I first heard of Kathy at our Thursday Night Fellowship meetings. Each week we would pray for missionaries and she was always prominent on the list. When she returned to Canada while on furlough from her mission in Pakistan, she visited us, a group of impressionable students. It was thrilling to get to know someone who lived out the Gospel in the most difficult of all mission fields. She inspired me then, but little did I know the impact she would have in my little orbit.
We were living in the little prairie community of Elkhorn Manitoba, when Kathy came to stay with us for a few days at our Conference and Retreat Centre. It was during that time that I experienced her keen sense of humour and true humility. She saw me as a fellow missionary. Years later when I created the ‘tag line’ “Forming Missionaries for the 21st Century” for Taylor College, I did so with Kathy’s influence very much in mind.
She was to have another moment of real influence on me and Threshold Ministry. For years the Church Army International had been discussing the idea of a name change. The International body hired a consulting firm to come up with a new name. After much travel and discussion, they proposed a Swahili word meaning “Good News” (I cannot remember now what that word was). Each National Society would need to ratify the change. You have probably already guessed that this proposal met no such approval.
At that time many in Church Army were seeking a new name with the idea of keeping the same initials so we could keep the iconic CA. One day the Director of CA in UK and titular head of CA International, asked me what I thought we should be called. I blurted out “Threshold”. I quite liked the imagery of a liminal space, a threshold, in which people made decisions. I also felt it was a welcoming relational word.
Later the Church Army in Canada was impressed with a sense of necessity to change our name. We worked long and hard to find a name. At first, we almost settled on “Street Hope” the name of a flag ship ministry begun in Victoria but finally felt it did not encompass the wider range of Church Army activities. After many tries, we arrived at what we thought was a ‘winner’. We arranged to meet with our Board of Directors, who were by this time warm to the idea of a name change. We proposed to them the name “Martyreo” which is the biblical Greek word for “Witness”.
As I was proposing this, before I even got warmed to the subject, Kathy piped up “That makes me think of suicide bombers!”. Such ‘martyrs’ were common in her home area, in Pakistan. The air went out of the room and we knew the idea was dead on arrival. Those of us who were felt strongly that an update to our name was going to be a key for our long-term viability, were devastated!
The chairman recognized that “Martyreo” was not going to work and asked if we had any other suggestion. Like I had several years before I blurted out “I have always liked Threshold”. After a brief discussion the new name was proposed and passed. Kathy had played a vital role.
Over the years I would get little notes of encouragement from Kathy. I had long ago learned to trust her judgement and so I always took her encouragement very seriously. I have friends who always ‘gush’ encouragement and it is my habit to slough it off, but I always paid attention to Kathy.
This week my friend passed away. I have wonderful memories and look forward to sharing them with her again.