“More Precious than Jewels” 14 Years with Leah
I met Leah in 1998. A few months later (Dec 12th) we were married. After meeting her in the summer of 1998 I was looking forward to getting to know her over the following months. In the providence of God I was, to my surprise, summoned back to work in Brazil. The result was we only knew each other face to face for about 20 days before we were married. All we knew is that we both had dads who were pastors, we believed in the Gospel and we had a commitment to the sufficiency of the Word of God for faith and life. We thought, “If we run into a problem we will go to the Word and submit to what it says.” Easy Peasy.
The commitment to her faith in God’s Word has been tested over these 14 years. It hasn’t all been bliss. When I asked Leah if she would leave her wonderful family and church and leave behind her friendly town of Plainfield, IN to marry me she said, “I will.” When I asked her to move to Brazil immediately following our honeymoon she said, “Okay.” I am sure that she felt a little bit more comfortable with me now that we had been together for the protracted period of thirty days. When I asked her to move into the hotel and then into a tiny apartment in Bauru, SP she said, “Sure.” She did not know that my best playing days were already over and that my bad knee would lead to stress, trial, and pain. She did not protest when I had to travel for three or four days of the week even though that meant leaving her in an unfurnished apartment alone. As we crisscrossed the country she did not complain, but just made new friends with her smile, kindness and constant willingness to serve.
When the children started to come some interesting trials came as well. I assumed it would be okay for her to have Darius, her first baby, in a small Brazilian hospital. She made no complaints. We were, however, a little upset with the “simple” circumcision. Something didn’t get communicated. They put him under anesthesia for hours! She caused some shock and awe when a few days after delivery she proceeded to make a rough car trip to Brasilia to register the baby at the American consulate. The Brazilian custom in those parts was for mothers to rest for 40 days after delivery! The hotel room we were living in at the time had a spot that the pack-n-play could fit in. She made the little space work for her small family. She often cooked in the 3’x 3’ kitchenette to save money. We even had guests.
Zayin, her second baby, was delivered 14 months later in the same interior state of Goias. Leah stayed calm and collected as she basically singlehandedly delivered him at our pastor’s home. No, this wasn’t our plan! Of course I was present doing all the important things like speaking on the phone with the doctor and learning how to tie knots in the umbilical cord. With a calm fierceness she said, “Just get me the scissors from the kitchen.” Shortly thereafter we made the perfunctory trip to the hospital.
My professional life in Brazil was pure challenge. I should have seen the hand writing on the wall after two major surgeries but I kept pursuing. She lived with me through the rehab. Our Brazilian doctor was also an elder in the church we attended. He hospitably welcomed us into his home while I recovered from surgery. We had some reprieve every summer when we would make the cross-continent trip to LA for Biblical counseling studies.
Did I mention to you that Leah is quite determined? On one of her many flights back to the USA she was utilizing a stand-by ticket. She needed to get home for a friend’s wedding. There was no room on the plane. Instead of panicking she started to argue her case. I am quite sure that a down pour of tears ensued. Some fellow, seeing her plight, begrudgingly offered to give her his seat. She was of course delighted but another obstacle loomed. The only seat available was first class and that required a specific dress code. Enclosed shoes! Leah was wearing open shoes. The attendant glibly announced that she could not get on. Undaunted, my wife began scouring the shoes of every traveler in the vicinity. When she found the perfect candidate she courteously pleaded her case. Amazingly, Leah was able to buy the ladies boots and make the plane. I imagine the whole airport must have been cheering at this point. I digress.
Following these somewhat tumultuous years I asked her to move with me to the place I had come from (WA State) and she said, “I will follow you to the ends of the earth.” When Titus came due she chose the birthing inn. It would be economical and besides she delivered Zayin herself. A couple hours after delivery the staff uneasily asked if she could go home because there was no more room in the inn. She left with a smile.
I then asked her to follow me as I quit my transition construction job to attend seminary. She followed. I then informed her of every young mothers dream: living quarters at her father and mother in law’s home! They graciously accepted us into their home while I studied theology. I asked if I studied during the day and worked at night she would be okay with it and she said, “It’s got to be done.” One night a week, sometimes two, she would get her small business going and get out there to whip up some sales for her family.
When Solomon came along she was finally able to deliver a baby in a hospital. Epidural and all. Easy-Peasy. When I asked her if it was okay if Solomon slept in our room and the other three boys in the adjacent room she said, “That will work.” With yet another new business venture she fit in a couple days a week of intense construction cleaning. She kept the books as well.
When Lukas, her fifth, came along she readily followed the same game plan. I don’t remember if I asked her if it was okay to live in a house that had a revolving door policy. She adapted even though she grew up in a quieter, simpler style of life. She listened and served the thirty or so warm bodies on a typical Sunday afternoon. The shuffle was complicated at times but she always kept the house in tip-top shape.
When her sixth baby came along we both agreed to the same plan of attack: two on the bottom bunk, two on the top, one in the crib and one in the cradle with us, “we can handle this.” I didn’t ask her if it was okay to have six boys all under age eight but at this point it just seemed natural. As the boys started to grow a bit she relented when the older two wanted to sleep on the couch or floor.
When I asked her if we could home-school she was okay with that as well as long as I helped. She canned a lot of the garden food because, “This will help us save money.” That way we could always have a little to give to others. When I started to counsel, sometimes leaving for half the day, she handled things at home.
When I asked her to step out in faith with me she did. I quit my evening job so we could prepare for the mission field and she made no complaint. When the finances we were planning on suddenly froze in a Brazilian bank she did not panic. She trusted. The Lord provided.
It is no surprise then when I asked her to go find housing that would suit our family she acted. She knows that Recife is one of the world’s dangerous cities. She remembers how just last year she was called down to the busy street where an acquaintance had been run over. She stood for hours with the unmovable woman who was lying on the busy Brazilian street until the ambulance could fight its way through the thick traffic. She knows that our life is full of people and in Brazil it will be full of danger. Where will we live? Leah went in faith. “God will provide.” She is in Brazil, alone, looking for a place we can call home for a while. Do I think she can handle that? God can and has.
An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. She has done me good and no harm. She has worked diligently so her family could be blessed in a myriad of ways. She has and will reach out her hand to the poor. She sees a profit for her family and negotiates it. She is savvy and frugal. She has made the boys look great with all the hand-me-downs people have graciously given us. She has carefully put away things for the future in hopes that one day she will be able to have her own living space to care for her family. “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the way of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; and her husband also, and he praises her.”