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Prayer garden honors missionary

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–A few days before her death Oct. 11, 1998, International Mission Board missionary Deborah W. McCord spent time in prayer with personnel who were preparing for overseas service, encouraging them with words of experience and love for missions.

McCord, then 46, had served -– and prayed — in the Western Pacific, Southeast Asia and Oceania for 17 years before she was diagnosed with cancer in 1998, the same year she came to the board’s International Learning Center near Richmond, Va., to be a missionary-in-residence with her husband Stephen, accompanied by their children, Mindy and Matthew.

A prayer garden now honors Debbie McCord’s memory at the learning center, made possible through donations in memory of the woman known as a missionary’s “prayer warrior.”

Before becoming a career missionary, McCord had served as an IMB journeyman and been a high school teacher in Garland, Peaster and Dimmitt, Texas.

“She was a teacher, listener and showed that she cared as she shared her life with others. I believe this came from a deep prayer life that was steady, regular and consistent,” said Norman Burnes, a longtime friend of the McCords, during an April 16 dedication service. Burnes is senior associate pastor at Bon Air Baptist Church in Richmond.

Three octagonal platforms -– each with four facing benches -– overlook an expanse of hills and streams at the center.

“Here is a place where people can bring their problems and leave them,” Burnes said. “Here is a place where people can come seeking comfort, guidance and direction in their lives. Here is a place where those who are hurting can come and find healing and strength.”

McCord spent the last months of her life preparing her children to be strong Christians in their spiritual walk with Jesus, recalled Elaine Meador, wife of IMB Executive Vice President Clyde Meador. As a missionary-in-residence, McCord also tended to the spiritual development of other missionary children, journeymen, missionary candidates and career missionaries.

One such missionary, facing a time of uncertainty, recalled after praying with McCord “that everything is going to be OK.”

In his tribute to McCord, Burnes prayed for others to continue McCord’s legacy as a missionary “prayer warrior,” encouraging others as she did them:

“As Debbie was a prayer warrior, we can be a prayer warrior and seek His will in our lives.

“As Debbie loved missionaries and MKs [missionary kids], so can we love those who seek Him and follow Him and who pass through these sacred gates….

“May each of us so develop a prayer life and strive to walk with Him that we discover our own prayer garden in our own corner of the world and from that garden may we emerge stronger and better able to do God’s work, God’s way and in God’s timing.”

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  • Marie Travis