The Legacy of Discipleship: Lessons from an 89-year-old Swiss woman

by Kristyn Perez

When I was in college, I lived with an 89-year-old Swiss woman named Isabel. Sweet Isabel slouched over as she walked and boasted thousands of wrinkles that softened her resilient smile. Over wine and cheese, she welcomed me into her home for my semester studying abroad, teaching me French and bonding with me over her limited English. 

Though frail in body, Isabel was not weak in spirit. Every morning, she’d sit in her green suede chair with a cup of hot tea in one hand and a well-loved Bible in the other. She attended local Bible studies and prayer groups. Despite enduring much loss throughout her life, she trusted in God. She modeled faithful living as she loved her neighbors, gardened, and discipled her grandchildren. She knew the store clerk’s grandchildren by name and brought casseroles to her neighbors. She was faithful in the little things, not wanting to make much of herself but making much of God. In a secular European culture hardened by the horrors of the Second World War, Isabel kept the faith.

On the other hand, I was a hungry college student, eager to do big things for the world and leave my mark. I knew little but desired much. I was eager to do grand, meaningful things for God, but I didn’t understand how to be faithful in the mundane. I had passion without followthrough, zeal without substance. Isabel saw my life and lovingly spoke into it. Though we were separated by almost 70 years of age, she taught me and modeled faithfulness for me. She encouraged me that there would be highs and lows in life and that God would be faithful through it all. Though I was an idealistic, young American college student who talked fast and dreamed big, and Isabel an older, wiser Swiss grandmother, we were sisters in Christ. Despite our differences, she taught me, modeled for me, and pointed me toward the unchanging character of God.

The Call for Titus 2 Women

We need more women like Isabel: older, faithful women who can remind us of the eternal when we’re frustrated by the mundane. We need women who will “teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and in submission to their husbands so that God’s word will not be slandered” (Titus 2:3-5). Women who have seen God’s faithfulness throughout the decades and can speak of His goodness firsthand. Women who lovingly call out sin in our lives and point to the surpassing greatness of Christ. 

In an era when influencers are impersonal figures on a screen, we need more. We need women who will enter into our lives to disciple us in the day-to-day. We need to seek out these kinds of relationships within our local churches, and we strive to be this kind of woman for others. 

That’s not to say we can’t have an online influence. God can work mightily through online platforms, and we pray He will continue to do so. At the same time, fifteen-second Insta-stories are no substitute for Bible conversations over a cup of hot tea with those who know you, love you, and can see your life firsthand. 

Discipleship: An Eternal Legacy

A year after I left, Isabel became unable to care for her home and went to live with her children. Though her life slowed down, and she eventually couldn’t leave her bed, she used her final years to love those around her. While Isabel has since gone to be with the Lord, her legacy remains. It remains as I, and the hundreds Isabel touched, pour into our local spheres of influence. It remains as we strive each day to love those around us and points to the goodness of God.

Sweet Isabel fought the good fight and finished the race (2 Timothy 4:7). She left an eternal legacy not by her wealth but by the lives she touched. As we consider the lives of faithful men and women before us, we remember that our lives and actions matter. Like Isabel, we will all one day stand before our Maker. We will give an account for every word, every thought, every deed. We will rejoice in the righteousness provided for us through the blood of Christ; we will stand with other brothers and sisters before His throne and be in His presence forevermore. 

In light of this, let us use every ounce of strength to spur others on to know Him better and honor Him in our lives. Let us share about God’s goodness and boast of His love that lasts throughout all generations. Let us grow and learn from those who have gone before us and disciple those who are younger in the faith.

In a day when one’s influence is determined by their number of online followers, we can find great encouragement in the lives of older, faithful women—women who faithfully loved their family members, who served their local church and loved their neighbors, who worked hard to spread the message of the gospel within their local areas of influence, who were teachable and humble, pouring their lives into others, and not seeking their own glory, but the Lord’s.Though the world continues to pull us further away from God and His commands, God remains faithful. He has provided a family for us in the local church, and women who are one step ahead of us in the faith can remind us of God’s unchanging character. This meaningful work of discipleship leaves an eternal legacy.

——

If you’re unsure about how to initiate a discipleship relationship, check out these blog posts: 

If you would like to disciple or be discipled, but are unsure how to do so, check out the Better Together Discipleship Manual: https://thedailygraceco.com/products/better-together-a-guide-for-discipleship

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Navigate