I was living in Mbabane, Swaziland, when I found myself in a fog of brokenness: a season of sickness with Hepatis A, Hashimoto’s disease, Epstein-Barr, and chronic fatigue. For the next several years, I would cry out to the Lord, “Why am I sick in a foreign land?” Helpless in bed, I would watch my three preschoolers run to the vibrant arms of new friends, several of whom I had the joy of leading to Christ.
Those heart-wrenching years were a crucible in which the Lord did deep, loving work in my inner being. My eyes began to shift from evangelistic missionary work as I allowed space for God to do a new thing within me. It was there that I understood and experienced God’s unconditional love and grace, which were sufficient for each day. I noticed a new awakening and deepening in my relationship with my Jesus.
In the midst of my health journey, I was given a study by Cynthia Heald, Becoming a Woman of Excellence. I pored through the book over and over until the pages were well worn. Cynthia’s words gave me hope and a purpose beyond my daunting circumstances. Later her books on purpose and grace also found their way into my home. I shared these books in my African community, where her words inspired many others.
On our next missionary “home leave” to the states, my friend Angie suggested that we phone the Healds’ home. I was still riddled with weariness and instability, so she dialed and handed me the phone. I got to speak with the kindest man, Mr. Heald. I shared my story with him as Cynthia was engaged in another meeting. He urged me to try again, but in the midst of deep chronic fatigue, I couldn’t muster the energy to phone back. Nonetheless, my heart was touched through the connection.
Years later, our eldest son married Caitlyn Carlson, a NavPress editor. I shared with her my story of how Becoming a Woman of Excellence reassured and fostered my faith journey during a fragile season. One day, Caitlyn told me that she was having lunch with Cynthia Heald—and after a quarter century I was invited to meet the woman whose written faith walk encouraged me to thrive again. I was taken with such joy to say thank you to a woman of excellence for her contagious writing that helped me through my personal health and faith crisis.
Thank you, Cynthia Heald. And thank you, Jesus, for allowing me to meet the woman who deeply ministered to my soul and strengthened my pilgrimage in missions.