Monday, June 22, 2015
One Final Blog - Live Well. Love Better. Speak Jesus.
Teresa's courageous battle against cancer ended on May 22, 2015 at 10:45 AM. Many have asked me to share the tribute that I read at her Celebration Service. It follows here:
Live well. Love Better. Speak Jesus.
If my sweet wife, Teresa, had a life mission statement this would be it. Her whole life revolved around these three things. It’s probably best summed up by the verse printed on your program “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
Teresa lived life well. She had so many relationships with so many of you. Friend, mentor, champion, encourager, motivator, daughter, sister, aunt, Gogo, Mama, Wife, Hero. Many of you have stories about how she touched your life. Over the last few days, I have received numerous texts, emails, calls and social media posts about how Teresa Kinsley touched your life. Some of them described a gentle word that spoke to a deep hurt. Some described a powerful prayer that opened your heart. Some described a kick in the pants to get you out of self-pity. Many described the unconditional love she carried for people.
For the life well lived was exceeded by the way that she loved. Some of you didn’t know Teresa but she loved you. She prayed for many that she never met because she heard of your trouble. Love motivated her to pray for you. But those of you who did know her have no doubt that you were loved with a deep compassion and motivated by wanting you to have all that God had planned for you.
She loved her friends. Some of you have known her since school days and through Alta Woods Baptist Church. And you always knew that when you were with Tutta, no matter how long ago the last conversation was, it was like you had never been apart. She carried this ability to instantly reconnect friendships.
She loved her Mama and Daddy. For these past three years, Sara and Robert put their lives on hold and were with her most every day. She told people constantly that we couldn’t have made it through this journey without their sweet support.
She loved her brother and sister and their families. Family was so important to her. Just having you guys around brought her so much joy.
She was deeply in love with her grandchildren. For seven years, she would light up as each one of you would bring wonder to life. Even the smallest accomplishments were celebrated and cherished.
Perhaps her deepest love was for her children. From the day Chris was born, through the surprise birth of twins, Craig and Kim, to the discovery of her sweet Alfie in a squatter camp in South Africa, the role of Mama brought her deep fulfillment and defined much of how she loved. She prayed for you without ceasing … truly. She never quit and I suspect she is interceding before the LORD right now for the welfare of her kids. You continue to be her greatest joy.
She loved her husband in spite of himself. She lovingly supported me through all of life’s challenges. She worried more about me than she did herself during the last three years. To watch her daily fight for life, has inspired me to be a better man. But the greatest thing that she ever did for me was to help me choose a life of significance over a life of success. She did this because as much as she loved all of us, it didn’t hold a candle to how much she loved her JESUS.
Teresa’s life can really be divided into three distinct parts; Life before Africa. Life in Africa. Life after Africa. Teresa’s family was faithful attending church in her formative years. At the age of six, she asked Jesus to be the LORD of her life. She has told many of you that despite her tender age, she knew that she knew that she knew that at that very point in time her eternity was secure. On that, she never had a single doubt. And that began a road of simple faith. Teresa’s faith, while deep, was very simple. If Jesus said it, that was all she needed. She didn’t need to dissect it. She didn’t need to read commentaries on it. She didn’t need to question the validity of it. HE said it so it was TRUE. As she grew up, her faith grew incrementally as she made life choices and matured into adulthood. She was active in church and as she entered high school, missions became a more important part of her life. She went to Costa Rica, New York, Minnesota and Ohio where she worked with kids and shared the love of Jesus. It was on one of those mission trips that my eyes were opened to the beauty of the person that Jesus was creating. We became inseparable (that is unless I did something stupid to separate us). And then in June of 1977, we were married. We lived life, raised children, endured and survived crises. By every account we lived the normal American life. But in Teresa’s heart, Jesus was on the move. She became somewhat restless in her faith.
When the empty nest hit us in 2000, Teresa went to Hong Kong on a three week mission trip. It changed her. She came back and immediately began to look for an opportunity to go again the next summer. She discovered a three week trip to the Ukraine where she could teach English at a former communist camp by using Bible stories as its basis. It was during that trip that we had a family crisis and she was too far away to do anything about. So she went to the woods outside the camp to pray and intercede. As she began to pour out her heart in prayer, she heard the voice of Jesus say “Stop! The bowls of intercession are full of your tears. Stop! And begin to Praise me for what you have yet to see”. And that’s what she did. For the next few hours she sang every praise song she knew. She read all of the Psalms and other Scriptures that praised the LORD. That night at the camp, 70 Ukrainian kids said YES to Jesus. That night also marked a change in our lives together. Two weeks later on the way home, she asked the LORD Why she was so privileged to live in America and have such wealth and freedom. LORD, there has to be more of You. The LORD responded by telling her that she would live overseas and preach the Gospel. BUT … Don’t tell your husband yet because he is not READY.
After she got home, the LORD performed a miracle. While Teresa had always been willing to share Jesus, those of you who knew her back then knew that she really hated being in front of people. She was fine in front of five year olds, teaching them in kindergarten but if you got much older than that, she just got really nervous and scared, almost sick to your stomach scared. She continued to pray about this discontent that she had, until one day during that summer the LORD decided to unleash the Holy Spirit’s power that had been living within her since salvation. I distinctly remember her coming into the house and she looked different. There was a confidence, a boldness, a smoldering compassion that was on her face. Scared the fool out of me. I watched as my timid bride became an instrument of the Gospel.
For two years she honored that command to not tell me about the LORD’s promise. But there was one day, in the midst of a failing business that the LORD said now you can tell him. She did and I’m the better man for it. It took us two years but finally in 2004, we packed up two suitcases each and a trunk of stuff and moved to Johannesburg South Africa where we only knew two people.
But in that move, the Teresa Kinsley that the LORD created in 1956 was unleashed on one of the darkest places on the face of the earth and Hell itself trembled at her arrival. The thing that Teresa did best was carry the very Presence of the LORD into places that the enemy held a stronghold. When she walked in, no matter the situation, peace reigned. Then she opened her mouth and either spoke words of truth and encouragement or words of spiritual warfare and intercession. Whatever the situation called for, she was prepared through the Power of the Holy Spirit to meet it head on. And oh how she loved the African People. It didn’t matter your age (she always loved the children), your race (oppressed or oppressor), whether you lived in a shack or the suburbs, whether or not you liked her or not, whether or not she was seen as the enemy She showed you the Love of the One Who Died For You. It was unconditional love, unblemished love, completely, utterly without end love.
Teresa had many jobs while in Africa. She worked in a hospice tending to dying patients that were the ages of her own children. Even without speaking the language she prayed for them to know her Jesus. She worked in a mobile TB clinic assisting the nurses in dispensing life-saving medication. She planned and ran day camps. She preached in church. She counseled the hurt and needy. She took food to the hungry. She sought out those who were sick with Aids and had been hidden by families fearing the stigma. She mentored young people who had been sent to us to learn what life was like to serve in a different culture.
But her favorite thing was going out in the impoverished community rescuing children of abuse and neglect. And it was here, that the LORD took another step in building our family. As she was investigating reports of abuse at one shack, she met a family at the shack next door. A man who had fathered four children had taken in the three children of his deceased sister; a thirteen year old girl, an eight year old boy, and a 19-month toddler. As Teresa often did, she struck up a conversation with the family and discovered their needs. She went back and brought them much needed food purchased with her own money and worked to get the two older children enrolled in school and the toddler placed in a day care. And she continued to go back to this family week after week. This little boy toddler would not leave her mind. The little boy never made it to the day care, and with his two older siblings in school he was left to fend for himself. One day Teresa arrived to find this little guy lying lifeless in the dirt; snot dripping from his nose, drool coming from his mouth. She scooped him up, found his uncle in the bar next door and as all good school teachers do, asked permission to take the boy to the medical clinic. The uncle granted permission and he was diagnosed with double pneumonia, and multiple symptoms of starvation. Having no place to put him, the clinic asked her “Mama Teresa do you want to take him home”?
Teresa loves to use this as an illustration of obedience. In an instant she said YES. Alfie came to live at our house that day and he never left. Whenever she shared this story, she reminded people that how in an instant of obedience destinies are changed. Alfie’s destiny was changed. But so was Teresa’s and so was mine. So was our family. And many of you have been forever changed by hearing that story of mercy and seeing the fruit of it.
But then Teresa would go on to share that your life can be changed in an instant by the word YES. Jesus is calling you. It may be the first time you have heard his voice. It may be that you have known him for 50 years but HE is now asking something of you. An obedient YES will change destinies … yours and countless others.
In the days since the diagnosis almost three years ago, Teresa showed tremendous courage and fight. But it wasn’t in her own strength. Someone would comment about how well she looked and she would say “It’s Just Jesus”. The nurses would greet us with how are you feeling and she would reply “I’m good. It’s ALL Jesus”. As we talked to our doctor about the status of the cancer she would say “I know I’m a miracle. Jesus is not done with me”. Jesus always got the credit and I truly believe that her testimony kept her going. Revelation 12:11 says “And they overcame [the enemy] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
If there is one thing Teresa would want from today, it is that someone hearing these words would respond with a YES to whatever Jesus is asking of you. YES to salvation, YES to turning away from sin, YES to serving, YES to going. It’s a short word, but it defined her life. It was always YES to Jesus. We all should leave this world with that word on our lips.