Notable advice on marriage and mission

Kathi was one of those women who exhumed confidence. Perhaps it was the way she carried herself. With poise. Elegance. Grace.

We first met while I was still in university. Her face stood out among the crowd at church. She was friendly and approachable. Have you ever noticed those people with a certain presence that just draw you in? My interactions with Kathi left me wanting more. More of her smile, her story, and her perspective of the world.

I got to know Kathi deeper in the summer of 2013 when I went on a mission trip to South Asia. Kathi and her husband supported me financially and prayed for me - and when I returned, Kathi invited me to visit her prayer group for the Persecuted Church to share about what I saw God do on that trip. Kathi deposited little investments into me that carried big impact. She was even one of my first ministry partners when I entered full-time ministry a year later. Being in her presence just ministered to my heart.

It was early in 2015 that I got the news that Kathi was diagnosed with colon cancer. I remember reading her email with the news and crying. How could something like this happen to someone so wonderful? What didn’t surprise me about Kathi was her attitude and hope in suffering, all  grounded in God’s word. She was the one ministering to nurses, doctors, and friends - all from her hospital bed. She courageously progressed through painful and invasive surgeries, chemo, and huge life transition. It was a fruitful investment and the cancer seemed to be gone for at least a season. A gift from God: more time to invest in her family, friends, and ministry with others.

Last summer I got the news from Kathi that her cancer had returned. This time it was palliative. They didn’t know how long she had, but that didn’t really phase her. She pressed into God’s word to firstly know more of him. She prayed with sincerity, and used her time to encourage women around her. Kathi was a disciple of Jesus who was passionate about making disciples.

As I met her for tea last September, I updated her about my transition in ministry, my journey in singleness, and my desires to one day be married. Kathi looked at me and gave clear and notable advice on marriage and mission that I won't forget.

When Kathi spoke, I listened.

“Erin,” she said. “Make sure that if you marry, it’s to someone that you can do ministry with.”

It seemed like simple advice. But it came from her heart and life experience of both joy and sorrow. When someone is able to share from their own experience, a place of vulnerability - it creates a sacred space. As if time stood still in that coffee shop, Kathi impressed in me the importance of marrying a man who loved God and someone that I could serve alongside in ministry with in some way.

It’s advice that I’m carrying with me into dating.

Personally, I see dating as a time of discernment: to seek clarity on if we should marry. It’s a time to get to know the person, have fun, meet their community, spend time in groups and one-on-one. If I’m honest I’m sometimes tempted to have an idealistic view of marriage, instead of viewing it as one of the most important decisions of my life. It’s really not enough to marry someone who says they have the same Christian views as you.

In dating there’s a time to discern: are we both passionate about serving God? Are there natural opportunities to do that together? What is God inviting us to invest in, both individually and potentially as a couple?

In marriage I want to share both the love of God and the mission of God. Like Kathi encouraged me, there’s special joy in ministering in marriage together. Practically I don’t know what it looks like to share the mission of God in marriage - and I’m sure it looks very different for each person and couple. But it’s something I want to strive for and seek out.

It was only a few months later that Kathi passed away from her cancer. She was an example of finishing well. Living a life of faithfulness, in deep gratitude to her God who was always faithful. The moments last fall of coming over to her house to press into studying the Bible together were deep blessings. Even in the midst of her suffering, God was there.

While Kathi was a gift, it was Christ-in-Kathi that was the even better gift. She was willing to be used by God, to be a vessel of the Holy Spirit. Christ worked through Kathi to nurture me and develop me in my faith as a spiritual mom. She loved the people in front of her no matter who they were. My hope and prayer is that I would be a disciple of Jesus like Kathi was - devoted to make more disciples. And hopefully share that joy of ministering to others with a husband if God leads me down that path.