Thursday, April 10, 2008

People watching in the Phoenix Airport—Marionette and HER Girls

Recently completing a business trip in Scottsdale, I took a flight from Phoenix to Las Vegas to visit our son Andy for the weekend. While waiting for my flight, I took up the ever popular sport of people watching. I noticed a group of women dressed in wind pants and jackets; most of them in their twenties. Some of the women were white and some were black; they were accompanied by an older black woman, in her 40’s. They sat down near me and I saw it said “Stage II Softball” on their windbreakers.

As I boarded the plane and found my seat, I found the older black women to be my seat mate. I introduced myself and she said her name was Marionette (if you’re wondering, there were no strings attached!!). She is a US Air employee who works as a gate attendant supervisor in the St. Louis Airport. I asked her what “Stage II Softball” is and she said it’s a women’s softball team based in St. Louis which competes on a national level. They were going to Las Vegas for a tournament. They attend eight national tournaments a year. I said, “So you’re the coach?” She replied with a smile, “No, I’m the oldest player.” I was impressed, in her middle forties and still competing in women’s softball and on a national level; quite impressive.

We visited; she has a husband and a teenage son. She said, “He’s a big boy”—football player, defensive end, and is being recruited by many big time football programs. When I asked her why she still plays softball, she said, “These young girls need me; they are my girls. They talk to me, I help them.” Marionette is a devout, live-out-her faith Christian. Her motivation to keep playing softball is that the “girls need me.” Then she corrected herself. “Jerry,” she said, “they need the Lord and they also need me.” I realized I was sitting in the presence of a humble servant of Jesus Christ.

We visited more. I asked, “What is the biggest change you have seen in your work in the last twenty years?” She did not hesitate; she had an immediate answer. People have become more mean and impatient. She went on to tell me of incidents to back up her point. Just last week a women in her 50’s dropped off her 88 year old wheel-chair-bound mother at the St. Louis Airport and just left her at the curb. Marionette was called to help and help she did but dealing with this experience left her frustrated, tired and disgusted.

God’s Word says in part in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” Yet in the midst of these times, Marionette is on the front lines being Christ to her neighbor. Is she discouraged? Yes, but she keeps playing softball because “her girls” need her and in her words “they need Christ”.

Later in Chapter 4 of 2 Timothy, Paul writing to Timothy encourages him with these words in verses 3-5: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry."

Paul’s words to Timothy apply to Marionette; she shares Christ with a hurting world in word and deed. Although disgusted, Marionette is, in Paul’s words, “keeping her head.”

When we arrived in Las Vegas, we both had tears in our eyes. She told me, “I never talked to anyone like you.” I told her, “I never talked to anyone like you.” I was in the presence of greatness; a humble servant of Christ on the frontline serving Christ and “her girls” and touching the heart of an old country boy from Minnesota. She is living proof that God will always have his remnant.

Thank you Lord, for people like Marionette. Amen

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