I'm missing Laila today. I didn't know her long, but I loved her, and she loved me.
She was a child when her father was killed in the Six Day War. Her mother died not long afterward of advanced breast cancer. Laila and her siblings were taken in by Christians. They were loved and educated and taught the ways of Jesus.
Laila became a nurse and, eventually, earned her Masters degree at Emory in Atlanta. She returned to her homeland to serve as director of nursing (Nursing Matron) for the Baptist Hospital there.
When she retired as a nurse, she was asked to help supervise operations at the Baptist Conference Center. There was nothing Laila wouldn't do. I watched her wash laundry for the center in an old washing machine that would've been replaced long before for a newer model in this country. I helped her hang sheets on a clothes line behind the building. She supervised everything from cleaning the rooms to emptying the garbage. Nothing was too menial for her.
She took care of me while I was at the conference center, and I was blessed to spend a day listening to her story. Laila told me she never married because "I had no time for it. If I was married, I wouldn't have been able to serve."
She chose Jesus and never stopped serving Him.
She was rushed to the hospital one night while I was there. After a few hours of IV fluids and treatment, she returned to the center and went right back to work. When she told me her symptoms, I felt sick. She didn't have a "stomach bug," she was dying and didn't want anyone to know.
She knew her time was short. "At my age, I've been thinking about the time when I'll have to leave this center. When the Lord wants me to leave, it will be the hardest thing I'll ever have to do."
We wandered around the conference center together that afternoon. There was an old piano in one of the buildings. I was surprised when Laila sat down and began to play "Just As I Am," then one hymn after another. She stopped playing abruptly and hopped up. "I've wasted too much time with you. I need to get back to work." Laila laughed, hugged me, and planted a kiss on my cheek. "I love you, Leanna." I kissed her cheek, held her tight, and told her I loved her, too.
In that moment I knew, without a doubt, that Laila would be gone before I returned on my next trip.
Laila had served her entire adult life on the beautiful hill overlooking the Jordan Valley. As it turned out, God never asked her to leave the one place on earth she most loved. She was taken to the hospital with what seemed an acute illness but, in a short time, she quietly left her earthly body and went to live with the Lord she'd served so well.
She was in her eighth decade when she moved to her new home in Heaven. I'm confident she heard those words I most want to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Laila loved her Lord more than anything, and her faith never wavered She gave up most of the things we think are essential to have what no one could take from her. She was more content than most people I know. Laila was never "too old" to serve, but did whatever her hand found to do, and did it with all her might.
We need more Lailas. We need believers willing to stay focused on Christ and serve Him until they take their last breath here and step into heaven. That's who I want to be. Don't you?
The way to be a Laila when we're in our eighties is to be the kind of servant she was no matter what our age. Committed. Persevering. Loving God and others with our whole heart. Serving until the very end.
Want to be a Laila? Start now. Love God. Love others. Don't stop.
"...Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master." Matthew 25:23 esv
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