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95-year-old connects to family & missionaries via the Internet

WACO, Texas (BP)–Jo Beckham admits she was “stubborn” when her grandson Blake gave her a computer for grandmother’s day.

“What would a cotton farmer’s wife from West Texas do with a computer?” the 95-year-old Austin woman said in addressing Texas Baptists’ 2000 Senior Adult Summit, March 20 at the Waco Convention Center.

“I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to run it. Anyway, I got plenty of cards and letters from my family and we talk often on the phone. They come to see me fairly often.”

And besides, she “dreaded having to learn all that new stuff. I doubted that I could learn all the new information it would require.”

She admitted that “the trouble with seniors is that they don’t ever want to be a beginner again.”

But Blake — a Dallas attorney — “turned on that smooth legal persuasion” and bought the computer. “He told me he knew that I was smart enough to run it,” Jo recounted.

Blake also made arrangements for a tutor to come to her home at Buckner Villa in Austin — part of Buckner Retirement Services — four mornings a week from 7 to 8 a.m. to teach the one-time newspaper reporter how to use the new machine.

“After about 12 weeks, he said she didn’t need any more lessons,” Blake said.

Jo, who worked for eight years on the society (women’s news) desk of the Wichita Falls Record News years ago, said she knew how to gather information accurately, and the Lord has sent people to teach her down through the years.

“I told the Lord that if he wanted me to learn this, I would try. So I dedicated each part of the computer to his glory and told him I would trust him to help me learn,” she said.

Soon she was sending emails to friends and family, particularly her grandchildren and her 17 great-grandchildren.

“I have relatives in California, Oregon, Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Houston and Dallas. What fun it was writing and hearing from them,” she said.

It wasn’t too long until her married granddaughters began sending messages about her great-grandchildren of elementary school age who were receiving Christ as their Savior, being baptized and joining the church.

Great-grandmother Jo — who also goes by the name of MeeMaw — began sending a regular Wednesday e-mail to her great-grandchildren. She called it “Footprints of Jesus.”

The name was based on the old hymn, “Footprints of Jesus,” but she said it also is a reminder of the poem by the same name.

“This is a short devotional based on an item of interest to them with a Scripture verse to match,” Jo explained.

Soon other family members wanted a copy. Then friends asked.

In mid-March — a few weeks past her 95th birthday — Jo was sending it to a list of 81 people.

In addition to keeping in touch with family and friends, Jo shared hints of how she uses her computer to print out interesting items to distribute to children at her church, Walnut Creek Baptist in Austin. One illustration she recounted was rewriting the words of an old folk song, to “Jesus Has a Home on the Range,” for children at Vacation Bible School.

She also communicates with her granddaughter, Camille Beckham, who is a missionary to the deaf and until recently served in Romania and now is based in Hungary.

“Her letters were so wonderful, and through her, I was able to hear from other missionaries and receive their prayer reports and requests to share with praying friends here,” Jo said.

Jo thrilled the senior summit participants as she told stories of how she has reached out around the world from her apartment in north Austin with her grandson’s gift and her determination to use it for God’s glory.

Jo told of praying and receiving prayer requests from a nun in St. Louis who said, “God’s word flies between us on our emails.”

She told of Meredith Ailen, a University of Texas student doing a mission project in Quito, Ecuador, who emailed a prayer request when things began to go badly. “Thank you so much for the email you sent,” Meredith Ailen, and said she was especially thankful for “Footprints.”

Jo told of Vesta and Mark Sauter, missionaries in the Czech Republic, working with the deaf.

“They have asked us to pray for 50,000 deaf who live in their area,” Jo said, adding the Sauters also have asked for prayer for 200,000 Ukrainians who live in the Czech Republic.

She told of Steve Hyde, who works in Cambodia. There, he found a child afflicted with a cleft palate and made arrangements via email to bring the child to Austin for surgery.

Steve emailed Jo March 3, telling how a former Khymer Rouge commander — a man named Pin — made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ at a Bible seminar.

“Among those who came forward to lay hands on him and pray for his commitment to a new life in Jesus Christ … were [those] who were formerly his sworn enemies, but now are his brothers in the Lord,” Jo quoted the email message.

She recounted a message from her granddaughter, Camille, which told how Tutsi soldiers had broken down the door of a young pastor’s home in Congo. As the soldiers prepared to kill the family, the pastor asked to be allowed to pray.

“As the soldiers watched, the African couple and their young children soberly knelt arm in arm in a circle on the floor and prayed to God for mercy.” When they stood, they discovered that the soldiers had left not only the house but the village as well.

Only later, at a meeting in another town, did they hear the story.

A man who was one of the soldiers said he lined the children up in his rifle sights as they knelt and prayed.

According to the email, the former soldier said a “wall of fire, fierce and enormous, jumped up and surrounded the lot of you.” The soldiers, fearful of the heat and flame, fled the village.

“Now I have realized that this was a fire sent by God. If this is how your God responds to prayer, I want to know him, too,” the soldier said.

Jo said she spends about an hour a day — off and on — in her ministry of email to family, friends and missionaries. Sitting in her apartment in Austin, using a wheelchair and oxygen, she remains connected to God, to her church, to her family, friends and missionaries around the world.

All because she was willing to be a beginner, learning something new and fresh, something she never dreamed of when she was a girl, a young woman, a mature mother and now a grandmother and great-grandmother many times over.

“When we turn to God and choose to do only his will, he opens up a whole new program and we do things we could never do before,” Jo said, quoting Jeremiah 33:3: “Call unto Me and I will show you great and mighty things that you did not know.”

“It’s more than just a toy; I’m sending love and joy across the world to bless our fellow man,” she wrote as part of a poem which she quoted at the seniors’ summit.

“And though I’m 95 and they won’t let me drive,

“I really take an awful lot of pleasure

“In e-mailing on the net to see what I can get.

“I thank the Lord for giving me this treasure.”

    About the Author

  • Dan Martin