The Right Words

A young missionary gave her the perfect encouragement when she needed it most.

Posted in , May 24, 2011


I sat at my desk in the church office where I work as secretary, my stomach churning from all the things troubling me lately. Our beloved pastor had been diagnosed with cancer, and my own mother’s illness had also taken a turn for the worse. I tried to distract myself by fielding phone calls and updating the books for the church and our large day care center, but I still felt the weight of everything on my shoulders.

My phone rang. “Hello,” I said, trying to sound cheery. Immediately I recognized the voice of the young missionary who’d been calling often recently, trying to fill his itinerary with meetings in hopes of raising funds to return to the mission field. Each time he called, the pastor wasn’t in. Each time, the missionary said he’d call back, thanked me and hung up. I felt bad having to put him off again. “I’m sorry,” I said, “but the pastor isn’t able to make it into the office today.”

“I’ll call back again another time,” he said. “Thank you.”

I was just about to hang up when he suddenly spoke again. "Grace, you know that the scripture says in II Corinthians? 'For our light affliction, which is but for a moment worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.'" I was too stunned to respond. It seemed like he knew exactly what I needed to hear. He prayed a short prayer for me then hung up.

I turned my face toward the wall so my coworkers wouldn’t see the tears streaming down my face, feeling hope for the first time in days.

A few weeks later the young missionary finally held came to our church. I couldn’t wait to meet him. I lingered after the Sunday evening service waiting for him to have a free moment. Finally he turned to me. “I’m Grace, the church secretary,” I said, introducing myself. “I just want to thank you for the encouraging words you spoke to me over the phone.”

He smiled politely but looked at me blankly. I even quoted some of the scripture he’d used, hoping to jog his memory.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I remember calling for the appointment, but I never spoke those words. I just thanked you and hung up.”

If he didn’t speak them… then who did?

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