“When I allow difficulties to come into your life, I equip you fully to handle them.”
Utther Finau: My mom was actually the happiest person that I’ve ever met. She was always smiling and laughing, and she had this way of making me smile and laugh no matter how sad or how down I was. Another thing about her was that she truly carried a servant’s heart. She always put other people’s needs in front of hers. Like, whether it was my siblings and I, or just random strangers, she loved helping other people.
One of the things she taught me was that we were put on this Earth to help each other and to love one another, and in doing so we’d be praising God’s name. I think she really lived up to that virtue of hers, and it was one of her priorities in life.
Narrator: Utther Finau is a member of the First United Methodist Church in Grapevine, Texas. Her mother, Lina Finau, was a big personality who quietly made her influence felt in the community with her attitude of joy and service to others. Cindy Ryan, associate pastor at Grapevine UMC, recounts Lina’s unique presence in her church family:
Cindy Ryan: Lina Finau was another lovely person in our congregation that just radiated Christ’s love. She was the mom of six children and she just was the most humble person that was involved in so many areas of serving and then would bring her children up here to serve. She was involved in a variety of bible studies, and I just think she kind of instinctively knew how important it was to be engaged in the Word, and to be living that out.
Utther: I decided pretty early on that I wanted to be a minister, and I think my mom and dad played a huge role in that. But I guess after a while, that thought just sort of went away, or I became insecure on whether or not I was getting a call of ministry or if I was just trying to make my parents happy, so I was unsure for a really long time on if it really was what I wanted to do.
Cindy: Lina, somewhere along the way, learned that I had this perpetual supply of Jesus Calling and so, a few years ago, she started coming in to see me and she would always look sheepish and be shy about it and said to me, the first time like, “Could I please have one of those copies of Jesus Calling?” I said, of course, that’s what they’re for.
Utther: one time she told me, after I came home from school one day, she looked really happy, and so I could tell she was dying for someone to just ask her what was wrong. And so I like played along, and I asked her why she was so happy, and she went on to talk about how she met this woman who was going through a really tough time in her life, and how she decided that she wanted to give away her book, but I didn’t know it was the Jesus Calling book.
Cindy: A few months later, she’s back again with the same look on her face, the same kind of thing and she said, “I gave them all away.” I said, Lina, I told you. I want you to give them away but I want you to keep one for yourself and so, I was just really kind of messing with her but I opened it up and I wrote on the inside, “This is Lina’s copy of this book. Nobody take from her.” and then I signed my name and gave it to her with a couple of other books, so she could give them away.
Utther: My mom loved Jesus Calling. I think that it was– she found something in the book that made her want to share it with everyone around her. I don’t know, just the fact that she was giving it away so much, it sort of, like, with her character, it just sort of speaks that she thought it was important, and that as many people as possible should read it, and that she, yeah, I think she really loved the book.
Utthe: Back in 2001, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I was around three, so I don’t actually remember what was going on, but I do know that it was a scary time for our family, and my mom wasn’t ready to let go of us, and we weren’t ready to let go of her. The church played a huge role in that, they would bring us dinner, and they would always tell us how much they loved us, and they’d just be there for us, but luckily after a few years of surgery and by the grace of God, really, she came out cancer-free. She was healthy for a really long time, and I’m thankful for that time, for that extra time I got with her.
Cindy: I think it was about six months ago. Lina went to the doctor and had had some pain and it turned out that they believed her cancer was back and that it was bad.
Utther: It came to the point where she couldn’t stand it anymore, and so finally, she got scheduled for surgery so that the doctors could see what exactly was going on in her body. That night I remember a bunch of our family waited with us in the waiting room, and my aunt is the one that delivered the news, because my dad couldn’t say it out loud, that her cancer had come back, and that it had spread pretty badly, and she wasn’t in good shape at all.
They walked us to our mom’s room and it was weird, all the pastors from this church, from Grapevine, they just sort of lined up along the wall leading up to my mom’s room, and they were just giving us hugs and telling us how much they loved us, and telling us that they’d always be there for us. I guess that really helped us deal with the pain that we suffered that day.
God is not a careless god, and how he does everything for a reason, and he’ll never put you in a situation that you can’t handle.
Cindy: Again, in our church, this sudden, really to us, death of someone we really loved and admired and treasured was gone. Plus, the mother of all these kids and so, it’s almost more than you can bear.
Utther: It was a few hours after the funeral home had come and taken her body away, and we were all still in the ICU waiting room for some reason, I really don’t know why.
One of my cousins pulled out her Jesus Calling book, and she just starts reading it for that day, May 14th, and I remember like before she was reading it, I was just didn’t know how to feel at that point. I just didn’t know what to do, I sort of felt numb, I guess, but then she started reading it, and that day’s devotional actually focused on just how to deal with loss, sort of, and it talked about how God uses the weak and the unfortunate to show how great his power is, and it also talked about how we have to break ourselves down, and how we have to be dependent on God, and how important that is.
One of the things that stuck out to me the most though, was it was talking about how God’s not a careless god, and how he does everything for a reason, and he’ll never put you in a situation that you can’t handle. I guess that sort of gave me the strength to carry on.
Cindy: Then after the time of visitation, we had the funeral, which was a combination of cultures really and there are over a thousand people in attendance of this funeral because Lina, even in her humble attitude just made all these friends and connections. It was really one of the most beautiful funerals I’ve ever seen because the music came from inside the people and was just so healing..
When I got up to speak, I just said this must be what heaven is like to hear the singing and all these languages.
Utthe: For my mom’s funeral service, I was put in charge of making the slideshow that was going to be rolling throughout the entire service. Just looking through all the pictures, I just got curious as to what was the stories going on behind all these pictures, like what was happening, and so I convinced one of her younger sisters to come sit down with me and actually explain what was going on.
I understood more aspects of my mom that I have never known before, and just one of the things that stood out the most was how much she really did enjoy helping other people, and how much joy she found in it, and just how much of a people person she was, and how she loved talking to other people and helping them in whatever way she could.
Cindy: In my time of talking about Lina, I felt like I just needed share a little bit about who she was and the way that I found to do that was to talk about Jesus Calling. I told the story of me having those books and her knowing about it and her coming to get them. How she kept coming and getting them and then giving them away and finally how I said, I wrote in that one book and I said, what I know about Lina is that probably somebody in this room has that book. Everybody laughed… and I just love that about her, and I loved her faith and treasured it.
Then the strangest thing was after the funeral was over, literally, I’m standing at the back door of the church and they’re wheeling out her casket and this beautiful Tongan woman comes up to me and says, “I have that book you were talking about.” And I said, oh, you have Jesus Calling. She said, “No. I have that book. The book you wrote in.” She told me what it said and then told me my name was in there and it just took my breath away because as a pastor, you tell stories but you don’t always get to hear that they’re true and you don’t always have the person right in front of you that has it.
That was just another beautiful thing in the midst of losing Lina.
Utther: After I heard about my mom’s act of giving and how it was just, like how great it was, I was sort of reminded that I do want to give to other people, and the best way I think you can give to other people is to help, help and guide them on their journey of faith. And so I just wanted to do that when I grew older, and my faith, or my call to the ministry just, it strengthened after I learned about that.
Nowadays, like you could see me working in the nursery every week, and while I’m working in the nursery, some weeks I act as a buddy for some of the children in special needs that the nursery has. I don’t know, I feel like that’s a great way of giving back.
I realized that I love helping people too, and I am my mom’s daughter, and I want to do what I can for others. It’s little things like that, she taught me to always be optimistic. No matter what God throws your way, to always just take it on with a smile because he’s still on your side, and you can get through it no matter what.
NARRATOR: Lina Finau exemplified the heart of a servant, even as she struggled through her own challenges. She brought joy to those around her and spread that message further by using Jesus Calling as a tool to start the conversation. Her life has inspired her daughter to take a similar road, one that will no doubt lead to many more who might experience the joy that she is determined to spread.
Next time on the Jesus Calling podcast, we hear from Associate Pastor Cindy Ryan about her own experience with Jesus Calling during a personal crisis she was tackling on her own during one of the biggest times of upheaval in her church family… A pastor finds the strength to lead her flock during the most challenging season they would all know…next time on The Experience Jesus Calling podcast...
Our excerpt from Jesus Calling for this show comes from the May 14thentry:
I am a mighty God. Nothing is too difficult for me. I have chosen to use weak ones like you to accomplish my purposes. Your weakness is designed to open you up to my power. What I require of you is to stay connected to Me, living in trusting dependence on My limitless resources. I am not a careless God. When I allow difficulties to come into you life, I equip you fully to handle them. Relax in my Presence, trusting in My strength.
Do you have an experience with Jesus Calling that has had an impact on your life? We’d love to hear from you. Visit JesusCalling.com and share your story with us.