Yesterday, I had the honor of toasting two of my heroes in the faith as they venture into the next phase of life... retirement. Dr. Dick and Millie Bransford have spent the last 35 years on the mission field in Kenya. They have taught me so much about loving others and giving myself away. As I watched them yesterday holding hands, laughing and crying over memories and photos, I couldn't help but think how thousands upon thousands of children in Africa would have never received help or heard about the Lord had these two not said yes to each other and yes to God. What an awesome picture of God's providence for our lives.
2009 BethanyKids documentary trip (Kijabe, Kenya)
Dick and Millie-
It's hard to believe we're toasting to your retirement. To the "lazy" days ahead of you watching your grandchildren grow and play, reading books on your deck at sunset, and YES, Millie, even having your very own dishwasher who is not a Kenyan woman named Tata.
I was thinking about all that I could say to you. All that I could thank you for as you've invested in my life over the last almost 15 years now. I am overwhelmed with memories and life lessons you've taught me. So I thought I would narrow it down to three.
Life lesson number one: You've taught me humility.
Whether it was sweet Millie who was able to laugh at herself every day when she would go looking for her coffee cup only to find it in the microwave where she had left it three hours earlier. Or whether it was good ol' Dr. B who still greets me at the breakfast table every time I stay in their home with a "Glad you could finally join us…" as if I had slept the day away by waking up at 7:30am.
You two have been the definition of humble. Constantly giving. Never expecting applause. Always loving. Never asking for anything in return.
Life lesson number two: You've taught me how to love.
I spent a summer with Dick and Millie when I was sixteen. I don't think I was in Kijabe 24-hours when they started trying to set me up with Rift Valley Academy boys. And, I'm pretty sure they're still working on finding my future husband.
Although they could use a little help on their match-making skills, they do know how to love each other without ceasing. During some very formidable teenage years, I watched these two pray for each other, support each other, and raise their children with such incredible love and wisdom. I will never forget the first time I joined them for family devotions. What an example of what a God-fearing family could look like. Dick often tells me that choosing my spouse may be the most important decision of my life. He always says don't choose the wrong person. No pressure. I have learned the importance of being matched with someone who shares your passion, your vision, and God's calling on your life.
Life lesson number three: You've taught me how to give.
Some of my greatest memories in life come from following Dick around Kenya. Going to clinics and telling patients that he didn't think he could help them… but he would find someone who could. I used to love going with Millie to a Kenyan school called Matathia. She would teach those kids about Jesus. And sing such beautiful songs. And they loved her. I think about the babies that died and how it would have such an affect on Dick's spirit. It grieved him--like he lost his own child. And I think about the BethanyKids staff and how these folks have learned to give because they had such strong leaders who gave themselves away every day.
So Dick and Millie. Here's to "lazy days" that all of us know won't ever be lazy. Here's to all that God has for you in this brand new chapter. While there may be a little less swahili to speak, He's not done using you.
Thank you for the faithful example you've set for all of us. May we all strive to be more Jesus and in doing so be a little more like you.