The old man shuffled into my office and sat down. “Da name is Jake. You been goin’ to da church. I want should to know ya. So you like Pizza Hut® or what?”
“Sure, I like Pizza Hut®,” I said hesitantly.
“Goot. You bring your wife and children tonight, yes?”
“Goot, it’s settled. We will see you den.”
With that the man called greetings to the rest of the staff and shuffled from the building.
We arrived to find the elderly couple waiting. Viola smiled brightly and Jake made a no nonsense gesture inviting the family to the table.
As we sat, two pizzas arrived and Jake filled our cups with Coke®, whether we wanted any or not. Jakes hearing aids were filling the air with a high pitched tone as he insisted that Viola eat just one more piece, “Got to keep you healthy.”
We answered a few questions along the way and Viola had to repeat almost everything for Jake. “You want should come to our house now?” Jake said as he rose from the table.
“Ssssure,” I said a little bewildered by this encounter.
Once we arrived at the home of Jake and Viola we sat in a quiet living room as Jake smiled and asked Viola to find things for our children to play with.
Once our children were playing with toys several decades old, Jake said, “Git de wedding picture, Viola.” I was expecting a black and white photo with a much younger couple. What greeted my gaze was a picture of only a slightly younger couple.
“We’ve been married fifteen years,” Viola said with her bright smile.
“I was married to my first wife for fifty five yers,” Jake said with a smile. Then he looked pensive for a moment before continuing, “She died during heart surgery.”
After a brief silence I asked, “How did you two meet.”
“Oh, dat’s easy,” Jake said. “Viola vas a missionary in Mexico and we supported her.”
“For thirty five years,” Viola said with a smile.
“She retired from de mission field and came back here.” Jake said.
The moments that followed revealed that the couple had wed two years after Jake’s first wife passed away. Jack also revealed he was 95 while Viola was a mere 80 years old.
Jake still drives and the couple volunteers at a ministry in a town 35 miles to the west. Viola spoke to us in several different languages. Jake claimed his bride spoke six different languages which made Viola blush and smile.
It seems the couple had been in Peru the year before on a short term missions trip and they have taken more than a dozen such trips during their marriage.
Jake came to America from Germany during World War I and caught a vision for missions early on. He financially assists others as they seek to find a way to involve themselves in a short term missions program.
This unique couple provides Spanish language bibles to many who come into the second hand store they volunteer in. Jake provides stacks of devotional books for the men of the church and he always has a basket of candy to share with the children.
Every week, Jake visits several different businesses. His quarry is boxes filled with used envelopes. At night, Jake sits at the dining room table and carefully cuts out postage stamps from old envelopes. Two mission’s organizations he has supported over the years take the old stamps Jake sends them and sells them to stamp collecting companies using the profit to help fund their ministry.
“Don’t know why people want to save ole stamps for, but if it helps de missionaries I keep cutting dem out,” Jake says as he holds up several pounds of stamps with his trademark smile.
“He can do it himself.” Viola said, “My hands hurt too much to help anymore.”
“Oh, before you leaf, make sure to sign de registry,” Jake said as he rises from his chair and walks over to an ancient book. “We try to invite all de new people in church to eat vit us.”
I signed the book and saw names and dates decades old.
Hundreds of names filled the pages and each one represented someone who caught a vision for what a life lived in service to God looks like.
I understand for Jake’s 96th birthday, the couple plans another missions trip because, as Jake says, “Der’s always someone who needs to know Jesus.”
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