My eyes filled with tears because one of my prayer warriors, Min Ja Yun, was about to leave this earth for her eternal dwelling place with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I was happy for her because she would be free of the pain that she had battled. For her, there would be no more tears or sorrow or suffering (Revelation 21:1-5). She would be given her glorified body and would experience for the first time a heart fully devoted to the worship of her wonderful and mighty God, who redeemed her for eternity.
For me? I was sad for me and felt a deep loss, but it was not necessarily the loss of relationship in the way we might normally think. I rarely had conversations with this incredible woman of God. We never shared a meal or coffee together. We seldom talked on the phone. In fact, I do not think that we ever had a lengthy conversation. In many ways, she was a woman of few words. If I were forced to calculate the total amount of time I spent with her in conversations, I believe that it would be accurate to conclude that it was under ten hours. So, why would I feel such deep loss?
The first time I met Min was in our church office. She was stuffing bulletins. When we shook hands, she looked at me with such humility and treated me with such honor and respect that I was a little uncomfortable. As I turned to go back to my office, I felt deeply that I had been in the presence of godliness. Without thinking, I turned back to look at her again, and she looked in my eyes and told me that she was praying for me. Then she quickly looked away. In that moment, it felt like a message from God. I doubt if she had any idea how those words ministered to me. Our church was growing, the people problems were abounding, complaints piled up, we were short-staffed, I had no idea how to keep it all moving in the same direction, I felt alone, and I was burning the candle at both ends. And she was praying for me without me knowing it. I grabbed her hand again and asked her if I could count on that. She quickly agreed, informing me that I did not even have to ask. Now that I know her, I realize it was a dumb question. Little did I know that I was looking a woman in the eyes who was undergirding and would continue to undergird my ministry. She knelt in prayer, in my shadow, pouring out her heart to the Lord on my behalf, content to “hold up my arms” in the battle. She was well-satisfied with that role, and she was faithful in it. And I had been oblivious to it before that moment, but not after it. From that moment on, I sought her out.
Our encounters were always brief, but God gave us a special connection. I am not even certain if she ever asked me one single question about my life. Words were not really necessary. However, for some reason, I always left my encounters with her renewed, knowing that she loved me, and that she prayed for me. And I knew that I loved Min. Whenever we met, I would reach out to give her my comfortable Christian-to-Christian pastoral hug, but she would always put her hand on the side of my face, pull me close, and give me a kiss on the cheek. I felt more Christ-like affection in that moment with her than I could possibly put into words. It always ministered to my soul.
Although I generally sent out my prayer updates by email and rarely remembered to print her a copy, I took comfort that she really did not need them; she was already committed to praying for me. Sometimes she would slip me money for my international trips. I would tell her that my trip was covered, and she would respond that I would know how to use it. On one trip, I needed an extra $1000 for pastors in Ghana because of an unexpected expense. I remembered her $50 and decided that the Lord had given me this money as a down payment so that I could trust him for the rest. In that situation, I had the remaining amount within hours. Min gave me that $50 because she believed I would need it. Because of moments like that, I firmly believe that she walked with God and was led by the Holy Spirit.
My most precious memories will always be the times, before I would preach, when I would seek out Min and ask her to pray for me. I just wanted to be in her presence and hear her prayers for me, and, of course, I also received my special hug where she would reach to the side of my face to pull me close and kiss me on the cheek. I believe that she knew God like I long to know God. Her prayers for me were felt when I preached, and in all of my life.
When my tears came on the night I heard the news of her soon-to-be departure to glory, I was surprised. I went for a walk in San Antonio, where I was speaking at a conference. The night was hot, but the wind was strong. It was a beautiful night for a walk and even more perfect with a good strong cup of decaf coffee in my hand. I like it when the wind blows briskly. On this walk, unexpectedly, more moisture filled my eyes, and it became clear to me. I need the Mins in my life. I cannot do what I do as a teacher of God’s word without the Mins in my life. When someone like her goes to glory, there is a loss…a huge loss, so tears welled up in my eyes. But, then, it hit me. God raised up Min to pray for me when I did not even know it. So, I am trusting that God has raised up others who “hold up my arms” without me even knowing it. Min’s prayers are another down payment to me, with the promise that God will continue to provide. So, even as she was passing to glory, her life was teaching me to trust the Lord.
I honor Min Ja Yun. I believe that some of the most-godly people who have ever lived are not well-known. I feel honored to have known Min because she is one of the great ones, whose life belongs in the Great Hall of Faith of Hebrews 11. Great is her reward in heaven. I will not know this side of glory the value of her prayers on my behalf, but I will miss them. And I will miss her. My tears have awakened in me a gratitude for others who pray for me – some of whom I am not even aware. They truly are my partners in ministry, and I am grateful. So, I honor them as well. They know who they are. I cannot do what I do as a teacher of God’s word without them in my life. I cannot continue in faithfulness if prayer warriors do not fight with and for me. From the bottom of my heart, I give thanks to the Lord for Min Ja Yun and for every prayer warrior, who faithfully prays with no fanfare or recognition. May the Lord fill the gap that the loss of Min will leave and raise up other prayer warriors to support me in my ministry. Please, Lord, please.