So a few weeks ago we were pushing through our Technical Evaluation with MAF. We had stayed two weeks with a wonderful host family and then were invited to move in to the home of Gene and Lynn Jordan. Gene was practically born into MAF as he grew up side by side with Steve Saint in Ecuador. Shortly after we met Gene he showed us a black and white picture of himself as a small boy in Ecuador with the strong arm of Nate Saint wrapped around him. Gene had countless stories of God’s relentless love for the tribal peoples of Ecuador and the unsung heroes whom the Lord has been using over decades to reach these precious people. Every now then you get to listen to a storyteller so rich in history, wisdom, and experience that when they dust off one of their old stories, you know not much else in the moment matters. You pull up a chair, lean in, and feel within moments that you have the very same wind blowing through your hair as did those heroes of days gone by who pioneered organizations like MAF; guys and gals who had a bedrock faith in God’s power and provision and who seriously lacked many of the comforts and privileges we will enjoy as missionaries overseas. Gene’s stories were moving, fun, and downright hilarious at times. But mostly, his stories were inspiring.
After a few days in their home we learned that Gene’s mother, Ruth would be joining us for Sunday lunch. Gene’s mother and father had a profound presence as missionaries in Ecuador and other parts of South America in their day. Their ministry tool of choice was music. Gene’s father (also named Eugene) was a profoundly gifted musician. As one of ten children each remarkably gifted in music, Eugene Sr. stood out and had a talent reserved for building God’s Kingdom. Eugene’s bride, Ruth would be joining us for lunch. She lives comfortably in a retirement home but most Sunday’s she enjoys a fine meal with her son and his wife. Lynn Jordan is a top tier chef with a reputation for her culinary prowess. She served a delicious meal to us and while Phil and I juggled our tired children, I (Jess) thirsted to ask Ruth questions while attempting to be tender with her aged self.
Gene Jordan’s incredible gift of story is imparted, no doubt, by his mother. Sincere and certain, Ruth had glorious missionary stories to tell. Firsthand stories of her own, and of her time spent in the company of life-long friends such as Elisabeth Elliot. A brief lunch was not enough for my curious mind. I asked Gene and Lynn if I might procure a date with Ruth at her retirement home in a few days. When I arrived at the retirement home Ruth seemed happy to have me. My husband has often told me that one of my greatest people skills is my ability to ask good questions, but that afternoon in Ruth’s pretty little bedroom, I didn’t need to ask many. She showed pictures and told me stories. I relished our hour together but one of my favorite Ruth-stories was about Elisabeth Elliot and it went something like this.
“Betty (Elisabeth) came to my house in Ecuador one afternoon just heartsick in love with Jim. Jim told her they shouldn’t marry but should focus on their individual ministries. Betty was such a talented Bible translator. Betty loved him dearly and we stayed up until two in the morning eating a pie and talking about Jim. A few months later Betty came back by the house all in huff and said, “Ruth, I’m going on a trip. Jim and I are getting married tomorrow.” Betty was so happy and I was so happy for her.” Ruth paused and took in a deep sigh. “I don’t know why the Lord took those boys. Those five were the cream of the crop. But… He knows best.”
Ruth told me about her own highs and lows as a missionary wife and at one point mid-story she looked right at me, and with a might of conviction said, “Honey, you just have to decide to be happy. No matter where you are or what the Lord has you doing, just be happy.” This from a woman who has given her life to washing feet and preaching the gospel. This from a woman who raised two children, buried a husband she adored, and continues to serve our good King by calling her retirement home her mission field.
There are things in life that make us truly rich. The company we keep us surely one of them. My time with the Jordan family made me rich and if I’m a missionary for no other reason than to hang out with people like that, then fine by me.
May your week be blessed with rich conversation, great questions, and true inspiration. Thank you for praying for us (Phil still needs a job) and thank you for your support.
Love in Christ,