Helen Dexter, my mother. I was thinking today of her love of orphans in India and realized I was the first little girl she took in – in 1961 she adopted me. Since I was that little girl I watched my mother choose God. She never wavered in her faith and instilled that in me. Against all odds, she did something in her later years that to this day, makes me shake my head in wonder.
In 1991 she went to India to open a girl’s orphanage. She spent the next 20 years as a missionary. Many of those children (now adults) stay in regular touch with me; they have become my extended family in India. Some call me Mama; some call me Nani. Fast forward to present 2019, when a pastor I know is going to the same area in India where my mother ministered; to work with an Indian pastor that was taught under my mom.
So you can see there is an incredible time frame here that began in 1961 on my adoption day. This is what God’s amazing plans look like; this is harvest time; “For such a time as this.” And why God meant for us to walk out our life journey to completion.
Helen’s husband died when she was in her 60s. She decided to go to Bible College, which I remember wondering, “WHY?” This woman had already read through the Bible dozens of times; having left her notes in dozens of Bibles (I’m honored to have one of those)! She loved learning and studying and she felt you could never ever arrive in your learning; there was always MORE.
After Bible College she COULD have legitimately moved to a climate warmer than her cold New England roots, and spent her remaining years playing bingo, shuffleboard, and hosting women’s teas. Ummm, but NO. NOT this woman.
She DID move to a warmer (MUCH warmer) climate – all the way to the other side of the world – INDIA. At age 66 she felt a stir and a call in her heart to go to India to save little girls and teach young women.
She reminds me of another tiny, barely 5-foot tall woman – Mother Theresa, who also served the precious people of India (not sure if they ever met, but I am SURE they would’ve been best friends). Helen Dexter would be a missionary to India (and Japan) for 20 years. Those 20 years took her clear into her 80s!
She traveled alone… and THIS in itself was NO easy feat. She faced enormous obstacles – cultural differences, financial burdens, disease, her own old age, loneliness, language barriers, living out of suitcases, and personal self-sacrifices.
She was a small woman with a BIG presence, and a bigger faith! Stories are told of her standing on a rock boulder, directing teams of men as they built an orphanage. Yes, She had her own orphanage for girls, taught young women the Bible in her own Bible school, fed the lepers, and did NOT let anything stop her.
Whenever I have found myself feeling too old, or too tired, or too broken, or too ANYTHING, I am reminded in my soul that she’d frown at me in love and just say, “Really?” No excuse would ever fly with her!
NEVER too anything
The orphanage for girls in Orissa, India – a safe place where they grew up. Because of the labors and love of my mother, they were able to rise out of obscurity, and poverty, and hopelessness, and find LIFE, LOVE and PURPOSE.
Back in the 90’s I helped her find sponsors for 20 or more young girls, all under the age of 12. The ratio of sponsors who kept in touch with them since the early 90’s to NOW, is almost 100%. THAT is amazing in itself. I Samuel 30:24 says that “those who stay home and help, are just as important as those who GO, and ALL will share alike in the reward.”
Kudos to ALL the sponsors who helped then, and who still help 30 years later – along with a new generation of sponsors! There are new families that have been formed and new orphanages opened and the work of God has continued in full strength. There are generations of people who were changed because of a tiny lady who selflessly answered the call and let God author and complete her story. “Let each generation tell its children of Your mighty acts; let them proclaim Your power.”(Psalm 145:4)
Helen would tell you that YOU are never TOO old, or too far gone, or too uneducated, or too poor, or too broken, or too ANYTHING for GOD to use your life. Maybe you WILL go to a country like India and change generations there; maybe you will stay in your own little home and raise and change generations right in your OWN four walls.
Maybe you will serve soup to the homeless, or buy coffee every Monday for a war vet on your way to work, or make a film, or write a song, or a blog, or just be THE only kind face someone will see today. Whatever you do, do it without excuse and do it no matter how hard it is. We ALL have our own purpose and there will be a blank space if we do NOT fill it.
Click here to read more about Helen Dexter, her work, and her book.