Is it karma? Is it a Devine wink from above? A calling? A God whisper? Whatever you want to call it-every now & then, we hear a story that stops us in our tracks, gives us pause, & connects us to spirit.
I heard Ohio Supreme Court Justice Eve Stratton tell this story at a work conference more than 10 years ago & it has stuck with me. In fact, every year during Advent, we read her story at our kitchen table for a little holiday Inspiration.
Devine Calling-strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence.
Karma- the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect)
THE WEAVING OF A STORY WORTH TELLING AGAIN & AGAIN
As told by Eve Stratton *This article contains a condensed version of this story, but maintains its integrity & is rich with cultural/historical/moral content.
I am convinced that God has a “particular course of action” in mind when He calls us to do His work. He plans that course far ahead, weaving events together in ways we can never foresee to reach that goal.
The weaving of this story begins with my parents, who were called to be missionaries. My Dad was a rough and tumble farm boy from Minnesota & a bomb demolition expert stationed on the New Hebrides Islands, during World War II. There, he watched missionaries work with the islanders and knew (without a doubt) that he was called to mission work.
Meanwhile, my Mom was on a different path. A poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Because her father was an alcoholic, my Mom had to quit school at age 16 to go to work and take care of her seven brothers and sisters. Yet, when she was only four years old, she had already announced she wanted to be a preacher. My Mom’s Aunt Cora was a positive influence in her life, taking her to Salvation Army meetings, where sermons led her to Jesus.
After his military service, my Dad headed to New York to attend Nyack (Christian/Seminary) College. Mom was in line for a promotion at an airplane factory, but realized that God’s course of action for her life required her to quit and immediately go to Bible school. At Nyack College, my parents met & fell in love.
My Dad wanted to go back to the New Hebrides Islands (New Guinea), but because of cannibalism there, the Christian & Missionary Alliance was not sending any new missionary candidates. The next opening was in Siam (now Thailand), but my parents would have to pay $1,000. for the passage to Thailand, which at that time was by boat. Additionally, missionary candidates were required to serve two years as pastors, under the theory if you didn’t make it as a pastor, you probably weren’t going to make it as a missionary. So Mom and Dad were sent to minister at a church in Prattville, Alabama. With Dad’s $50-a-week salary, saving the $1,000 passage money seemed impossible. But Mom was a prayer warrior. She prayed each day for the money and asked Dad each night when he came home if he had the check. And sure enough, one day he did!
A married couple in Toledo, Ohio, had asked the Christian & Missionary Alliance for a list of missionary candidates. The couple randomly picked my parents and sent $1,000 for passage money to my parents in Alabama. Little did any of us know what effect that course of action would have decades later.
LIFE AS A MISSIONARY KID
I was born & grew up in Thailand. I lived in a little town along the Laotian border. We didn’t have running water, electricity, telephones, or television. I remember a happy childhood with no deprivation. Although by American standards we were very poor, we were rich compared with other Thai kids. I never felt deprived as a child because we had a fairly nice house by Thai standards and we had one of the only two vehicles in the province, a Land Rover. I had a pretty typical missionary upbringing; I swung on vines, rode elephants, played in the dirt. Things my kids now do in video games. But when I was 6 years old life changed very dramatically, as I was sent to a mission-run boarding school in South Vietnam and was away from my parents nine months of the year. Years later, the President of South Vietnam visited our school the week before he was assassinated. As the Vietnam War became serious, we were no longer permitted to roam the mountain side, we were confined to campus, so I stayed with a mission family in Bangkok for awhile. All U.S. dependents were eventually ordered out of South Vietnam. So, they flew the entire school out; dorm parents, teachers, kids, forty tons of materials. My dad helped set up an emergency school in Bangkok where I rejoined the school. We had a little tiny room with triple decker bunks (6 in each room). It was not a good setting. So my dad and some other missionaries found another location in the mountains of Malaysia, a place called Tana Rata, and they moved the whole school there. That was where I graduated from.
I was thousands of miles away from my parents nine months out of each year after the age of six, attending boarding school in 3 different countries with folks we’d never met. I learned independence, decision-making skills and strength to handle tough situations—all qualities I would need in the future as a judge and Supreme Court Justice.
We are given exactly what we need to be our brilliant selF!
Like many missionary kids, I returned to the US for college. My parents each made $100 month now, so I came back to America (alone) with $500 my parents had saved for me. I had no connections in the U.S. I worked at McDonalds for awhile, which is why I always say “if you work at McDonalds, you can be a judge someday too.”
First, I was accepted into the Ohio State University School of Law on the first try, after being told it was too late to apply. Next, I was hired by a small trial firm at a time when almost no law firms were hiring women. I was in the courtroom constantly, which was the best training possible for becoming a good trial judge & I earned respect from lawyers who would later support me in my campaign. My plan was to try to become a judge by age 50 or so, as that was the youngest age among most trial judges.
But, at age 34, I had the opportunity to run for office. I defeated an incumbent to become the first woman and the youngest trial judge in my county. Seven years later, I again planned out my own course of action, trying to lay groundwork for the federal bench. But God pushed me in a different path when I was selected by the governor to be on the Ohio Supreme Court. This was unexpected, and the odds that I would be selected over more experienced judges further convinced me that it was God’s plan. With the “clout” of my title, I have been able to bring about real attention and reforms and feel that this is part of why God gave me this important job.
VIOLET MOON; EVEN MORE DEVINE
When I was in private practice, I often helped the members of my church community with wills & estate planning. One of my clients was Ethel Morris, a sweet, elderly widow. So she came in one day with this letter in her hand from an insurance company. She was very distressed, as she explained that her sister, Violet Moon, needed to have serious brain surgery, but her insurance had been cancelled. I offered to investigate and learned that a medical side effect of Violet Moon’s brain condition was memory loss, which accounted for her forgetting to pay the insurance premium. After consulting with doctors and the hospital, I persuaded the insurance company to reinstate her coverage if she remitted the back premiums. As a result, Violet Moon was able to have this very expensive and successful brain surgery.
Some time later, I let my church community know that my missionary parents were coming to visit. Ethel wanted to invite her sister Violet Moon to come to meet my parents at church that week. So, Ethel called Violet:
Ethel: “Eve Stratton’s missionary parents are coming to church on Sunday, can you come with me and meet them?”
Violet: “You know, I love missionaries; I know a lot of them. What are their names?”
Ethel: “Their names are Corinne and Elmer Sahlberg.”
There was a long pause.
Then, Violet said: “That’s very strange. Thirty-five years ago, my husband and I gave Corinne and Elmer Sahlberg $1,000 to go to Thailand. I didn’t know they were Eve Stratton’s parents!”