I never thought that I would begin a blog entry with a title like “Bahama Mama”, but as I sit at Denver International Airport en route to Atlanta where I will have the greatest honor a Son can have for his Mother, to preside over her funeral, I am finding myself reflecting on the many ways my mom, Dorothy Jeane Phillips (Linden), has blessed and impacted my life.
Now, mom wasn’t perfect, but she was almost perfect! And as I reflect on her life I am amazed at the many ways God used this humble woman to further His Kingdom as well as the many voyages on which God’s will determined she would embark.
1. She was a Woman of Adventure – Now, lest you think that my mom was cut out of the mold of the Amelia Earhart types, think again. Her adventure began the moment she was born to two pioneer missionaries serving in the Missouri region of India. Her parents, one of the first missionaries sent out by the Foursquare Church when it was just one congregation, were soon cut off for support for some reason and, rather than return to the USA determined to stay in India where my Grandfather took on a circuit approach to missions, living with the people, and serving the Lord with what God provided.
Just a few years ago my mother told me that her parents wanted her to visit the United States when she was sixteen, so, alone, she got on a boat in Calcutta with New York as her destination. Back then, however, the passenger ships would pit-stop in Cape Town, South Africa, and when my mom’s ship arrived it was sequestered by the coalition forces – it was right in the middle of the II World War. For almost four weeks she lived with people she had never met and was finally called back for the final voyage to New York, however, this time it was on a very uncomfortable military ship. Then she told me that her ship had to traverse the waters of the eastern United States where German U-Boats were like vicious sharks picking off any ocean liner, but particularly the military ships. When I asked her, “Mom, what were you thinking as your ship was surrounded by German submarines?” She said, “Well, I just had to trust that the Captain knew what he was doing and I had to trust in God. There was nothing else I could do.”
Then, after marrying my father, she willingly followed him to places like Khartoum, Nassau, Tel-Aviv, London and any other place BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation – now British Airways) would send them.
2. She was a Woman of Hospitality – As a child I remember the many people who were invited into our home. We were constantly hosting a missionary or someone visiting from the USA or England. Then, when we lived in Germany, my parents began to invite some GI’s home for lunch on a Sunday afternoon. Soon there was a gathering of 40+ every Sunday and many of them looked to my parents as surrogate parents seeking godly counsel regarding their relationship, fears about serving in the Army and their walk with God. Every Sunday my mom would cook up and present a spread of food for all to eat.
My dad shared one story about one GI who had just received a letter telling him that his wife was divorcing him. He immediately came to see my mom, but she was in the middle of cooking dinner – in particular, some gravy. In his grief he buried his head in sorrow and tears on her shoulder and she embraced him with her right arm. At the same time she stirred the gravy because people were coming over for dinner.
I am thankful for here hospitable example. I hope that I can emulate some of what she modeled for me.
3. She was a A Woman of the Word – Plain and simple, Mom was a student of the Word. You can often tell a lot about someone by looking at their Bible and this is especially true of my mom. I once played a game with my mother’s Bible in hand. I would randomly flip through the pages and then look and every time I did so I saw some marking in color and often a written note. You see, long before Kay Arthur and Precept Ministries (a great study method) began, my mom was marking up her Bible with a color scheme. I vaguely remember her sharing her system with me when I was a young child, but as I look through her Bible there is ample evidence that she not only read it, she contemplated what it said, she made notes, she coded what she was reading in some color and I could not find a page where that wasn’t happening.
4. She was a Woman of Faith – Mom was always one to say two things: First, she would say, “Well, we just have to pray about it.” At other times she would say, “We just have to trust God.” You see, she was a passionate woman of faith.
I remember as an unbelieving and rebellious teenager living in Michigan that I would be waiting in the morning for the school bus to come. At the same time my mom would be just feet away from me having her personal time with God. She would be reading His Word as well as going before Him in prayer. Day after day I would hear my Mom crying out to God on my behalf – for my salvation, protection, wisdom and that God would use my life for His glory. Even though I laughed it off at that time, those prayers and her heart’s concern was a nagging presence in my mind. I attribute my salvation and calling to God, but I am convinced that she was a significant player through her prayer and faithfulness to Him.
5. She was a Woman Who Served – Being married to a pastor (my dad retired from British Airways after 36 years and took a pastorate in Clarkston, MI) meant that she had the opportunity to serve her Lord along side her husband and often behind the scenes. She was always involved where needed – in the nursery, helping with the music program, teaching Sunday School, or simply assisting my father on a call or in traveling to various places. She never sought recognition for anything and was very happy serving behind the scenes. When she would visit our home she never stayed still. She was always washing dishes, cooking dinner, folding laundry or knitting/crocheting. She simply loved to serve others.
As her son I have been truly blessed. I have an older brother, Jeff who was born in England. I was born in Tel-Aviv, Israel. My sister Shirley was born in Nassau, Bahamas. And not until this week did I realize that unlike most people Iin the world I can truly say “I have a Bahama Mama!”
Mom, I love you and will miss you! Your godly example and influence will continue to have lasting effect in me. Thank you for being a Lady who loved God, His Word and the people He brought across your path.