There are a few people who don’t have to do because they can simply be.   When they enter the room they bring a vital presence of God along with them.  That was my new friend, Joanne. 

Joanne is Chinese-Canadian and more than 80 years old.  She fiercely introduces herself as Canadian but her straight black hair, dark complex, small statue and eyes betray her Chinese heritage.  She barely reaches four feet tall but she is a giant in the faith.  Spending almost 30 years in India doing tribal missions, she was forced to leave her adopted home in the early ’70s and returned to Canada.  Since that time, she has traveled all over the world, doing short-term missions work.  Some of her stays were years.  Other were weeks. 

Her mission field is now the mentally challenged community.  She is the co-director of the signing choir for Joy Fellowship in Vancouver (JFV).  With all her years of experience and training, she meekly says, “I leave most of the leadership of the signing choir up to Shawna, who is my co-director.  We use different sign languages.  And to be honest, Shawna is a much better teacher than I am.”   Shawna is about 25 and a high-functioning member of JFV. 

After spending a few days with Joanne, I admitted to her, “You are what I want to be like when I grow up.”  We had just completed a mountain hike of about a mile.  Joanne had jauntily agreed to go with us.  Of course, we had to wait a bit for her but her laughter and joy made the slight delays well worth our time.

She will travel this spring to a nation which was formally part of the Soviet block.  She will go with a group of educators.  They were invited by the government to teach ethics and moral development.  After four days of the “official” seminar, they will take an unofficial day to teach the scriptures and the ethical applications of the gospel.  In previous years, everyone attended the extra day and almost all of the attendees accepted Jesus as their Savior and Moral Guide.

By the end of our weekend together, Joanne promised to come and visit us in Florida.  “I can’t come this trip,” she said.  “But I’ll be there.”  I look forward to being with her again because I know that I can learn so much from her about teaching and living and humility. 

Pooh, I might as well be honest. I don’t care, if she teaches me anything.   I just like being around someone who brings an almost tangible presence of God with her.  Don’t you?