IMG_6624[1]Stepping into the new year without my mom feels like entering a strange and unmapped land. Nothing feels familiar.

I am glad for the snow, pleased with the arctic frost that has descended, keeping me inside. As any farmer knows, winter is a time to rest, to re-gather ones strength and to prepare for what comes next.

It is ironic that after nearly two decades crisscrossing the Atlantic to live and work in some pretty perilous places, my mother took her last breath in a Connecticut nursing home.

“I am a small target,” she’d often say packing her bags on her way to the airport or phoning from her apartment in a Middle-Eastern city after a terrorist attack. “And I serve a big God.”

She was on a mission: to translate portions of scripture for a Central-Asian people who don’t yet have it in their own language. To do this, she sold our family home the year I left for college and enrolled in seminary, studying linguistics, theology, and Biblical languages. It was like having my own spiritual Dear Abby. Whenever I had a question about faith or doctrine, I called her up.

Several years ago, when Mom needed a place to rest, God led her to the Willimantic Camp Meeting Association – a historic Christian community in Connecticut – where friends helped renovate a snug cottage. It happened to be in the very town where her father and grandfather had lived and worked a century before.

There, over the six months of her illness, Mom was cared for by a cadre of compassionate neighbors and friends who picked up her groceries and washed her laundry and drove her to doctors before God called Mom to her ultimate home.

I knew my mom was creative. I knew she was artistic and clever and passionate. I knew she was in love with Jesus and wanted to share that love with those who’d never read about him in their own language. But until she died, I didn’t understand the obstacles she faced or her unwavering commitment.

“I know you’ll be okay.” She hugged me in her kitchen last summer after finding she had cancer. “But what about my people?”

She wept. Not because of her illness, but because of how much work remained. Later in a hospital bed, when a friend assured Mom that someone else would take up the work, she tapped her head and said, “How? It’s all in here.”

Saying goodbye to my mom, I promised that my brother and I would make sure her work got finished.

Where will that promise lead? I don’t know.

But I do know that the book she spent her life studying is often taken for granted in a place where all one has to do is pick up a Bible from a shelf. I’m as guilty as anyone of overlooking this treasure. This year, I invite you to take a closer look with me at the book that not only has changed history more than any other, but has changed lives – like my mom’s.