In a conversation with one of our graduates after the death of his wife, he remarked that he was now the steward of her life. Her legacy was in his hands. Margaret Olson loved her family. Chris knew her grandchildren, still very young, would have few memories of her life. Margaret would want Chris to invest in those relationships, to spend as much time with them as he could. So, he plans to visit each of his children’s families frequently and to share the stories of Margaret’s life and passions.
In her 17 years at Sandia National Labs, as a manager in the Robotics Center, Margaret helped pioneer a Post-Cold War era collaboration with Russian scientists to develop affordable prosthetics for child and adult victims of land mines under the Nuclear Cities Initiative. After Sandia, she spent the past 8 years as a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators leading strategic planning and managing Bible translation projects. She worked tirelessly to develop new Bible translation projects led by indigenous people. She was a compelling advocate for the proposition that every people group, no matter how small, should have the Bible in their own language. Margaret was a member of New Covenant Church, where she served as a missions leader and a discussion leader of small group Bible studies. She always recalled with great fondness the friends she made during her seven years as a discussion leader for Women’s Bible Study Fellowship and as an instructor for the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course. Her most contented times were in raising a family and enjoying the outdoors as a hiker, a bird watcher, a photographer, and a participant in bicycle touring. She had a special affection for the people of West Africa, a calling to reach out to Muslim women, and a deep motherly love for street children and those orphaned by AIDS. She was a hands-on participant in a ministry to the street children of Meru, Kenya. Her heart was always open to those in need, and her energy was unceasing to reach the lost. She put others before herself throughout her exceptional life.
At Margaret’s memorial service, Chris shared three lessons he had learned from his wife on how to live an exceptional life. First, serve a purpose larger than yourself. Second, align your life as precisely as possible with the way God made you. Third, live beyond the limit of your own natural abilities. This requires God’s supernatural power working in your life.
Chris shares this story:
In 1999, Margaret and I went to India for the first time on a mission trip led by Matthew Ellison. In India, especially in the big cities, you encounter the most agonizing examples of the degradation of the human spirit. Acres of slums where human beings live in cardboard boxes and drink from open sewers. People die in the dirt next to roads filled with busses and limousines. Children are grievously maimed or crippled by their own parents in order to make them more appealing as beggars. We saw all of these horrors. The third night we were in India, I was awakened at 2 AM because our bed in the hotel was shaking. At first I thought there was an earthquake until I turned over to find Margaret sobbing uncontrollably. The thoughts and emotions prompted by what we were seeing and which she could not express during the daily structured activities of the trip agenda came pouring out. For the rest of the trip, we would awaken every night. I would hold Margaret in my arms and she would cry.
On the way home from India she said to me, “We cannot go back to living as we have been living. Even our religion has been all about making ourselves feel good. Unless these people we have seen in India and people like them all over the world come to know Jesus, none of what we have seen will ever change.”
We share the stories of our soul friends, not to glorify them, but to inspire and encourage future generations to live exceptional lives. The glory belongs to God for his transformative work in our lives.
In observing the Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus said, “As often as you do this, do this in remembrance of me.” Our Lord’s last words of instruction to his friends were, “teach my disciples everything I have taught you.” They became stewards of the life of Jesus and of the good news he proclaimed. They remembered him with their words, their actions, and ultimately with their lives. Eternal life is not only living forever, it a life that is remembered through our family and friends through eternity.
A colleague recently retired prematurely from a Christian organization because he could not stay and watch the legacy of its founder destroyed. He is stewarding a life.
Whose legacy do you feel responsible for? Whose lives will you steward?