Many of my early memories center around time spent at the home of my maternal grandparents. Both sides of my family are Mennonite, and Opa and Oma Bergmann were whole-hearted people of faith. As children, my cousins and I often took Opa and Oma’s faithfulness for granted. We fidgeted through the devotion times they held with us, and yes, we sometimes giggled during the special dinner prayers which Opa wrote himself. But every one of us can still recite some of his favorites, and we all now have a copy of his “Tisch-Gebete” (Table Graces).
The summer I turned twenty-one, it became apparent to our family that Oma was in ill health. She suffered from heart problems and a surgery was scheduled for the fall. In the meantime, though, someone needed to be at Opa and Oma’s house on a daily basis to provide them with regular care. Nothing fancy—just some light cooking and cleaning and companionship. My mother and two aunts both worked and were unable to take on that responsibility.
Looking back, I couldn’t tell you why I volunteered to care for my grandparents. As a bright college student saving money to study abroad, I knew I wanted to stay in academia. Then for some reason I found myself leaving my fast-paced retail job in order to watch over a couple who were well into their eighties. I now know that the decision was a result of the good Lord’s guiding hand.
At first I chafed at Opa and Oma’s pace of living. An elderly couple with nothing very pressing on their agenda, they seemed to take forever to accomplish anything. I spent many hours during their ‘meddachschlop’ (afternoon nap) sitting at the little table in their kitchen staring out across the field and wondering what on earth I was doing there. But as the days passed by, I began to learn things. Things that Opa and Oma were teaching me without words, through their quiet and faithful way of life.
As a teen I’d spent years doing what I thought was best and leaving God out of the picture. At Opa and Oma’s I learned to pray again. What else was there to do with all those afternoons when the house was silent and the few chores were finished? I began to rethink my goals and priorities. Opa and Oma, with their testimony of faithful and ordinary service to God, were changing the direction of my life. Always supporters of world missions, they little knew that over the course of that summer I was their in-home mission field. Because I realized that summer, thanks to their witness, that a life led focused on MY wants and MY successes and MY interests alone was a life not worth living. They taught me the truth of Matthew 10:39, that “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”
I left school that fall to figure out what losing my life for Christ would look like. Shortly thereafter I met the man who became my husband. I am now a wife, homemaker, and stay at home mama to two sweet daughters. It’s certainly not the life I envisioned as a young twenty-something, but it is a life in which everyday the Lord teaches me new truths about His character and about self-denial. It is a life rich with the good and perfect gifts which come down from the Father of lights, in Whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (James 1:17).
Opa and Oma never heard how their example changed the direction of a headstrong young woman’s life, nor were they able to be at my wedding or to hold their great-grandchildren. Shortly after her heart surgery in the fall, Oma went home to Heaven. A few months later, Opa followed her. I have always thanked God for the opportunity to be with them during that last summer. And someday, I look forward to telling them so when we stand together before God’s throne.
Laura Weymouth is a Mennonite girl living, loving and laughing in Western New York with her husband, two sweet daughters and a flock of ten chickens. She blogs about homesteading, homemaking, kid-wrangling and more at merrymennonite.wordpress.com.
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