I was new at the Women’s Bible Study as someone shared a prayer request: “Pray for Donna, Joan’s sister who has cancer.” That’s how I first heard Donna’s name. She was the sister of Joan, the woman who usually led the study – but Joan and her husband were in England – and it was her sister who had cancer. I dutifully noted her name on a page of my Bible Study book. Didn’t know her. Didn’t know her sister. Didn’t think too much about her, but God did.
Every once in awhile, I was reminded to pray for Donna. I prayed about her cancer, prayed for her fear, prayed for her salvation. Others, who knew Joan, prayed diligently – and those who knew Donna prayed even more! Some sent cards, others visited. Eventually we heard that Donna’s surgery had been quite successful. Prayers answered! She didn’t attend our church, didn’t attend any church, really. Yet it was evident that these women not only cared about her soul, but about her as a person. Donna’s body was better now – but not her soul.
The next fall, Joan was back home and leading our Bible Study. I got to know her, to appreciate her humor, her insights, her love for our Lord. I could see that Joan had no problem being outspoken about her beliefs. Donna knew about Joan’s faith, but she wanted none of it.
Time passed. Donna’s cancer returned. Prayers resumed – or continued. Joan had claimed “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4), knowing in her heart that God does not want anyone to be lost. She had prayed for her sister for years, but it was a difficult relationship. Now the church joined her. Donna was remembered frequently at Bible Study in prayer for her chemo treatments or doctor visits. Her name became a weekly fixture in our Sunday bulletin list of many prayer requests. She even came to church a time or two and was warmly welcomed. She appreciated the cards and letters she’d received from our Bible Study group, most of whom had never met her. More than health, we knew she needed spiritual healing. And though Joan is a respected Bible teacher, her words had no noticeable impact on her older sister’s life. But God was working.
He was using his Word that he promised “would not return empty.” He was working through the visits of Pastor Marty and others. He was prompting the prayers of many who knew her well, or hardly at all. He even used the shockingly untimely death of Joan’s husband – for Joan’s unshakable faith in God, despite this devastating blow, was evident to all. He was using the kind actions of a whole church family. Looking back, it was as if he were putting the pieces of a puzzle together and saving the last piece for Joan.
One day Donna asked to speak alone with Joan. Donna expressed her fear of where she was going, recognizing that she hadn’t led a model life. “What’s going to happen to me?” Joan told her that she could know what would happen. She could be certain she’d meet Jesus in heaven, if she accepted him as her Savior, asking his forgiveness for her sins. Joan said no more, almost expecting a sarcastic response as usual. Instead, Donna was very quiet. Then, “I just blurted it out!” Joan said later, “I asked, ‘Do you want to do that right now?’ And she said, ‘Yes.’” Donna prayed with her sister, and she became one of “those Christians” she had scorned! The next day she was already telling someone, “Did you know that I became a Christian yesterday?”
As for the rest of us, Pastor Marty announced it Sunday, and the whole church burst into applause, some giving God a standing ovation!
Weeks later Joan was cradling Donna in her arms, sending her off to see Jesus, thankful that God gave her the opportunity to ask her sister the most important question of her life.