Former WBU first lady encourages missional living

April 6, 2011

PLAINVIEW – Marie Jester should know a little something about the missionary lifestyle. After all, her involvement in missions began as a young girl and she married a “missionary kid,” then ended up serving in educational missions in Africa and in the U.S.

Now retired and living in Kentucky, Jester shared the wisdom that comes with many years on the field with students at Wayland Baptist University as part of Wednesday’s McCoy Lectures chapel.

Jester, who was first lady at Wayland from 1981-87 while husband David served as ninth president of the university, opened the lecture series by defining the requirements for a missional lifestyle to students. She began by asking the question, “What is the basis for missions?” and quoted several verses of scripture about taking the gospel to the world, noting, “We need to think of the Great Commission as our commission. Christ’s call is a mandate, not an option for us.”

Jester outlined five requirements for living missionally, adding that the purpose for every believer is to respond to God’s divine purpose in Christ, which forms the basis for missions.

“First of all, missions is a call to commitment, and many of us don’t like the word commitment,” she said, adding that missions first became real to her as a young girl when her mother would involve her in service projects around the church and community. When she got older and felt the call to foreign missions, she said she had to remember that commitment and let God lead, though he took her to places she was not too keen on.

“As a young woman I wondered what God would have for me. I said I would go anywhere and do anything he wanted – except Africa. I wanted to define my mission field, and this great continent both fascinated me and frightened me,” she said. “I should have known not to bargain with God.”

Remaining true to that commitment meant that even when Africa did indeed become part of her present – as she dated David Jester during college and “fell in love not only with David but also with Africa” – she embraced that future.

The missional life also involves being filled with God’s spirit, Jester noted, adding that students should be spending much time in prayer and Bible study while they prepare their hearts and minds for the mission field God has for them. It was God’s presence and his promises through the Bible that sustained her in the difficult times, she noted.

Missionaries must be willing to go with adaptability, courage and love, Jester told students. She learned lessons of adaptability in major ways after moving to Nigeria, where home was a mud hut with no running water, snakes and a completely foreign environment.

“God was faithful, though, and He had prepared the way,” she said, noting that adaptability was key in her receiving the blessings of being involved in a very different culture, including regular worship services at a leper colony which the Jesters found inspirational.

“It seemed wherever I didn’t want to go, that’s where God sent us,” Jester said, noting the couple’s next move to Northern Nigeria which soon would undergo a brutal civil war requiring great courage. “But he always blessed by life because of it.”

Love, though, was the ingredient that Jester said was most vital during her missionary journey because it helped in all those other situations.

“As I look back over the chapters of my life, I realize how strong God’s love is,” she said. “It can soften hearts and open doors. May we be faithful in proclaiming God’s love for His people everywhere, black and white, healthy or diseased.

“Missions is not a geographic location or for a set time. It is for all time and all people. We must proclaim the wonderful news of Jesus Christ.”

Jester spent lunch with ministerial students and spoke to a missions class taught by Dr. Rick Shaw, assistant professor of religion and director of the Wayland Mission Center. The couple was honored with an afternoon tea by the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences and the university Hospitality Committee later that afternoon, and Jester also spoke at the First Baptist Church of Plainview that evening. FBC co-sponsors the lecture series with Wayland with gifts from the late Dr. Dorothy McCoy, a longtime math professor who had a deep love for missions.

The chapel also included the awarding of the Student Missionary of the Year award to student Krystle Clinton.   Clinton is a senior religion major from Silverton, specializing in missionary ministry.