It is finished. Twelve years of ministering to inmates and helping them reintegrate into society has officially come to a bittersweet end. We packed up and left the home in which we had lived for 11 of those incredible years. It was Feb 28th, the same day we were due to fly to Honduras. Then everything came to a screeching halt. Cathy’s doctor confirmed that she had to have a total hysterectomy or face life-threatening cancer in the not too distant future. Our Honduras move has been officially delayed for at least six weeks. Now, what to do; no home, no job, Yay God!? There must be a lesson in this. Perhaps it’s in the twelve.
Some numbers are very symbolic in scripture and twelve is one of them. According to Patheos.com the number twelve represents perfection and authority. Like seven it is also the number of completion and is mentioned 187 times in the Bible. For example, there were 12 Apostles. There are 12 Gates, made of pearl and guarded by 12 angels in heaven. There are 12 precious stones to be used as the foundation of the New Jerusalem. Jesus spoke His first authoritative words at the age of 12. The list goes on.
Still there is another more personal significance to the number twelve. Cathy and I celebrated twelve years of marriage on Feb 5th. We have been engaged in ministry together since the day we met at Kapaa Missionary Church on Kauai. Cathy felt called to prison ministry since 1991, yet the door of opportunity had never opened. One day after church she was speaking to a mutual friend who ministered at the local jail and asked how she could get in. He pointed at the crowd and said, "go talk to that guy." That guy was me. It's been an adventure beyond my wildest dreams ever since.
You've learned a lot about me in recent blog posts and I think this brake time is a good time for me to tell you a little about the woman who I promise you is my better half. As I always say, if you don’t like me, I get it. You’re probably right. Please take a number and get in line. But if you don’t like Cathy, you should seek professional help. I was basically a hammer living a world of nails when we met. That no one has killed me is just one of the many miracles that have resulted from my marriage to her.
Cathy’s primary gifts are in the area of compassion and mercy. She has an incredible capacity to love the unwanted, the unforgivable, the unlovable. It's ironic that while I am the trained and certified counselor when given a choice, most people prefer talking to her. Maybe because she is so genuinely interested in literally everyone she meets. As my good friend, Dan says of his own wife Carol; “she has never met a stranger." The same applies to my wife.
It was no surprise that the Harvest school of missions in Pemba Mozambique where the operative words are “stop for the one” was paradise for Cathy. The problem for me was that Cathy did not stop for the one. Cathy stopped for everyone. Every child, every widow, everything with a pulse got her full and undivided attention. In fact, every single act of kindness from us that you read about, or saw on video while we were in Africa only happened because Cathy stopped. People naturally seek her out when they are in need of love, patience, and kindness. People look for me when they need to move a rock or maybe kill a snake. Granted there might be one or two out there who have a slightly different view of me. That’s great if you do. I am growing. But only because being in the presence of others with my wife convicts me and pushes me to be a kinder, gentler, more patient man.
Please don't misunderstand. Cathy is not your average bleeding heart "softy." My wife is a fireball. She moved from Arizona to Alaska when she 13 and spent a summer in a tepee after graduating high school shooting animals for food and making clothes out of animal skins. After that, she moved to Hawaii and sailed through a hurricane to Thailand in a thirty-foot sail boat. She'd been fasting for ten days when we went on our very first excursion/date, a sixteen mile hike to Hana Koa valley and back along the Kalalau trail on Kauai. I might pull that off on an empty stomach if I were fleeing a battalion of ISIS fighters but only if I were sure they were going to behead me. It kind of goes without saying that Cathy was wired for missions from the start.
Now we are making our way to Honduras. Cathy has been their four times. I have been there eleven. Each time I return I am greeted by hordes of excited children with one and only one question on their minds: "Where's Cathy?" I guess I could be offended or hurt. But honestly, I am proud. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” (Prov 18:22) My wife is the real deal and I am a blessed man as are all who encounter her.
This brake time is not exactly a break time. We still have lots of work to do. We still have lots adventures ahead and people to love. Even so, this upcoming surgery is a 1 Peter reminder that “as for man his days are like the grass, like the lilies of the field he is born to flourish and die." Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. One thing is for sure, Cathy and I have fewer potential tomorrows than when we were first married. “Brake time” is a reminder time. A time to remember to be grateful, a time to appreciate and embrace the flourishing Lily and gift that God gave me for a wife while we both still have the breath of life.
I could go on ad infinitum about the endless qualities and complimentary talents possessed by my Cathy, but that would probably be irritating. At least now you have a snapshot of the best part of Gray Hope Missionaries and one I give my life for. (Eph 5:25)
Thank you, Jesus!
We are Brian and Cathy Gray formerly of Gray Hope Productions.
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