To celebrate her 86th birthday, Rachel Stolzfus, the oldest member of our house church, invited some of us to her house last night for a simple meal prepared by her daughter and one of her granddaughters.
She had insisted there be no cards or gifts. “I have way too many things already,” she said. All she wanted was to have family and friends around her table, followed by a time of singing together. Yes, singing some of her favorite hymns, with no accompaniment and in simple four-part harmony. Some of the songs brought tears to her eyes, eliciting memories of how they have impacted her faith and shaped her gracious and impactful life.
Rachel and her husband Robert spent many years as missionaries in the hills and hollows of Kentucky, where they had learned to live contentedly and simply among their Appalachian neighbors. When they moved to Harrisonburg in the 70’s, they made a ministry of offering hospitality to international students at EMU, and after her Robert died and their two children were grown, Rachel usually had one or more of them live with her for an incredibly meager sum. She still has friends from around the world who stay in touch with her and love her like a mother.
A modest, pint-size woman who always managed to be both very frugal and very generous, she is, in my estimation, a true candidate for sainthood. In her quiet and unimposing way, she is all about what it means to be a child of God and a follower of Jesus. When you remind her of any her good deeds, she typically raises her hand toward heaven and says, "I just give God all the credit."
I wish I could be more like that.