"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

6.13.2007

grace and peace

They are burying Norma in Austin today. Sunday morning my email inbox was full of notes that she passed away on Saturday.

Norma was one of the pillars of our church, a prayer warrior, a sweet spirit who cared for everyone as though they were her own children. Four generations of her family are members of our congregation. Her legacy won't soon be forgotten.

The first time I heard of Norma was maybe a year or so after I moved to Austin. She was ill, seriously ill, and the doctors had apparently told the family to prepare to let her go. But she didn't. They asked us to pray, and we did, and against all logic and reason, she made it. I have never known someone to come back from the edge of death like Norma did. Her family prayed for -- and got -- a miracle. I didn't know her then, but I saw her stand up that first Sunday she was back in church and marvelled at a faith that could move mountains.

My relationship with Norma really began after my first trip to the Congo two years ago. She called while I was walking up 18th Street in Washington, DC and asked if I would speak to her WMU circle. I was so hesitant - I came to Congo as a student, not a missionary - but she assurred me that it would be fine. What came out of that experience was a relationship with Norma (and with the rest of the women of the WMU) that I cherish. They pray for me, ask about what I have seen and learned, and take up offerings to help people here. Norma led the group in even knowing who I was, and in their decision to give me those offerings. Thanks to their efforts, a dozen children got to go to school last year. Thanks to their efforts, ten pregnant mothers with HIV got treatment so that they didn't pass the disease on to their children at birth, and several other women who were raped were able to get drugs that prevented their contracting HIV. Thanks to their efforts, so many neglected people have been prayed for, cared about, and loved. There are dozens of people in the Congo whose lives would not have been the same were it not for Norma, myself included.

Every single time I saw Norma at church, on Wednesday nights or Sunday mornings, every single time, she always asked about my research and my life, and told me that she would pray for me, that she'd be thinking of me. I saw in Norma a spirit that cared deeply for people on the other side of the world she knew she would never meet. I saw in her someone who was faithful to family and friends, who loved her church, who listened to God with all her heart. Rest in peace, Norma. You will be very, very much missed.

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