I just returned from Alaska on behalf of HeartCall, a wonderful approach to
teaching women effective ways to reach others for Christ. We had 1500 women who
participated, 13 who committed to fulltime vocational ministry, and 500 who
agreed to reach others with Bible studies. For information about HeartCall
Im immersed in evangelism, but that wasnt my upbringing. My parents owned
and managed bars in Montana for a living, so thats where, as one of 10
children, I grew up. Church was not part of our life.
Thanks to an invitation from a college roommate, I went to a Baptist Student
Union event where I heard about Jesus at the age of 18. I gave Him my life and
have never looked back. The discipleship I received during the next three years
laid a foundation that has withstood the severest of tests.
God called me to ministry even before I married Gary Starke. After attending
seminary, Gary and I and our three daughters spent eight years planting
churches in a 150-mile triangle of Montana backcountry. We led and started
churches in Malta, Zortman and Sun Prairie.
I could tell you some hilarious stories about how we battled harsh elements
as well as hard attitudes in order to share the gospel. One frosty morning, I
got too close to the wood stove in our Sunday school room, and my skirt caught
About three years ago we left the highline area and relocated to Great
Falls, Montana, where most of my nine siblings still live. Gary pastored a
fairly new church, Falls Community Baptist, and we purchased a building in
nearby Black Eagle. That building was one of the bars where Id spent part of my
I have the gift of evangelism, so I attended a training seminar for
HeartCall and began leading workshops in the Northwest. About that time,
Just before 6 a.m. on March 21, 2000, while I was still in bed, Gary walked
into the kitchen. I heard him cry out Oh, God followed by a resounding thump as
his body fell straight backwards onto the floor. I ran to him and called for
help. Emergency personnel were unable to resuscitate him. Other than mild
asthma, Gary had never been sick, and suddenly, at 42 years old, hed had a
heart attack and was gone.
To say my life radically changed is an understatement.
I had always been a pastors wife. As much as I miss Gary terribly, I also
miss being Garys wife and his partner in ministry. Like most couples we worked
hard at becoming onenow I feel like a half. But God has been faithful and
taught me a great deal, helping my girls and me walk through this time,
continue in ministry and grow in our faith.
Thank goodness, Gary and I taught our girls to pray. The first week after he
died, when I couldnt pray, the girls could. My daughters prayed me through
those first difficult days.
The discipleship I received as a new believer equipped me with invaluable
disciplines that sustained me in my dark hour. The morning after Gary died, I
rose early and read my Bible as usual, and God spoke to me in a deeply personal
I found myself doing what I had always donepraying, reading the Word,
fellowshipping with other believers. And because of that, God surrounded me
with His love. Montana Baptists flooded us with calls of support and
My daughters and their friends were like medicine to my soul because
they just let me cry; it didnt upset them. They had no hang-ups about talking
to a widow. Some people just dont know what to say to someone who has lost a
spouse or a child, so they simply avoid them. Im thankful that the teens in my
life just treated me like they always had, and that was such a comfort.
God has been very near, even on days when I dont want to get out of bed. I
believe that Garys death was of God. He took Gary home. So I tell God, Im your
problem! You did this to me. Its up to You to take care of me. And He has.
Im busy, and thats a good thing. Besides parenting three wonderful
daughters, I work part-time at a bank. I attend college and hope to go to
seminary. I am childrens minister at Crossroads Memorial Baptist and lead
HeartCall workshops, which is my way to help others be on mission.
My call to ministry hasnt changed even though my husband is no longer here.
If anything, it has been Gods call that has sustained me and given me hope for
The night before Gary died we prayed together, and he encouraged me to not
worry about the little things that trouble our lives. Life is just this short,
Gary said, holding his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart. You never know
when youll be with Jesus.
Whats your special mission and how do you find ways of sharing
Christ with others? Send your story to On Mission magazine, 4200 North Point
Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30022-4176 or fax 770-410-6006 or email@example.com
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