We said farewell to our friend Bertha a few days ago who, on the third Lord’s Day of March in 2021, was escorted through the heavens to her home on high where she has an irrevocable deed to a dwelling place where Jesus lives and where she will live with Him and His forevermore. Her final flight was on short notice as she had indicated no special physical problems and was active and enjoying serving God in her prime time of life. Her stated purpose for living was that she would be “making a difference in peoples’ lives around the world. By attending a Bible college, I will be able to learn in depth the foundation, the history of missions in detail and this will strengthen me spiritually to serve God and not please people. Missionaries can be found in many countries around the world….” But, at 59 years of age Bertha’s time to transition from this land of shadows to the eternal glory of that City, where neither moon nor sun doth shine for Jesus is the Light of it, came and we were shocked, then saddened but soon filled with exceeding joy knowing that her labors are over and she is now enjoying the eternal rest that Bertha dreamed of, desired and is now delighting in, worshipping at her blessed Savior’s feet.
Bertha migrated here solo from her country of birth probably twenty-five or thirty years ago. She grew up in a prosperous African nation, but when Zimbabwe became an “independent” nation in the early 1980’s she could “read the tea leaves” and what she anticipated she and her fellow countrymen soon experienced when leaders soon occupied positions of authority who were driven more by their thirst for power than by prosperity for their people. Bertha came to America with resourcefulness, intelligence, industriousness and faith that would stand her in good stead while working toward the goal of bringing her family to this land where they, too, could enjoy the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. In time her daughter joined her here as well as two sons. She found the Thompson Road Baptist Church as a place where the Word of God was preached in a way that God would use as He led and fed her in her daily walk with Him. Her son Arthur, a child when he first arrived here, would one day attend Bob Jones University where he would master the art of cinema and media matters.
Bertha had come to America for freedom and for opportunity and she found those things while growing in grace and in the knowledge of her Lord and Savior through His Word. As was her heart’s desire, she was able to serve others and in time became affiliated with a movement of women, especially Zimbabwean women, who wanted to bind themselves together as a godly group of believing women serving their God under the banner of faith, hope and love. It was not hard to love and admire Bertha for what she accomplished living in a foreign country with those nearest and dearest to her a half world away, but she worked and worshipped with dignity, joy, quietness of spirit and a loving, caring attention to the needs of souls amongst whom she lived.
Pursuing her desire to attend Bible college so she could learn more about world missions with the goal of becoming a missionary, she was required to submit to some physical examinations hoping, as part of her training, to serve as a foster parent. It was through one of the exams that Bertha learned she had stage 2 cancer, the news coming to her “as a death sentence.” But by God’s grace and with the skilled health care that she found in caring doctors and nurses, she eventually, after two surgeries and weeks of radiation, was pronounced “cancer free!” Having come from a “third world country” Bertha was used to the realization that few diagnosed with the cancer that she had would survive. But with a Christian and caring surgeon and “through the grace of God” survive she did! “To many people I was a young, healthy mother, working for her children. There is power in prayer. It has taken me long to answer my calling because of other circumstances but my conscience all this time is that I should serve God through His people. Being a missionary will enable me to share the Word of God, to share my experiences, to share trials and still have faith in the Lord.”
Sometimes someone very special comes into your life who touches you deeply and lifts your spirit, whose life bears witness of authenticity and who, having spent moments with you, leaves you spiritually strengthened and thirsty for a deeper knowledge of and closer walk with your Lord and Savior. Such a presence was Bertha. Her faith, her quiet spirit, her caring smile, her determination to press forward– when drawing back at times must have been severely tempting, left a mark ineffaceable upon all who knew her.
People were drawn to Bertha, fellowshipped with her and worshipped alongside of her as if they had known her for a lifetime. She never did realize her “goal” of becoming a missionary in the sense that we think of when speaking of vocational missionaries, but as her friend, my wife and I, and others who knew her well, would be quick to affirm that Bertha was a missionary indeed, having been sent to America from Zimbabwe, third world to the world’s most powerful, affluent nation, as a missionary to teach us by her life and love for Jesus, her sweet spirit, her humbleness, her fidelity to God’s Word, Work and Will lessons written not with the ink of a pen but upon our hearts indelibly for a lifetime. Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Bertha. Farewell.
“Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” (Prov. 31:31)