It was her 35th birthday. And Josh* found himself thousands of miles away from his beloved wife at church planting meetings. She had stayed home in Papua New Guinea with their girls, holding down the fort.
Josh found himself pondering the blessing of his wife, Emily*, as he moved through his busy, demanding day. There would be no romantic gifts, no gilded box of chocolates, no florist delivery of long-stemmed red roses. There couldn’t even be a phone call—Emily had no access to a phone in the remote village where they lived and ministered.
To make matters a little worse, the hard drive on Josh’s computer seemed to be failing and he wasn’t even sure he could get an email greeting to Emily on her special day.
Birthdays are customarily gift-receiving times, but as Josh pondered his way through the day, he focused increasingly on what a great gift Emily herself was to him.
Emily had willingly given her life to accompanying him to a distant location, pouring her life eagerly into ministry. Josh knew she was spending her life—actually investing her life—in something very contrary to the American dream.
Emily’s heart is not captured by hopes of a big, elegant home, a new car, or current fashions. She is engaged instead with great enthusiasm in developing an advanced literacy course for tribal people to allow them to become better readers and enable them to more fully understand God’s Word.
Hardly any of Emily’s time is spent on her appearance or her comfort. Besides the hours she spends in ministry, she invests her time cooking meals for her family entirely from scratch, planning daily schooling for three grade levels and taking care of a baby that doesn’t sleep much.
Josh thought further about Emily’s life—a life absent malls, microwaves and nights on the town and often full of battles with humidity, mold, allergies and infections. A purposeful life that is not anchored in physical comfort or social advancement, but in the eternal value of making Christ known to people who had not heard the Good News about Jesus clearly until Josh and Emily arrived to tell them.
Smiling, Josh sat down and penned a birthday message for Emily. It would be a belated one–he would hand-carry it in a few days when he returned to the primitive home they shared with their children, nestled deep in the jungles of Papua New Guinea.
I miss you, Emily. I wish I could be with you today and celebrate your birthday with you. I wish I could give you a fitting gift to show my love and appreciation for you. But I want very much to thank you for the model of Christ you have been to me—and to the people in the village where we live—of what a woman who gives herself wholly to God can accomplish for Him. You are God’s gift to me!
Happy Birthday with my love,
*Names have been changed to protect their privacy.