Ken & Keli Oldham with their precious children Grace, Zeke, and Titus
I am taking a moment to present an important part of my family to you this morning. Ken Oldham is my nephew. His wife Keli and their three children, Grace, Zeke, and Titus are all missionaries in Egypt. Not only do they serve in Egypt but all over the Middle East. God has not only protected them but has greatly blessed them. His grandfather, and my Dad, was a beacon for Ken’s direction in the ministry. While Dad was alive he taught so much to Ken and Keli about ministry. The result was that when Ken turned 39 he went on the Mission Field at God’s calling. The really neat thing is that it was the same age my Dad took us to British Guiana on his first missionary assignment.
One of Ken’s most recent blog post blessed me beyond measure. I had to stop and think about the legacy I was leaving for my children and grandchildren. Her name was MS Jane. She never went to Egypt. No her ministry was right here, at home. As you read Ken and Keli’s farewell letter you will begin to understand what a minister she was. Take the time to reflect on your own heart and ministry as you read it. Remember that when we are able we all can retire from earthly toils–we NEVER retire from God’s work and His plan for our life. Let me know your thoughts.
Farewell Ms Jane
Posted: 14 Mar 2014 03:03 PM PDT
Moments ago, i learned of Ms Jane Bradford’s passing from this life to the next. I can’t help but take a moment to reflect on our relationship.
Ms Jane was like no other.
I am sure we met at some state event before, probably initiated by her to, no doubt, discern my proximity to the Doug and Dale Oldham whom she knew well and greatly admired. But I remember her first greeting of me at the Ryan’s Steakhouse in Decatur at a Caleb Club lunch held there with the intent of meeting Keli and I who were candidating at the Sixth Avenue Church of God that weekend. She was enthusiastic to meet me and eager to make sure we knew her.
I think she called me “son” in that first meeting, and apologized for it then as she would often do. Ms Jane never married and had no children; though she claimed she used the term “son” because I was so much younger than she, there really couldn’t be a higher term of honor from her to me.
Ms Jane could scold and confront me like a mother. For dressing inappropriately as a pastor, and pointing out how much better the more respectable pastors would dress. For challenging risky decisions that were sure to ruffle feathers. Or for dozens of other unique conversations we would have. She would later admit that it would drive her nuts that I really did have a good reason for everything that I did or didn’t do and that it just wasn’t a matter of youthful carelessness that needed elder wisdom and correction.
She would always compliment me in some backhanded way; “you might become a preacher yet,” she would say after a sermon she would like, perhaps to prevent me from getting a big head.
Ms Jane was quite the musician and passionate about the organ and hymns. Changes in church music were always a source of discussion and controversy between her and me. I truly loved to watch Ms Jane play the organ because it was like watching a person on a time machine–every melody seemed to transport her to another time and place, and the smile on her face told me she was home, wherever & whenever that time and place was located.
Now with these previous comments, you may think I disliked Ms Jane, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. I loved and sincerely liked Ms Jane, though no one was really sure why.
It wasn’t because we both loved the Church of God because we loved it for different reasons; she loved it for what it was, often lamenting over all that was lost in either the passing of friends or great preachers, and saddened over any change from the historical. I love the Church of God for what it can be, not denying the good of the past but rather hopeful that positive changes can be made to make for an even better future. We would talk about these different perspectives, even occasionally agreeing.
I liked Ms Jane because she was passionate in her conviction and willing to be a risk-taker. She didn’t just believe something, she would share it I a letter to the editor, speak up in a town meeting or at city hall, or even make a homemade sandwich sign and stand at a busy intersection to get her message out there. I didn’t often agree with her messages, but I admired her passion to take the risks to share her belief.
I liked Ms Jane because she was a servant. She served neighbors, the church, and strangers. She volunteered to clean bathrooms when funding for janitors was low; she was a regular in the Angel Food program, she’d fund-raise or network for any cause, and she would do whatever was asked. She and I served together as regulars in leading a worship service for a local nursing home. She tried so hard to relate in the children’s outreach program though she couldn’t have been more different in background to most of those kids. She knew those kids needed Jesus, and if she could contribute, she would do it.
I liked Ms Jane because even though she disagreed with me, she respected me enough not to be disagreeable in attitude, to affirm the relationship before and after each confrontation, and to always confront me directly instead of through some manipulation, power play, or word-of-mouth gossip trail. I never wondered where I stood with Ms Jane.
If she didn’t tell me first, she typed it first and requested a meeting–yes, Ms Jane had and used an old type-writer for her correspondence. She had an aversion to technology and may have never sat at a computer nor held a smart phone. Emails would be sent to the Maples and they would graciously print her a copy. She often said that some of these new ideas that used these “gizmos” were a part of the greater things that Jesus said we would one day do in His name.
I liked Ms Jane because the honesty led to great vulnerability with me. Because she knew I patiently loved her even in the midst of our controversies, she respected me. She even trusted me: with feelings of hope and sadness, question and doubts, and allowed me the opportunity to serve her in times of embarrassing need.
Ms Jane couldn’t be prouder of us than when we announced the end of our pastorate to serve the Church globally. She lamented losing her relationship with us, but she rejoiced with our opportunity to serve in Egypt. Having traveled to Egypt, she shared several pictures with us from her journey, as well as her memories. She prayed for us, of that I have no doubt. She gave to us when she could and she wouldn’t let us refuse the gift no matter how much we knew she needed it. Truth be told, at a moment when I was uncertain that she would be able to make it any longer, I confessed that we were likely to be leaving the church for Egypt–that’s right 6th Ave, outside of family, Ms Jane knew at least 6 months in advance.
In this latest wave of difficulty, we had to keep informed from afar; we couldn’t walk these steps with her, not this time. We had hoped to see her again this summer, hoping one more miraculous recovery would lead to a happy reunion on this side of heaven. But it was not to be.
Ms Jane’s faith has been made sight today.
Me Jane, I’m sorry I wasn’t there to kiss you goodbye. I look forward to our next talk, though starting the conversation will be harder because you won’t be able to criticize my clothes ;). We’ll have much to agree on one day soon.
I’m sure a gracious and loving Heavenly Father had a new organ waiting for her; He likely watched and listened with joy as He watched her sit down to play a classic hymn, just the way that it was written. Except The Lord will not see what I used to see–that heavenly organ won’t be a time machine–the smile on Ms Jane’s face is no longer longing for another time and place. No, the smile on and Jane’s face today is because she arrived there, right where she belongs.
If you would like to contact Ken and Kelli and bless them with your prayers in this world of uncertain safety, here is their information:
~ Or ~
“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them”