Showing Love to Widows

The lives of missionaries have a tremendous impact on believers. They frequently draw awe at the real impact of the Word of God.  The Apostle Paul, who I can safely say, was the greatest missionary (aside from Jesus), penned many striking examples of the impact of the Living Word of God on those whom he ministered.  I have been to many mission conferences and have heard many other notable examples like David Brainerd, Hudson Taylor, and Jim Elliot. In my studying of 1 Timothy this week, I stumbled upon a godly woman whom I had never heard of before by the name of Joanne Shetler. While reading the “Reformed Expository Commentary: 1 Timothy”, I came across her name, and I was amazed at the impact the Lord had through her in the Philippines. As I studied God’s ministry for widows, I began to read of her work specifically. 

Joanne spent twenty years doing ministry work in the Mountains of the Philippines.  She translated the Bible to the Balangao tribesmen, and 1 Timothy impacted her because of her focus on ministering to widows.  When we think of missionary work, do the widows come to mind for us?  As I read about her ministry, I was in awe at the power of the Word of God. Here is a particularly impactful event that occurred that I believe you will be amazed by, just as I was:

“We got to the end of the book where it talks about widows in need and the church’s responsibility to take over for widows who have no other source of livelihood.  About the same time, Forsan, one of those old women the spirits had earlier tried to kill, lost her husband.  She was a widow indeed.  All of her children had long been dead.  She had no relatives in Balangao.  In fact, she was not even a Balangao.  And in Balangao culture, there is no mercy if there is no blood connection.  She would have been left alone in her house with or without food until she died.  One of the men who had helped me in the translation… went over and took Forsan by the hand with her one little pot, brought her over, and said, “You will be like my mother, and you will live with us in our home.” And that old woman is there today, even though she was old and sickly.”[1]

What a fantastic example of the power of God’s Word in the believer’s life!  Psalm 68:5 shows us that the Lord “is the Protector of Widows.”  Many Scriptures speak of the care that God shows widows. Still, one that comes to mind is from John 19:25-27, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own home.”  Through the mission work of Shetler, the Lord demonstrated His divine grace and mercy to people in need.  We have the privilege of seeing a regenerate heart joyfully serving the Lord in highly challenging situations.

[1] Joanne Shetler, “Faith in Obedience,” in Faithful Witness: The Urbana ’94 Compendium, ed. James McLeish (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1985), 99-107 (p. 106).

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