Erskine College freshman Kara Rabon of Lexington, S.C., writes about a spring break mission experience she shared with a group of Erskine students in nearby Honea Path.
Widows’ Watchman Ministries is an organization based in Honea Path, S.C., that was started by Bill May in 2000. Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at Erskine has been participating in Widows’ Watchman since 2004. The ministry’s purpose is to meet widows, widowers, and the elderly where they are and serve them in whatever way possible. Sometimes this looks like building ramps so that they can safely enter their houses, or cleaning out sheds that they have been filling up for decades, or simply sitting down and talking to them about their past. I participated in this ministry as a high schooler, and was so excited to have the opportunity to serve again through RUF at Erskine.
The week we spent during spring break consisted of lots of quality time with peers around a fire, quality meals that were shared in wonderful fellowship, and being ministered to by widows in the most profound ways. One of the widows with whom I spent the most time was Mrs. Deborah Cade. As a few of our guys worked hard repairing a floor that prohibited use of the Cades’ master bedroom, Mrs. Cade shared with us her powerful testimony of a lost life being found in Christ. She told how she and her husband formed their ministry and how she experienced her calling. She described the ministry that she and her husband Richard ran together as a rewarding and fulfilling purpose for their lives.
Mr. Cade recently suffered a stroke that has left him without speech and mobility. We had the immense privilege of seeing husband and wife interact in the state that they are in now. She had inconceivable patience with him and he never stopped making her laugh and smile. They taught me what it looks like to have a beautiful, self-sacrificing marriage that reflects the love of Christ. They also taught me what it looks like to be content and joyful in a trying situation. The fact that Mrs. Cade misses her ministry and the work that she did was evident, but she was never bitter or resentful. They are content in their situation, and this was encouraging to witness.
One statement that Bill May repeated throughout the week was “Everybody has got to get a dose of ‘Mrs. Sadie.’” He was determined that every person participating in the mission trip would at some point visit Mrs. Sadie. From the moment I walked into her house, I knew exactly why. Mrs. Sadie is one of the most joy-filled people I have ever met. I ended up going to her house three times, and I never saw her without a smile on her face. Not only did she keep us smiling, but she cared about everyone who was there. She asked us all about ourselves with interest and nothing made her happier than learning that most of us were musical. Mrs. Sadie loves music and asked us to sing her favorite hymns every time we visited. She also shared her family with us. She told us with loving pride all about her children who were in college or had graduated from college or were working good jobs. She recounted her life with gratefulness and joy.
Mrs. Sadie taught me to find joy in the little things, and to recognize that Christ gives abundant gifts in every aspect of life. We visited so many more inspiring people throughout the week who shared stories of grace and joy that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. At the same time, I can say with complete conviction that the people who taught me the most throughout the week were the people I worked alongside. I had the privilege of getting to know Bill, Bob, Noah, Jordan, and little Isaiah, all of whom helped us in our projects throughout the week. They were extremely gracious hosts who made us feel welcome and never let us do anything alone.
The community that the students formed with each other throughout the week is irreplaceable. There is a wonderful feeling that comes with serving the kingdom with brothers and sisters who show you what it is like to portray Christ. Throughout the week, we learned to navigate awkward situations together, to work hard and long with each other, and to come together at the end of the day to laugh, eat, and fellowship with each other in a beautiful way. We each experienced something beautifully Christlike that we can share with each other, which is a life-giving experience.
Bill May gave Erskine RUF a life-changing opportunity to connect with the community surrounding Erskine College in a rewarding way. The widows and widowers we met and connected with are right in our own backyard, and thanks to Widows’ Watchman we have the opportunity to serve them. Our week with Widows’ Watchman Ministries provided a breath of fresh air that continues to encourage me every day.
RUF at Erskine is led by Chaplain Paul Patrick.