On my desk sits a very special photograph, a rather sentimental and precious image of two beautiful people, a young infant and her great grandma. The picture, taken in early August, depicts a petite elderly woman, my grandmom, embracing a tiny one-month-old baby girl, my niece Leah Marie. I received the picture via email three days before the conclusion of a long, difficult, and emotional journey away from home, my family, and all that is familiar. Receiving the picture brought strength, joy, and peace to my lonely heart, for the image portrays a love that is foundational to nearly all aspects of my life. My granddad and grandmom, full of love, humility, and selflessness, and two baby girls, my niece and goddaughter, full of innocence, beauty, and joy, have taught me significant life lessons regarding my relationship with others, God, and myself. Through receiving gracious and merciful love by Granddad and Grandmom, and giving bountiful love to Leah and Kiara Sofia, my heart has been molded to love and be loved like I never could have imagined.
Harvey “Gunk” and Jane Ache, my mother’s parents, have been foundational in all aspects of my life. Aside from vacations on the beach or journeys through the woods and mountains, Grandmom and Granddad’s house has always been one of my favorite places to be. As a little girl, I loved to sit on Granddad’s lap and listen to his stories of the African safari, the Bolivian jungle, and the Haitian villages. I remember bouncing on his back as he scampered along the green shag carpet, throwing his huge arm across his nose and into the air, and giving an “errruuuumph” noise. If I were lucky, after pretending we were elephants, we would pretend to be giraffes. He would take me out and raise me onto his great sturdy shoulders and let me pick green leaves out of the tallest trees. When I was in pre-school and kindergarten, there was no one else I would rather be with. Granddad was my ultimate favorite.
My grandparents were missionaries in Sierra Leone, Africa for three-and-a-half years until Grandmom was pregnant with their third child, and too ill to remain on the field. My mom’s family then returned to the States, and Granddad was a bi-vocational pastor in many small churches throughout Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, and also taught history. Years later, Granddad returned to missions and traveled throughout Africa, as well as Haiti and India. Through the testimonies and stories of my granddad’s foreign ministry, in addition to my own experiences, my love for missions has grown into my passion, and I remember Granddad and his zeal every time I journey to a foreign land.
On my desk sits another special picture. The back reads: “Evangelist Harv Ache preaching the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to the villagers and Pastor Gokanakondo Sam Jaya Presada Rao is interpreting into Teluga language. M.O.I. India - 1985 project.” Though Granddad is not fully visible in this image, I can see and almost feel his passion. From the young boy in the front of the assembly, not quite three feet tall, to the frail and aged woman in the back, sitting on the dirt ground, it is evident that my granddad holds each one’s full attention. As Granddad preaches to the people, his arms are extended out, with his hands held open; and though I cannot see his face, I can imagine the passion in his eyes, his illustrious voice awing the gathered.
Like my granddad, I have developed a huge love for the world outside the United States, and for God’s children so disadvantaged, broken, and hungry. I have a deep respect for my grandfather, and even fourteen years after his death, Granddad has remained living in my love of culture, my passion for missions, and my desire to travel the world, sharing the love and Message of Christ. As I am being trained in missions, I think about being a missionary like my grandfather, selfless, full of love for God, His Word, and His people. I have thought about Granddad nearly every day for fourteen years, but today, the memories re different. I appreciate the things about my granddad that a three or four or five-year-old never could. My granddad was more than a missionary and more than a pastor; everything he did, every day of his life, was an absolute surrender of his will to God. My family tells me that I was his favorite grandchild, and I hope that he would be proud of the person I have become, a person trying to be just like him...