Hi everyone! As I contemplated the topic of my first FaiTHought of the year, a number of ideas rumbled around inside my head. Perhaps I should write about New Year’s resolutions? (First, I’d have to make one.) How about picking a word for the year? (Too trendy for me.) What about a topic like “New Beginnings,” or Fresh Starts?” (I’d have to start something new.) Hmmm.
As I began pondering resolutions and key words and what’s planned for the new year, “friendship” popped into my mind, and then I thought of a friend who left the country on December 30th for a mid-length mission trip. (You’re getting my honest stream of consciousness here!) As I began to think about our friendship, and her many admirable qualities, I realized that I wanted to talk about her today. Her name is Dodie Wilbur.
Over a decade ago, Dodie became director of a small mission’s organization (Youth Ablaze) that takes youth on short-term mission trips around the world. She’s traveled to Peru, Romania, Russia, and Uganda, to name a few. Along the way, she took some adults with her to Uganda, and that resulted in two families moving there full-time to minister to the nationals. She also started a middle school group (Refiner’s Fire) a number of years ago, to train and equip tweens for missions. These kids would then spend their entire spring break ministering to needy children in a town or city near Albany.
My sister, brother-in-law, and niece are one of the families now working in Uganda, and both of my kids participated in Refiner’s Fire Ministry and received some inestimably valuable training from Dodie and her team. My sweet daughter loved it so much, she stayed an extra year to minister as a youth leader.
So now you know some of what Dodie does, but who is she really? three words come to my mind when I think of her: laughing, loving, and praying (wish I had three “L” words–how about Lifting things up to the Lord for a third “L”?).
Dodie’s work is serious–preparing youth for mission trips, teaching them how to encounter God through prayer and worship, and planning trips to some pretty scary places can all be difficult under the best of circumstances. But there’s nothing she likes better than to laugh. Often. She has a child’s heart that is reflected in her ability to smile and laugh at everyone’s jokes, funny events, and even mistakes (hers and others). Both light-hearted and serious-minded, she exhibits a marvelously healthy balance that I’d love to have in my own life.
Through the years, many young women have found their way into Dodie’s heart and home. She has declared her sprawling ranch-style home a sanctuary for young women. Foster children, missionaries just returning to the states, young women who’s husbands have left them, and those needing a fresh start, have taken advantage of Dodie’s very large heart. She lovingly disciples these young ones, helping them to find their way in the world. Again she manages to find just the right balance, this time balancing loving affection with loving discipline.
Seldom have I met anyone who more intentionally seeks the Lord, particularly regarding her ministry life as Youth Ablaze director. Her healthy combination of reading the Word, journaling, meditating, and praying have served her well. She moves forward relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and it is a beautiful thing to watch. Spend any amount of time with Dodie and eventually you will likely hear, “As I was praying today, I heard the Lord speak to me…”
…reading the Word, journaling, meditating, & praying have served her well.
So, I’m thinking that this year, as my friend Dodie lives in Uganda for much of it, whenever she comes to mind, I will pray for her. For safety, wisdom, and fruitfulness. I also want to remember the three words that reflect her life: laughing, loving, and praying, because this year, I want to laugh more, love more, and pray more, like my friend Dodie.