We have purchased automobiles. While Bill was at Urbana he met the director of Righteous Rides. Their mission is to provide care and cars to missionaries on home assignment… in a manner worthy of God.
They are located about 45 minutes outside of St. Louis, so when we went back for our dear friends memorial service we purchased our cars from them. They also have a few pre-owned vehicles that people have donated. Bill pulled the Carfax report for both and prayed but still could not decide which one to get. We eventually decided to get both. The two combined were still within our budget for transportation. We had planned get a used car and knew eventually something will fail and we will need to put it in the shop. So, if we can afford two, then Wendi can use the van and Bill will use the Mazda, which is a stick shift (we are both so old that we can drive stick shift).
Well, our plan worked. Kind of, within the first 750 miles the alternator on the KIA gave up the ghost. But, knowing the kind of people that Righteousness Rides are Bill let them know right away. They very graciously offered to pay for the part and we only paid for the labor.
Wendi adored the place, the people, and especially the Missionary Boutique.
A note from Wendi:
As Bill has mentioned, we were in St. Louis to celebrate with family and friends the winning of his crown by an old and dear friend. It didn't always feel like a celebration, as selfishly, his loss from our reach in this life cuts deep, and often, but the actual event was a celebration of his beautiful life and spirit. In keeping with the celebration theme (his request) his widow and children wore vibrant colours, and the widow, my dear, dear friend, had also called me to remind me that they didn't want any dark or dismal colours at the service, just cheerful, upbeat clothes.
I have been cold since we came back from the Philippines, so most of my winter clothes have just been pulled out of storage and hung up without being worn while I stick to the warmest two or three things I own- all black. Actually, most of my winter clothes are grey or black, with a couple red sweaters for accent. I didn't have a lot of colourful options, so it wasn't hard to choose- I had a bright blue skirt, a red shirt, a blue vest, and an embroidered hat that combined both colours. I packed without trying on my clothes, which was a mistake. I lost a bit of weight in the Philippines when I was sick for two or three months last spring and summer. So I was in trouble when the bright blue skirt I planned to wear actually just fell off when I was getting dressed for the day, and it couldn't be fixed with a safety pin or two. It was impossible. We were planning on going to Righteous Rides to pick up the vehicles and there wasn't going to be time to do any shopping before the memorial service. I only had two other choices with me, a pair of black jeans, and a comfortable and warm skirt I had brought to travel in. It was gray. It also had a hole, and a two inch coffee stain. This skirt didn't fit well anymore either because of the weight I lost when I was sick. Although it did mostly stay on, it would slyly slip down by increments so I had to keep hitching up my skirt or trip on it. It was great for being comfortable on a road trip, but not so nice for the memorial celebration week ago. I wracked my brains trying to figure out how to fix this, but there simply wasn't any other choice. I knew that in the vast scheme of things, this as utterly unimportant. I knew my friend would understand and not be upset with me. But it still bothered me a lot.
Also, my feet were cold. Very cold. I haven’t had a new pair of winter boots in over ten years and the shoes I had brought were not nearly warm enough. My feet were so cold I wanted to cry just driving up in a heated car.
We went to Righteous Rides and test-drove the vehicles. We went back inside and started the paperwork and conversations with the staff there. I wasn't needed for all of that and I started looking around when I saw a door open on a room full of racks of clothes. I wandered over to see what it was (hitching up my skirt a few times in the process) and discovered a missionary clothing boutique. I tentatively walked in and looked around- it was lovely, carefully organized, clean, welcoming, with a friendly feel to it. I wanted over to the rack of clothes in my size, and recognized my skirt! I knew it was mine the second I saw it, mine and nobody else's, bespoke, placed there by God for me in this moment.
It was an absolutely perfect skirt that matched the shirt I already had on, and it was neither dark nor dreary. It was just the style I like, a little bit quirky and fun. I couldn't find the price tag, but I tried it on and it fit perfectly. I also found a sign explaining that he clothes were free to returning missionaries. As I practically danced my way out of the dressing room (also clean, comfortable, welcoming) I passed a shelf of shoes and my eyes immediately settled on a brand new pair of ankle boots with fleece lining, sturdy, water-proof, warm and toasty. They were also in my size and they matched the clothes I was now wearing. I couldn't believe it! (my feet were warm the entire drive back and while standing outside and while walking through snow to get across a parking lot. I love my new boots).
Two of the ladies who volunteer there happened to come through just then and I couldn't contain my excitement. They rejoiced with me, and we all know sharing fun things doubles the joy.
I know it's just clothes. I know there are people who don't have as much as I do. I know they were just material objects that will return to dust. But they were also the right clothes at the right time, and they greatly relieved my mind and soothed my fractious soul. I cannot convey just how amazed, blessed, and delighted I was by the skirt and boots, and just how nearly bordering a miracle it was for me to find them then and there at that specific time. Like many of you, often when I am sad or upset about something large, I end up focusing on something trivial. My heart was so heavy over the loss of our friend and the widow and children he left behind, and so I was focusing on the less than cheerful, ratty, coffee stained skirt I was going to have to wear when I had been asked to dress in brightly coloured clothes as for a celebration. So these new clothes, gifted quite unexpectedly, were absolutely, positively, outstandingly a ginormous blessing at a time I really could use one. I had been wracking my brains trying to figure out how I could squeeze in a visit to a Walmart, but there simply wasn’t time. It had really been bothering me, and yes, far more than it should have. What can I say? Sometimes, far more often than I like, I am a weak and shallow person, a broken reed. And I miss our friend.
Please, as you are reading, I hope you are not hearing this as a poor me, 'Missionaries have dreary lives" story. That's not it (and it's not true, either). This is the tale of an exciting triumph of Providence God used to shake awake a silly Christian who was focused on clothes and feeling sorry for herself, and return my focus to joy and celebration of the life of my friend, who had shed his suffering and early rags for a crown of glory and glorious new garments in Heaven.
Without his help, we never could have gone to the Philippines. I am grateful for his years of friendship and service, his hunger for the things of God. They serve as inspiration and encouragement. I also feel immensely grateful that my newfound friends were there at the missionary clothing store, helping to run it, donating things, keeping it in good order, and there to make sure I did not leave empty handed. In addition to the boots and skirt, one of them insisted that I take two other absolutely lovely dresses.
A missionary friend shared a FB meme recently that said “It doesn’t matter whether you go or stay. It matters that you are where God wants you to be.” I am thankful the people who work at the clothing store were where God wanted them to be. I am grateful God gifted us with years of friendship with Chris and his family. And I am thankful for the reminder that for all of us who serve the Lord, "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing: you have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness." (Psalms 30:11)
Thanks for reading.
I bow my knees before the Father... And I pray that all of you, wherever you are, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of His love, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do infinitely more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-19, paraphrased)