Many of us when we were little read the story of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day. Ironically, in the Christian life, many days that we thought were “no good” turn out to be quite significant. As my pastor Guy Templeton used to say, “No one can properly evaluate tragedy on the day that it happens.” Joseph, for example, is sold by his brothers into slavery, but God uses this very event to save the Jewish people from extinction. We can find the providence of God in the malice of men.
Enter Julie Alexander. I had been a pastor in Georgia for three years when Julie and her daughter Danielle entered our church. They were moving from a famous church in Kansas City, and they appeared to have their act together. The appearance, however, told nothing of the hurt and pain that Julie had experienced previously. Her marriage had ended in a bitter divorce, and Julie, had she not been pregnant with her daughter Danielle, would have probably ended her life. But through the providence of God, these traumatic circumstances led Julie to a Christian friend and eventually to the Lord.
Julie’s life began to rebound. She entered the music ministry of Grace Baptist and began to flourish. She taught widows in the adult department of the Sunday School and eventually became a mentor to teenage girls in our bus ministry. God used Julie to minister to those who had gone through some of the same hurts that she had been through.
Though Julie was successful at a local financial institution and was making $85,000 a year, she knew there was still something more. Her life was still unfulfilled. She sensed that these ministries were merely preparatory for the crowning achievement of her life. And a couple of years ago, I watched as Julie came forward in a missions conference to surrender to go to Africa to work with orphans.
Eventually, Julie settled on the field of Liberia, not knowing at the time that Liberia would leap into the news through the Ebola epidemic. Julie was at GRIBT last night to present her work, and once again my eyes were wet with tears as I rehearsed in my mind how far Julie has come. Several lessons from her life are worthy of emulation.
First, no isolated failure has to spell the end of effective service. In certain circles, divorce is the unpardonable sin. Indeed, some mission boards refuse to look at any person who has been divorced, even if that divorce took place prior to conversion as in the case of Julie. There are some agencies, however, that believe that scarred people have a significant role in the Great Commission. I am glad that Julie’s sending church and mission agency agree.
Second, women have a role to play in missions. The sending of the Spirit necessitates that our daughters prophesy (Acts 2:17). And as uncomfortable as Baptists may be with this verse, Philip the Evangelist had four virgin daughters that prophesied (Acts 21:9). I am not suggesting that women should pastor churches. I am saying that they have something that needs to be said and should be allowed to say it. Paul told Timothy to teach the old men, and the young men, and the old women, but to leave the teaching of the young women to the old women (Titus 2:1-6). There are plenty of reasons why pastors should not be too involved in the lives of young women, and there is a great need for women like Julie to fill that vacancy. Indeed, in some Muslim cultures, men are not even permitted to talk to women in public. There is a role for the single gal on the mission field.
And finally, all of us need to have lives that can be explained only by God. Julie’s life is a trophy of grace. I have watched as God has sustained her through this tremendous step of faith. Very few people are willing to leave an $85,000 annual salary to live in a third world country, especially a single gal at the age of 50. But God has miraculously supplied through the generosity of Grace Baptist Church and Julie’s godly pastor, Jeremy Rands. Churches are starting to sense that there is an anointing on this lady. Our church is poised to get behind this ministry financially because we sense that here is a life and ministry that can only be explained by God.
Indeed, the hurts of the past will be used of God to salve the hurts of the present (2 Corinthians 1:4). And all of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days in life of (Julie) Alexander will turn out to be the very days used to forge one great missionary. You go, girl! And may others go with you!