Tuesday, 30 January 2018
One of the few heirlooms my mother inherited from her grandfather is a tapestry. The front of the tapestry is beautiful – a pink-tinged magnolia symbolising perseverance and resilience. I've always admired it and the hours of labour poured into it. The tapestry reveals the creative skill of its maker.
Yet turning the tapestry over, the underside is a different story. There is no image. Rather, a messy assortment of knots and loose ends. It looks like the efforts of a child, not an artist.
This tapestry imagery came to mind when I interviewed Meg Mucklestone about her story and journey with mission. Stepping back, I see glimpses of a beautiful tapestry but zooming in I see messy threads.
Meg Mucklestone is a long-term, faithful supporter of SIM. Her commitment to sharing God’s Good News took her to India in her fifties to serve as a medical nurse.
Meg had already spent a “lifetime” as a nurse in Sydney and raised two children to adulthood when the Lord placed the calling on her life. The events of a Sunday night church service would puncture Meg’s ‘comfortable’ and ‘safe’ life and propel her onto a new journey.
A charismatic speaker from Serving in Mission named Barrie McNicoll has been invited to be a guest speaker at the church service. This was the first time Meg heard about the work of SIM, and Meg was drawn in as Barry spoke about the work of a medical doctor in Ethiopia.
“It was laid on my heart to pray for him”, Meg said.
When the speaker encouraged anyone who wanted to get involved with missions to walk to the front, Meg responded. She spoke with a young man from her church and expressed her interested in writing to missionaries. Meg laughs as she recalls this interaction.
“The [young man] looked at me and said, ‘are you sure that’s all God has for you?’”
Later, Meg would receive further confirmation that God was prompting her to serve in a least reached community. A woman named Alita Bell, the SIM India and Nepal Director at the time, spoke about the need for people to serve in health projects in the state of Bihar. The Indian state of Bihar is in the North East of the country, bounded by Nepal to the north. Bihar remains one of the least developed and poorest states in India.
“The Lord said to me, ‘you could go somewhere.’”
That somewhere was Bihar. Meg served short-term with SIM at a hospital associated with Emmanuel Hospital Association (EHA), working under the leadership of Alita. It was during this time that the Health Centre Director at Woodstock school invited her to consider returning long-term to fill the need for a school nurse.
Meg accepted this proposal and returned as a Member of SIM to serve at Woodstock School. Woodstock is an international school in the foothills of the Himalayas. There were 550 children at the school, with some boarders. Meg was invited to run a high school youth group on Sunday afternoons where twenty to thirty children came together for teaching and prayer.
It was clear that Meg loved praying with the students. As Meg spoke about her time at Woodstock, she spoke of beautiful friendships that were centred on prayer. The pastor and his wife invited Meg over every Wednesday evening for dinner and prayer. She also spoke of meeting with different women for regular prayer including an Australian teacher, a German missionary with YWAM and later a group of women.
When I asked Meg about her personal prayer life in India, she said:
“Prayer made me more reliant on God – all your friends are here in Australia, you start making friends over there but… prayer really makes you rely on God.”
Meg returned home when, in her words, her “body was getting really tired.” At age 65, some Australians would be planning holidays for retirement and looking forward to new hobbies of leisure. Not Meg.
Meg fills many hours her week co-ordinating prayer meetings for her church, praying for mission and people that the Lord puts on her heart. One way that she does this is with a prayer group that has been faithfully meeting at the Salisbury’s home in the North West of Sydney for many years.
I asked Meg what she would say to someone feeling disheartened with their prayer life:
“Keep praying and ask for help from the Holy Spirit. I would suggest that they get with someone and pray together because often praying together is easier than praying [by] yourself. Join a prayer group!”
Meg also generously volunteers with SIM Australia. This year marks nine years of Meg coming in to the Sydney SIM office to help with medicals for our missionaries. When I asked her what that looked like, she said it was mostly chasing up reports and making sure short and long-term missionaries have had their vaccinations.
“What we do is really important – it may seem small but it’s all part of God’s plan for getting missionaries out to the field.”
One day Meg will see the beautiful tapestry God has been weaving throughout her life. All the ‘small things’ will count. Every prayer, every good work prompted by faith. None of it is in vain. The Master Weaver is working all things together for good, for His mission and for His glory.