I would like to tell you about an incredible woman. Until now, I have not had the freedom to share all of her story with you, but recent events have given me the opportunity. Her name was Lucile. I met this precious gift from God in 1983, not long after the loss of her husband, Jim. A short time afterwards, my mother unexpectedly suffered a heart attack and passed away. Lucile losing a husband and I losing a mother, the two of us began a journey together that lasted nearly 25 years. She quickly became my second mom and my sons’ adopted grandmother. Over the course of our boys’ school years, she never missed even one of their activities. Whether it was a basketball game, an awards presentation or another event, Lucile was always there to cheer them on. She became the grace in our family with a capital “G”. When Jeremiah and Caleb looked into her eyes, they saw that she believed in them more than they believed in themselves.

Not only my sons, but also everyone who met Lucile had this same experience. She taught in the Tulsa Public Schools for 33 years. I have had the privilege of meeting some of her former students, and each one has told me about the inspiration and encouragement she brought to their lives.

In 1993, Lucile was 85 years old. At this stage of life, most senior adults are either waiting to go home with the Lord or attempting to make the rest of their days as comfortable as possible. Not Lucile. This spunky lady came to my office, looked me in the eye and said, “I have a desire, and I need your help.” I almost had to smile. What kind of desire does an 85-year-old lady have-and what could I possibly do to help?

Lucile, as always, was quick to enlighten me. “I want to start a youth missions organization. I have a nickel, and you have the knowledge. Between the two of us, we can make it work.”

That conversation marked the birth of Awe Star Ministries, the organization I now serve. Fourteen years later, Awe Star has sent thousands upon thousands of students to more than 30 countries and seen hundreds of thousands come to Christ. Lucile, like a mother hen, poured her life into raising up the next generation of missionaries. Every year, she met the group of students as they arrived for their orientation and training camp. She found her greatest delight in asking them if they had everything they needed for their overseas trips. If someone had forgotten a toothbrush or alarm clock, off Lucile would trot to the nearest Wal-Mart, eager to pick up whatever these young missionaries needed. The students loved her as much as she loved them. They even gave her an honorary title: “Minister of Encouragement.”

Through the years, Lucile often opened her home for students who needed a place to spend the night as they traveled through Tulsa. One evening, a group of Christian musicians just beginning their ministry needed a place to crash. You won’t be surprised to learn that Lucile gave them shelter and, while they were sleeping, quietly did all their laundry. You may be surprised to hear the name of that group of young musicians. Today, the world knows them as MercyMe, the award-winning band that produced, among many others the song “I Can Only Imagine.”

This past Sunday morning, at the ripe old age of 99, Lucile went home to be with her Lord. Yesterday, I performed her funeral. Lucile did not die from old age. In June, she went to the doctor’s office, where she was asked to sit on a stool. It slipped out from under her, and she fell backward, breaking three vertebrae and cracking her head on the floor. Even while lying in bed, Lucile kept telling everyone that God had a purpose in this and she was seeking His will. “God isn’t done with me yet!” she proclaimed.

If anyone should be welcomed into the Kingdom with the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” it should be Lucile Hodges. My family and I, along with missionaries all around the world, are mourning the loss of such a life-a life of blessing and love. Lucile, you may be gone, but you have left your heartprint on thousands this side of Heaven.

Father, I thank you for sending your servant Lucile to touch and change so many lives, including . . . mine. May others look in my eyes and see that I believe in them more than they believe in themselves-just like . . . You.