Sitting next to his wife in church, George reached over to hold her hand.
"Are you sure you're okay with this?" he whispered.
Still reeling from the financial strain of the Great Depression in 1931, they both wanted to give something to the guest missionary speaker but there was nothing left to give beyond their regular tithe, so when the offering was taken, the young couple tenderly placed their gold wedding bands into the felt-lined offering plate.
But another event of even greater import took place during the worship service. George and Alma, by prearrangement, dedicated their two-month-old daughter, Janet, to the Lord. The infant slept soundlessly through the prayers and dedication vows.
After the pastor prayed aloud, Alma added a silent P.S. "And Lord, if it be Your will, please call this baby to be a missionary to Sierra Leone in Africa when she is of age." Alma promised herself never to tell anyone about her prayer, not even her beloved George.
As she rocked the baby and fed her several times a day, she knew there was something special about Janet. She was a sturdy child, unusually bright, outgoing and curious. Surely the hand of God was on this baby. All of her senses felt it time after time after time.
In the ensuing years, Alma had many occasions to wonder if her gift of discernment was correct or whether she was exerting undue pressure on the Holy Spirit for something that she herself wanted for her daughter.
When Janet was in tenth grade, she was ordered to the principal's office for arguing loudly with another student in the classroom.
With each incident, Alma prayed harder for the salvation of her precious daughter. She couldn't escape the feeling that Janet would be a soul-winner, whether here or abroad, but first she must confess her sins and accept Christ as the Lord and Savior of her life.
Two weeks later, the fall revival services were held at the church. Janet agreed to attend
with her parents and siblings.
George and Alma didn't remember a word the speaker said; they were engaged in silent intercessory prayer during the entire service.
They didn't even see Janet make her way to the altar at the end of the service.
Janet was gloriously saved that night in the finest New Testament tradition. So radical was the change in her that the high school was a-buzz with the news. She talked to her friends about her new-found faith and invited them to church.
Several months later, Janet sat on the couch between her parents. "I have something to tell you. I wanted to be sure before I said anything. I believe God has called me to be a missionary."
Her mother and father began to weep. "Janet," her mother asked. "Do you have any feelings about where God wants you to go?"
"I am sure God has called me to West Africa, to the country of Sierra Leone."
Alma gasped and George, wrapping his arms around his daughter, began to pray.
Even then, Alma kept her secret deep within her heart, not wanting to influence Janet's decisions. After four years of college and two years of home missionary service, Janet was ready, along with her young husband, to board the ship that would take them to Africa.
Only then did Alma take Janet aside to tell her about her dedication ceremony and Alma's silent prayer that God would send Janet to Sierra Leone. They wept in each others' arms.
Near the end of a very successful four-year term, Janet and her husband, Jim, were invited to a Bible School where records of former missionaries had been stored for decades. The dean pulled down a dusty box from a shelf and handed it to Janet.
"Inside you will find directions to American missionary, Anson Carter's grave. Just before he died of malaria in 1862, he wrote this prayer that was found in his box:
" 'Father, my missionary service is ending but I pray that You will place your divine calling on someone who will eagerly and competently continue the work that has begun
in my beloved Sierra Leone. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.'
"Janet, Anson Carter was your great, great grandfather, something we were able to establish by reading his letters to and from home and from information found in the stored records of other missionaries of that era."
Janet wept, then repeated II Peter 1:10. "...be eager to make your calling... sure."
Her mother's gift of discernment was once again confirmed.
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