by Josh Hughes
Her name was Michelle.
On a warm day in the fall of 1998 she gathered a small group of giddy, terrified 14-year-old girls together, opened the Scriptures and began to teach. The first seeds were sown that day for a harvest of gospel fruit that is still being reaped in the lives of many of those girls.
Michelle discipled this group of girls all four years of high school. She gathered with them to study the Scriptures, she invited them over to her home to watch movies, she listened to them as they struggled through questions of faith, friends, and relationships, she mediated conflicts, and she encouraged them in their fights for faith.
A single woman in her 30s, she modeled for them contentment with the portion God assigns. She had joy - real joy that makes a difference in your life and changes the way you experience the everyday hardships in a fallen world.
Those girls’ lives and spiritual journeys were shaped indelibly by Michelle’s willingness to give herself away for people in discipleship.
I am an indirect beneficiary of Michelle’s ministry, because one of the 14 year old girls who attended that 1998 Bible study was Katie Wallace, who seven years later would become Katie Hughes.
When Katie and I started dating, I saw on her shelf a letter Michelle had written to her on the occasion of her high school graduation. It was thrilling to read Michelle’s words of affirmation as she encouraged and exhorted Katie, pointing out the many evidences of God’s grace in Katie’s life (evidences that had not escaped my notice and were quickly drawing my heart to hers in love).
Michelle was a woman of great faith, and that faith gave way to sight yesterday morning as her five year battle with cancer came to an end. But her faith lives on in the lives of the many women she poured into. If you’d like to read a more personal, detailed, and eloquent remembrance of her life, Katie has written one here.
On Saturday morning this week, I was asked to teach some of our group leaders on the topic of discipleship in community. At one point I observed that when Jesus came to earth, he knew better of what exactly “the good life” consists than any person who ever lived. Armed with this knowledge, he could have given himself to any pursuit in his life as a man. And to what did he dedicate his 33 years?
He worked with his dad, he worked with his hands, he ministered to the sick, he shared the good news, he loved the unlovely, and he made disciples.
As Katie and I sat up late last night reflecting on the resounding impact of Michelle’s life and her legacy of discipleship, I thought again of this truth and thanked God for how wholeheartedly Michelle embraced it.
May we all see with the same clarity the joy of giving ourselves away in service to others in the blessed work of discipleship.