Often, what I can do looks so small compared to the need. Sometimes the need looks too difficult. I need to be reminded that God calls me to do my part, while trusting Him to do the rest. And my former co-worker Dena McMaster is a vivid reminder for me. I used to joke that I would not have been surprised to receive the following email from Dena:
Ian, I got hit by a bus last night. Broke both legs and one arm. So I’ll be a little late in the morning, since I’ll have to drag myself up the stairs with my good arm. Dena “For me, to live is Christ.”
That’s the kind of dedication Dena brought to her work as part of NTM USA’s Communications team before she passed on this fall.
“I’m convinced that Dena, with her numerous and serious health problems, lived longer than many of us expected because of her indomitable spirit,” said Debbie Burgett, a writer and editor on our Communications team.
“She’d be in the hospital again and I’d think, ‘Oh, dear. This is it.’ But it wasn’t. Not by a long shot. Until God clearly let her know, ‘This is it,’ she was going to keep right on working and serving and giving and reaching out and meeting the needs she saw in faith. And that’s what she did. Her spirit trumped her failing body many times over.”
More than once I suggested she could work from home if that was easier for her. But she insisted on coming up the stairs to our third-floor office.
Chris Holland, probably her closest friend on our team, would tell you that coming to the office was often “more about being with everyone here.” That’s also why she kept a basket of candy on her desk. She loved having people stop by for a snack and a snippet — or more — of conversation.
And the tagline on Dena’s emails always stood out to me. “For me, to live is Christ.” I think if I had been her, I would have been tempted to make my tagline, “For me, to live is pain.” But not Dena.
“Dena’s life itself was writing chapter after chapter of what this thing of walking with God is truly all about,” said Pam Rasmussen, who worked alongside Dena. “Over the years I knew her, she experienced, on separate occasions, the loss of two young-adult children as well as personally suffered from many serious and debilitating health issues.
“Yet, in the midst of her challenges and heartache, she would tell you without hesitation that God is good. I never, once, on any given day, saw Dena without a smile. She was not a complicated person, but rather one who had simple and consistent trust in her Lord, no matter what.”
She continued to hope that she could get back to Senegal, where she and her husband, Jim, ministered to the Malinké people for ten years. “She had a heart for that,” Chris said.
She also had a heart for serving where she was. She served for 17 years with NTM in Florida, the latter years as part of our Communications team. Health issues kept her out of the office for months, yet Jim told me that even the day she died, she was talking about coming back.
“When God finally did decide, ‘Dena, dear, this is it,’ where did He find her?” Debbie asked. “At a prayer meeting. If anyone ever ‘died with her boots on,’ Dena did. May the same be true of us one day.”
So keep your eyes open for the needs God wants you to address, and do what He tells you to do. Trust Him, and smile. Dena always found Him faithful, and you will too.