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90 years Young

On Sunday we celebrated my darling mum’s 90th birthday!!! We set tables and chairs out on the grass at their cottage and the weather was amazingly kind to us. A still warm day. It was beautiful. Lots of family came for the afternoon and we had all sorts of delicious food and sat around and talked.

My darling mum – still so beautiful at 90.

This is looking down into The Dell. There is a HUGE rock there and a lovely pond with all sorts of fish and a good number of frogs. The tree is an aspen and I love to listen to its leaves shivering in the wind – a beautiful sound.

Some of the children enjoyed playing with my giant pick-up sticks. 🙂

Here’s a shot of the twins. 🙂 Penny on the left, Rose on the right.

Okay, I’m cheating here, because I didn’t get a photo of me and mum on the day, so I’m putting up one of her and Penny.

For those of you who are interested I’m going to paste below an article which I wrote about my mum which was published a few years ago in the JOY magazine. It gives just a small glimpse into the life of an inspirational, godly woman.

Never Too Old.

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree…they will still bear fruit in old age; they will stay fresh and green.” (Psalm 92:12-14 NIV).

My parents, Evan and Leone Harris, will shortly celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary. They are a wonderful example of the truth expressed in Psalm 92 – you’re never too old to bear fruit.

When we returned as a family to New Zealand in 1966, after three years in Papua New Guinea, Mum never dreamed it would be a permanent move. For many years she yearned to be back on the mission field. But God had other plans…

The Call

Years ago, when Mum was just 26, she used to dream about becoming a famous writer. Then one day, the Lord spoke very clearly to her. “Someday you will write a lot. But it will be for My glory, not yours.” Mum was thrilled. Perhaps she would write a great book that would bless and inspire thousands of people? Or maybe a novel that would draw people close to God? God’s ‘someday’ arrived one evening when Mum was listening to a message on cassette by Joy Dawson. Joy said to her audience, “God wants to encourage someone here tonight who has a letter writing ministry. Over the years you have written many letters, and people have replied saying how they were so blessed by what you had written. The Lord wants you to take this ministry of letter writing more seriously, for the ministry He has given you is to encourage His people.” Joy’s words burned into Mum’s heart. Letter writing! Not exactly the wonderful writing ministry my mother had envisaged. But she couldn’t shake the words from her mind. Several weeks later, her pastor asked if she would be willing to write to the church’s missionaries. So it began.

Over the next few years Mum wrote to everyone the Lord brought across her path – the sick, the depressed, the hurting, and a growing number of missionaries. Many of these people continued to receive her letters regularly over a long period of time. Mum could talk for hours about all the people she has ‘met’ through her letters. One of my favourite stories is about a Jewish ‘refusinik’ man imprisoned in Siberia. The refusiniks were Russian Jews who were forbidden to emigrate to Israel, and were often imprisoned for the crime of wanting to leave the motherland. Mum had been given a list of refusiniks in Siberia by Amnesty International. Her letter of encouragement to Vladimir arrived the day after he’d had a dream of a white woman offering him bread. Vladimir was only allowed to write one letter to his wife every couple of months. In his next letter he included Mum’s address and asked his wife to write to her and give her a message – Genesis 40:14.

When Mum looked up the scripture reference, she heard the cry of one man’s heart far away in Siberia – “Please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.”

Mum immediately wrote a letter to Amnesty International, telling them of the contact Vladimir had made with her. There was great excitement at her news, as they had presumed he was dead. They promised Mum they would do their very best to get him released and reunited with his wife.

The Idea of Bookmarks is Born

When Mum first began writing letters, she always included a scripture at the top, and decorated it with a simple drawing of flowers and bees. People wrote back saying they couldn’t bear to throw the letters away. So Mum decided to include a handcrafted bookmark in each of her letters. She asked each missionary to translate encouraging verses into the language of the people group they were working with. Then Mum sent the missionaries as many bookmarks as they needed to give away.

From humble beginnings this ministry has grown and developed in an amazing way. Now, Mum sends out thousands of bookmarks all around the world, in over 65 languages – Turkish, Norwegian, Russian, Hebrew, Hungarian, Ukranian – to name a few. They have been used in hospitals, prisons, ports, refugee camps and outreaches.

I had a call a few years ago from a family friend who is involved in prison ministry. He told me that during a recent visit to the medium security prison, an inmate had turned to a place in his Bible which was marked with one of Mum’s distinctive bookmarks. When my friend saw it, he excitedly told the inmate, “I know the lady who made this bookmark!”

The prisoner told my friend that he had never met my mother. She had heard about him through one of his relatives, and had written to share with him about the Lord. The love and concern in her letter had deeply touched him and he had cherished the bookmark ever since.

Thomas Edison once said, “How many opportunities we miss merely because they come to us dressed in overalls and look like hard work!”

And letter writing is hard work! Mum has recently prepared two hundred bookmarks for a missions team to take to Cambodia; Christian Friends of Israel want as many Russian ones as she can send to distribute to Russian Jews emigrating to Israel; Mozambique and Vietnam need hundreds more. Because of the quantities of bookmarks being sent out, Mum now draws the original by hand, and then scans additional copies.

Over the years, many people have enjoyed colouring in the bookmarks, ready for Mum to cover with duraseal, cut into bookmarks and post with an encouraging note enclosed. God has also blessed her with a dear friend, June, who is a wonderful artist. Together June and Mum share the task of designing and drawing new bookmarks to meet the ever increasing demand.

A New Challenge

If anyone asks Mum what she feels is her ‘calling’, she doesn’t hesitate. “God has called me to be an encourager.” Well, the time finally came in 2002, when the ‘encourager’ needed to avail herself of modern technology – email! So for her eightieth birthday, her children bought her a computer. And my computer illiterate, eighty- year-old mum put her fears aside and learned to use it! Now her words of encouragement fly out across the world at lightning speed. Missionaries email her with prayer needs, and she alerts her church prayer group – a team of ten people, all in their 70’s and 80’s. Then she sends back emails full of comfort and encouragement.

It’s been over thirty years since we returned from New Guinea, and Mum has never been back to the mission field. But each morning, she prays at her desk and asks the Lord for the words to write. And God opens a window from her small study into dozens of countries around the world.

It’s now more than fifty years since the Lord first called her, and Mum continues to faithfully write to God’s glory.

When I asked her if there was any last comment she’d like to share with the readers, her face lit up with enthusiasm. “Keep serving the Lord. You’re never too old!”

POST SCRIPT: Since writing this article, Mum has begun writing Diamond Moments – an inspirational book of encouragement that recalls special moments throughout her life that sparkle and shine with Divine blessing and beauty. (email Rose if you’d like to buy a copy of this book for $20

And lastly  – a poem I wrote for her birthday.

The Encourager

When a soul burns with passion

The heart soon overflows

And when pen is put to paper

The miracle of encouragement grows

For from the depths of wisdom

And life’s experience flows

A boundless river of blessing

To a multitude of thirsty souls

For ‘tis not merely words

That take themselves to flight

When you sit before your desk

And ask for the words to write.

But as your prayers take form in ink

And encouragement is penned

The power of heaven is loosed on earth

And Christ’s love revealed to men.

Copyright 2004 Rosie Boom

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