right now. In the first few chapters, the Chronicler lists the names of so many who to us, are just names on the page. However, as I was reading their names (being tempted to skip a few, if I am being honest); I began to think about the choices we have to not be famous necessarily, but become influencers of those around us for good. By the time we get to chapter Four we find Jabez. A man who. caused so much pain at his birth he was named a Hebrew word which sounds like “pain or distress”! Not a very auspicious beginning to have, did he? And yet as we continue to read, he did not let that name define him. He took his situation to the Lord and prayed. There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. “He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain! And God granted him his request. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10
None of us choose our country of origin, our birth family or our race. Elizabeth was born in Africa. Isaac was born in the US–but he was born during a time when our country was deeply segregated and prejudice was open and practiced. He chose not to grow up with bitterness. It grieves my heart to hear Faye share some of the stories of her childhood where things were just plain unfair. But both of them chose forgiveness over bitterness. Their lives represent choosing to be honorable and treating people right before the Lord, rather than pay back evil for evil. Those are choices we can all make. To live a life as honorably as we can to all around us takes faith that God is aware of all our pain, our times of rejection and has a plan to work them out for good in each of our lives, if we let him.
Thank you Isaac Johnson and Elizabeth Ekuban for living your lives as examples we can follow, may the Lord give us His grace to do so.