Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Recent Moment with a Dear Friend

My friend Judy Miller.........when I think about her my heart is so full...I have so many sweet memories of our times and conversations together in Benin......
She came to Benin as a Missionary for the Southern Baptist one week after we arrived in Benin in March of 1999.
She lived in Cotonou Benin, the capital city and served in the role of Business facilitator for the Southern Baptist missionaries. Over the years she became known as the goto person for all missionaries in Benin, when there was a need or a crisis. We had to go to the capital city at least once a month, sometimes more, for shopping, medical care, banking and sometimes for fellowship with other missionary friends. I remember seeing Judy around in that first year but not really having the opportunity to really know her. The first time that I have a memory of a conversation with Judy came when I was in desperate need for some help. It was August 2000 and Randy had malaria. He was having a severe reaction to the medication that he had been given. The reaction was worse than the malaria. He had been receiving the meds through an IV for 4 days before we realized that the reaction was from the meds. He had hives from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet and had scratched them so much that he was bleeding all over his body. He had not been able to sleep in 3 days and I had not either. Tori was 2 years old at the time. I was under supreme stress and had packed our things in the middle of the night, thinking that we might be leaving for the States. As soon as their was enough light to begin our 3 hour journey to Cotonou, I got a very sick Randy into the car, as well as toddler Tori and drove straight into Cotonou and went to Judy's office. I went to her because I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I remember walking into her office, sitting down and pouring out the details of our circumstances to her. I remember her saying, "I have some thoughts on what we can do, who we can call, but first let me pray with you." She took my hand across her desk and began to pray. As soon as we were done praying she picked up the phone and put me in touch with people who could give me wise counsel and help me make a decision about what to do next. From this time on, Judy and I began a journey into a deeper friendship that sustained us both through many hardships.

As I reflect on the entire story of life in Benin, Judy is a part of it all. There is not a season of our life in Benin that Judy was not a part of. She has heard of every major event or experience that we ever walked through and often she was the first person that we called. Judy knew the people in our lives. She knew our life well and I think it would be safe to say that she is the one person who would know and understand the best what our daily life involved over the span of our time in Benin. She was a friend who I could laugh and pray with. She was a friend who could always challenge me and help me gain perspective. I remember a time as well that we were in a large group and she was aware of something miraculous that we had experienced, she leaned over to me and said, "If you do not get up and share your testimony, the rocks are going to cry out." She came to our home and we went to hers. There were times over the years I would drive 3 hours just to have lunch with her and then turn around and come home. One time when I was in the hospital with malaria and Randy could not stay with me because he was caring for Tori, Judy spent several nights with me in the hospital. Judy was consistent. She opened her home to us and welcomed us like we were family. Every Christmas that we were in Benin, we went to her house for a Christmas party and she would let Tori, and eventually our other children as we had them, decorate her tree. This was something that we looked so forward to every year. Most everyone that came to visit over the years met Judy and could see how very much she meant to us.

Saying goodbye to Judy last July was very painful. We said goodbye in Benin. Since then she has moved to Mali, West Africa. We are still in touch and my heart turns even more often to prayer for Judy now that we are here and she is still there. I am writing all this to explain why recently when she came to America for a little over a week so that she could speak at a Missions' Conference, I flew to Nashville to spend a few short hours with her. Not just anyone could motivate me to make a daytrip to Nashville, but for Judy Miller, there was no hesitation. I would do anything I could possibly think to do to encourage this friend of mine. We had lunch together, laughed a lot, shared our hearts, did a tiny bit of shopping and prayed together in a Waffle House parking lot...real deal friends. I was so blessed to be with her again. Rich moments...all because of Jesus Christ.
To say I'm thankful, seems not enough.


Cheryl said...

God is so good and faithful. The people He so decisively places at moments in our journey...they reveal His touch, His presence, His love.

(I just wrote a post similar to this about my friend Caroline. :-) I'll post it soon. So glad you had some time with this dear friend!)

JudyV said...

Kelly, I cried reading your post. What a special friend Judy is to you. An unique opportunity to meet someone like Judy doesn't come along everyday. When I met Judy, I told her how appreciative we were for the help and comfort she was to you and your whole family, but just telling her didn't seem like enough. She was very helpful to us our first trip over, as well. What a relief to see her in that airport ready to assist us! I am glad God gave the two of you a few hours together again. I certainly enjoyed reading about it and welcomed remembering such a sweet person that touched our lives, also. I know she was blessed by a few hours with you. God is good!

Greg Bailey said...

Kelly thank you for this tribute to our friend! I am glad that you have given testimony about the service of one of God's great servants!

Blessings to all the Vaughns!

Becky Reeves said...

Kelly, I'm so glad you got to spend time with Judy stateside. It is so special that you went all the way to see her! I didn't know until now the depth of your relationship and friendship. Praise God that he provided you for one another during those years! Love you!