What will our legacy be?

By Liza Kittle

I have been pondering this question over the last few weeks as I’ve “unpacked” the happenings of General Conference 2012, experienced the loss of a beloved uncle, and read the most extraordinary book about a Methodist missionary family serving in central Congo. It’s been a busy time encompassing a wide range of emotions such as joy and sorrow, exasperation and hope. I’ve learned so much and thought deeply about the future as an individual and as a leader in ministry.

What will our legacy be? How will we serve Christ so that we make an impact upon the world?

One prevailing principle is that when people identify and remain intentionally focused on their main mission in life, the legacy left behind can have an enormous impact. One’s purpose in Christ, developed and nurtured through obedience and perseverance, will produce a lasting legacy. Mediocrity in many things is far less fruitful than passionate excellence in one focused vision.

Although several good things came out of General Conference, the dysfunction of our church was evident. I believe the root of the confusion and chaos that occurred is that The United Methodist Church has lost its main focus: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The African delegates, as evidenced by their passionate voice and leadership, are making a tremendous difference in this denomination. They keep their focus on Jesus, the Word of God, and taking the gospel message of salvation, redemption, and transformation to the people of Africa. Being around these devoted disciples inspired me greatly as a witness for Christ and leader of Renew. Their legacy will surely be felt for generations to come as Africa continues to experience phenomenal growth in the Christian faith.

Another experience taught me the importance of vision and purpose. My dear uncle, Dr. J. Harold Harrison, passed away at the age of 87 a few weeks ago. My siblings and I lost our own father suddenly when we were adolescents. It was devastating as my mother faced raising and educating five children on her own. My “Uncle Doc” was always there for us and made a huge difference in our lives. He was a remarkable man and left a tremendous legacy.

Raised on a farm in rural Georgia by parents with little education, Uncle Doc went to the University of Georgia (UGA) and entered the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) at the age of 18 to become a physician. He became a lead- ing pioneer in vascular surgery and developed grafts that revolutionized the field and performed over 7,000 surgeries. Uncle Doc’s passion was medicine and he devoted his life to it, postponing marriage until he was almost seventy years old. He retired to the farm he loved, raising cattle and growing crops, and lived his last years enjoying family and friends, supporting his beloved UGA and MCG, and giving generously to others. His medical career and generous spirit will have a lasting legacy for generations to come.

Another example of a lasting legacy comes from the lay missionary life of Burleigh A. Law. I had the privilege of meeting his son, Dr. Paul Law, several years ago and became interested in the story of his family’s ministry in central Congo. He sent me a book his mother Virginia Law Shell had written about their experiences called Appointment Congo. I neglected to read it then but when I saw Paul engaging with the African delegates at General Conference, I became interested again and retrieved the book from my shelf. It is a fascinating, well-written story about the Laws and their lives with the Congolese people.

Paul grew up in central Congo with two siblings where his parents served for 15 years starting in 1950. Returning from a furlough to a country that had been torn apart by violence and war after receiving independence, his father knew it could be dangerous there, but said, “If somewhere, someone must raise a white cross over my grave, I’d rather it be in the heart of the Congo.” His fears were realized when in 1964, Burleigh Law was killed by a rebel soldier in the land he loved so much. He is buried there — a martyr for the Christian faith (www.appointmentcongo.org). Paul Law and his wife Marty continue to serve in central Congo. His siblings and all their children are also involved in missionary service. A primary focus of their ministry is public evangelism, teaching the Word of God, and children’s ministry. Paul speaks the native Otetela language and the Laws helped translate the popular “Jesus Film” into this language, which is spoken by over 1.2 million people who live in hundreds of isolated villages in this area. One of Burleigh Law’s prayers was that his faith would “pass from generation to generation in the Law family.” That prayer has definitely been answered in the lives of his children and grandchildren. A legacy for Jesus in central Congo.

What will your legacy be as a servant of God? Have you found your purpose in Christ? I look at the lives of individuals such as my uncle and families like the Laws and I marvel at what can be accomplished with a focused mission and surety of God’s purpose. What will the legacy of Renew be for the next quadrennium? What should our main focus be? Stay tuned as we continue to seek God in refining the purpose for this ministry: Reaching women for Jesus Christ and nurturing their faith.

Liza Kittle is the President of the Renew Women’s Network (www.renewnetwork.org) P.O. Box 16055 Augusta, GA 30919; telephone: 706-364-0166; lkittle@renewnetwork.org.