In my mind, my Aunt Velma is a true definition of a ‘hero’. When she was just a young lady she made the bold decision to go to Papua New Guinea and be a linguistic missionary. Over the course of her 43 years in ministry, Aunt Velma, Helen Martin and the missionary team they co-laboured with translated 2 languages into the New Testament.
Aunt Velma was a special lady who walked with God. While I was a child (before I trusted in Christ) she would send me Christian literature and devotionals. She sent me a birthday card every year. Though she lived on the other side of the planet, she never missed my birthday. Ever. That’s just the kind of woman she was. The love of Jesus Christ had so filled her heart that it poured out into the lives of all who came into contact with her. That’s what truly made her special.
She never married. She never had children. She never owned a car or had a driver’s license. She never got wrapped up in western comfort. But she lived a full and joyful life – because her life was focused on fulfilling God’s purpose for her. Her greatest love was Jesus and that’s Who she lived for. And that’s how I want my life to be lived also.
If I were to pick a verse from the Bible that would summarize Aunt Velma’s life, it would be this:
“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24
If Aunt Velma were to summarize how she lived her life, she may direct you to the following short story that she wrote. It was included in a book called “Summer Tapestry: An Anthology of Short Stories” from the Canadian Poetry Institute.
God Is Our Walking Stick
I lived and worked in the country of Papua New Guinea for a number of years. It was a good life, a life of adventure. One day I and another lady walked from one village to another. There was no other way to go than to walk. I couldn’t believe what we were walking through! I had never walked on a trail like this before.
Helen, the lady I worked with, and I were on our way to the village of Monuga, remote and isolated in the rain forest beyond the sago swamps north of the Sepik River. In order to reach it we were walking through those swamps. There was a trail of sorts. The sago palm trees had been cut back as much as possible, but in many places we brushed close to the four to six inch sago thorns protruding from the trunks. Logs (which were actually little more than large sticks in many places) had been laid along the hacked-out path. There was a problem, though – the logs were anywhere from six to eighteen inches under the water! A guide walked directly in front of each of us and directed us where to place each step. We literally inched our way along, our feet feeling under the water for the logs. Coming to the end of one log, we would grope for the next one. We each had a long walking stick and without that stick I never would have made it. The stick went before our feet, feeling out the deep places, finding the solid log to step on. As my feet slipped on the slimy logs, the stick took my body weight and kept me from tumbling into the deep, murky water. The mile and a half took us two hours to cross!
Then it was through the rain forest – a trail that was ill-defined, criss-crossed with exposed tree roots, wet, muddy, and with plenty of leeches. I had to keep my eyes on the trail constantly. The minute I glanced up into the huge trees to catch sight of a raucous parrot, or to admire the tenacity and beauty of a lone flower blooming in the rot and decay of the forest, I stumbled. Again, my walking stick helped me through, making the walk easier.
Seven hours and ten miles later, we arrived in the village. The people offered hospitality – coconuts to quench our thirst, a pool to wash off the mud, and a house to rest our weary bones. Later in the afternoon we met the people in their new church building. One of the young men was speaking. I was tired and my mind was wandering back over the day and the terrible trail we had walked. Perhaps I was feeling a bit of a martyr in having made such a difficult trip for the sake of the Gospel! All of a sudden the words of the young preacher reached through to me. “God re naremre kwakwol.” (God is our walking stick! He is the one who helps us.) How meaningful for me at that moment. My mind was taken off myself and turned to God, who had taken us safely through the swamp and the forest.
I was thankful that young man used that expression. Indeed, the Lord is my walking stick.
– Velma Foreman
Aunt Velma – you walked with God. He was your walking stick. Lord, may that be my life also.
Thank you Aunt Velma for your life of dedication for Christ. I’m convinced Jesus was waiting for you upon your entrance into His presence with the words “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Scott Foreman is the Executive Director of Word of Life Canada, a youth organization where he has ministered since 1999. Every year Scott is blessed with opportunities to speak at youth retreats, conferences and evangelistic events. You can read more about Scott’s ministry here.