NASH, Okla. (BP)–Lenni Nordloh has always supported the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.
She and her husband Marty, who is pastor of a small Baptist church in Oklahoma, have benefited from the offering for many years — first when Marty was a student at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and as they served as church planters in Wyoming and Arizona.
While Armstrong had always been a spiritual mentor of sorts, Miss Annie, as she was affectionately known, now holds a special place deep in Nordloh’s heart. Last July, Nordloh, who is writing a book about her family history, sat stunned as she read words that changed her life forever.
“I was preparing for a family reunion we were going to attend in June of 2006 in Branson, Mo., when I decided to do some last minute research,” the Colorado native writes in her book. “I knew that Henry Sater was one of my grandfathers, so I pulled up a computer Web search and put his name in to review. A new report popped up on him where it said, ‘Her great-great-great-grandfather was Henry Sater.’ What was this? It was a news article … on Annie Walker Armstrong.
“I began to read the article, and tears began to flow down my face. I could not believe what I was reading. Annie Walker Armstrong was my biological cousin,” Nordloh recounted.
After further tracing the family tree, Nordloh discovered that her great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Henry Sater of Baltimore, Md. — the man who founded the first-known Baptist church in Maryland — actually was Armstrong’s great-great-grandfather. Although their births were separated by about 100 years — Armstrong was born on July 11, 1850; Nordloh on Oct. 17, 1947 — the two women share a biological tie.
In her book, “God’s Work Through Ordinary People That Brings Glory to God and Furthers His Kingdom,” Nordloh continues the story:
“I could see that my life parallels her life in some ways,” Nordloh writes. “I was the second youngest born of five children. Annie Walker Armstrong was the second youngest born of five…. Our calling from God has been to women and missions. God blessed me with this knowledge only for me to ask, What did He want me to do with this information?”
At the time of her discovery, the Nordlohs were staying in a towable RV on her brother Les’s property in Good Hope, Ga. She printed the article and went to her brother’s home to share it with him.
“I said, ‘Les, you know I have been working on our family history. I want you to read something.’ I didn’t tell him anything,” Nordloh said. “He just stared at the article, and then he looked at me and said, ‘What a blessing.’
“This was amazing,” Nordloh said. “I had grown up a Southern Baptist. My dad was Southern Baptist. My great-great-grandfather was a Southern Baptist. My brother was a Southern Baptist pastor for more than 40 years and he, too, had been a home missionary, a retired director of missions and a former staff member of the evangelism department of what was then the Home Mission Board. All my life, at Easter, the Annie Armstrong emphasis came around. We always gave to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.”
Knowing that Armstrong was a pioneer in women’s missionary work, served as a missionary to Native Americans and was an aggressive letter writer to plead for financial and prayer support for missions, Nordloh has a better understanding and appreciation of what God has led her to do in her lifetime as well.
“For probably 20 years, I have been in ministry to women,” Nordloh said. “While in Las Vegas I led two women’s classes that grew from six women to 18 both times. Women have a tendency to ask, ‘What can I give to the ministry?’ or ‘How can I help further the Kingdom of God?’ I stress to them the importance of praying for our leaders — praying for the men of our church, for the men who lead our associations and for our national leaders.
“I specifically point out that God has an order, and men are those spiritual heads,” she said. “The best thing we, as women, can do is to be the heart of our homes and the heart of our church. The best thing we can do for our church is to get on our knees and pray. That is very important. I have found through the years in working with women that a lot of them have a low opinion of themselves, and that’s not from God.”
God has now led the Nordlohs to settle in Nash, Okla., a town with a population of around 300 people to serve a church that averages 70 in worship and 50 in Sunday School.
“But it’s not the size of the town or church that matters,” Nordloh said. “It has been a very interesting journey and God has been with us every step of the way.
“When I read Annie Armstrong’s biography, I said, ‘God, You have a plan for our lives and You brought this to my attention at the time of my life it was actually directed by You.’ Maybe 10 years ago, I would have tried to make it all about me. But, it’s not about me. It’s about spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” she said. “It’s about us supporting our missionaries. Just because we are in a church sitting in a pew doesn’t mean we cannot do something for Christ.”
Armstrong focused on money and prayers, Nordloh said, and that’s what she feels called to do as well.
“If I can do anything to spur the giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, I will do it,” Nordloh said. “I can imagine that Annie — with her heart’s call — was very humbled when she learned about four years before she died that the offering was named for her. Now, looking at the fact that she’s family, I’m humbled, too. All I can say is ‘Thank You, God.'”