Rural missions brings people into your life that show you the face of God in some of the most unsuspecting, yet profound ways. Walter Owen is one of those people. I met Walter a few years ago when RAM started ministering in the community of Carnegie, OK (pop 1700). He will be 89 years old this year. He is barely five feet tall and I doubt that he weighs a hundred pounds. But he is a giant of a man.
Don’t be fooled by what your eyes tell you. Spend a few hours with Walter and your heart will tell you something largely different! Walter is a living example of the paradoxical reality of the “unseen.” He has one of the kindest, gentlest spirits I have ever known infused with a strength and tenacity men twice his size could not match. His 89 years have included living through the Great Depression. (He told me of his childhood, growing up in a house with no insulation, the walls and windows fissured with cracks that let the cold winter winds whistle through while he and his family huddled near the single stove to keep warm.) He made his living through the back-breaking work of farming and ranching, adopted and raised three children, loved and remained faithful to one woman for 50+ years including caring for her through sickness and until her death. He has endured his own health issues from diabetes to heart problems; and rarely mentions them. His life has been a composition of sweet memories and hard disappointments. Even recently his home was burglarized, the thieves stealing several irreplaceable personal possessions. They robbed him of the visible and material, but they could not steal what they could not see. They could not steal the heart of this giant of a man.
I asked him this week about his health and he told me he doesn’t have as much energy as he used to, but he can still see good enough to read. And read he has! He informed me he’s already read through the NT approximately 10 times this year! But Walter doesn’t just read his bible. Through the years he has shared his faith on many occasions with friends and neighbors. Many of them he has brought to the same Jesus he loves. The love I see in Walter is none other than the power of the Holy Spirit at work in Walter’s small frame. It is this presence of God that transforms him into a giant of a man.
I told Walter this week that dynamite comes in small packages. He replied, “This one ain’t got no fuse.” I laughed and admired the humor and humility of this giant of a man. One other thing he told me, shortly before I left his house yesterday. He said he was looking forward to dying. It wasn’t said with despair. There was a longing in his eyes as he went on to describe what he meant, “No more pain. No more tears. No more sin.” It was the longing of a giant of a man. A man whose heart and soul have become too big for death to constrain. When I grow up, I want to be like Walter Owen.
” Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – II Corinthians 4:16-19