BARDSTOWN, Ky. (BP) – When Della Edwards’ husband died two years ago, she lost more than her best friend. She lost her purpose.
Her husband was sick for an extended time, and Della became a fulltime caregiver. That became her purpose and, when he died, a part of her went with him.
“When he passed, I was just lost,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t feel like I had much purpose in life. I was having physical illness and depression.”
Della was nearly 70 years old and spiraling into a season of depression. She turned to the only one who had the answers she was seeking. “After a couple of months, I kept praying to the Lord: What do you want me to do now?”
God had more than depression and grief in store. He showed her a path that was not only a passion for her but one that had been for her late husband – missions. It was the perfect remedy for that depression, and as she received confirmation after confirmation, a new joy began taking hold of her life. It was intense.
“I sold my house and could not find another house in Louisville,” she said. “I found a house in Bardstown and, after visiting lots of churches, I kept coming back to Wickland (Baptist Church). The irony was, they were planning a mission trip to Kenya. I immediately felt in my heart, I need to go on this trip.”
She and her husband had done mission work in Florida, but this would be her first international trip. “While I was there, I kept feeling that tugging at my heart,” she said.
The urge never left her after she returned home from Kenya. But could a 70-something be a missionary? “If not now, when?” she said.
Edwards began looking at the International Mission Board website, mostly looking for long-term mission trips. But she also learned that the IMB has a program called International Service Corps, which is designed for retirees.
“I got a call, and they said we think this would be a great pathway for you,” Edwards said. “I started working with an International Mission Board consultant and doing training courses. The more I did, the more convinced that was what the Lord wanted me to do. It was energizing.
“To really validate, in my opinion, that this is Lord’s calling, I asked, ‘If this is not what you want me to do, give me a stop sign, give me a roadblock.’”
It never came.
Edwards was invited to a three-day interview conference, passed with flying colors and then began looking at a post to serve. Her choice was the Middle East, but because of her life experience – she had worked in finance and administration – logistics seemed to be a better fit.
“But I really want to be in the field,” she said. “When I started looking for jobs, every one I was interested in, the door closed on me. Logistics is where I ended up.”
She will be working in eastern Africa helping IMB missionaries with travel plans, new medical attention and helping with reports along with doing some ministry with women.
Edwards was overcome with a feeling she thought would never exist again. “I didn’t know if I’d ever feel true joy again. I really now feel true joy.”
If she needed more confirmation from the Lord, it was coming. Edwards sold her house in one day, but her most pressing concern was for someone to take her pets. “I have to find a home for two precious dogs who have been with me since they were puppies.”
Edwards was having trouble finding a home for them, until she and her sister went on a cruise to Bermuda. They were having dinner with two ladies who owned two standard poodles, the same breed as her dogs. They agreed to foster them.
“On a cruise, what are the chances?” she asked, suggesting more confirmation. “That was God. He is magnificent.”
“God just spoke to her heart,” said Wickland Pastor Rodney Lynch. “She has felt the call to missions. We are doing this ‘Calling Out the Called’ talking about pastors, worship leaders and youth pastors but we don’t think about what our senior adults can do.”
Lynch said Edwards has the support of Wickland, a mission- and ministry-minded church. It supports church plants in Nicaragua and Salt Lake City, helps with a refugee ministry in Bowling Green, participates in the backside ministry at Churchill Downs and helps a pregnancy center. Lynch’s youngest daughter is also a missionary.
Edwards and her sister went on the cruise for a purpose. She was going to sprinkle her husband’s ashes at sea. She said he would whole heartedly approve of what she is doing with her life and her new purpose.
“He enjoyed life until the day he couldn’t remember anymore,” she said. “I know he would be excited. He would absolutely love that I’m doing this.”