Persistence Matters

Persistence Matters

Persistence Matters

I grew up learning that persistence matters. When 21 girls graduated from school in Kabartonjo, Kenya, the African village where I grew up, their sun-kissed smiles left my mother overjoyed. She knew they had struggled to concentrate on their studies and still found time to help their mothers. Their reward was not only measured by high marks. Their strong character shone through. It took grit and faithful commitment to study on a day when not many girls even went to school.

Since childhood, I’ve learned that same lesson. I love observing it when Kenyan and Ethiopian marathon runners keep at their chosen field of sports, continually dominating the track and field event. When the Olympic games end in a few weeks, leading up to the final gold medal being won, I will eagerly anticipate another African runner entering the stadium in Paris. This year, will an Ethiopian or Kenyan get the gold? And will the women’s dominance continue as has the men’s?

Before writing the introduction for this July newsletter, I pondered for a long while. Who were the men and women who have most influenced my life, from birth to the present day? I pondered over this question. What do I presently make of individuals who inspired me to be who I am today? How often did I face the unknown only to have another mentor show me the way forward? I counted twenty-three individuals, and I thanked God for each one. I am grateful that at each turn of the road, I encountered someone who helped me to persist, to keep going, keep learning. 

Joseph comes to mind when I contemplate our need for persistence. His revelation of Pharaoh’s dream seems so effortless at first glance. Yet, behind that scene, I imagine endless experiences, each preparing him for that inevitable moment when he would bless an entire region, not just a nation. Love and honor for his father, younger brother, and ten other brothers never left him. Walking to Egypt, chained to a slave trader, must have left him wondering how his dreams would ever be realized. How much attention did he pay to language and other cultural details when first confronted with the Egyptian tongue of the upper class? And how did he manage in jail during those years when he learned the lower street language spoken by gamblers, murderers, pickpockets, and all sorts of ugly characters? Through it all, he was persistent. That paid off when standing before Pharaoh, the most remarkable man of the age. Grit, faithfulness, and resolution brought him the skills to manage running a nation during seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine. He probably faced increasingly hostile, disappointed, angry men with nothing to bring home to their families.  Persistence in Joseph’s life made an enormous difference. It brought about health, well-being, forgiveness, and a restored family.

Missionary life demands persistence, and that is what we see in this month’s newsletter. 

*Photo by Ken Phillips, 1950

   By David Phillips