A dear sister went to be with the Lord last week. It was an honor to know her. She loved people, and she loved God’s word. We grieve, but we grieve with hope. Arlene is now with her Savior face to face.
Here are the words one sister spoke at the memorial service about the valuable lessons she learned from Arlene:
by Lina Charlene Niyubahwe
I met Arlene sometime last year at Thursday night Bible study. Her features reminded me of my mom with her big smile and warm and motherly voice, so I went and introduced myself. She was curious to know what my mother was like and from there our friendship began.
In Luke 6:47-48, Jesus said these words:
Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it has been well built.
Our sister Arlene was that person in so many ways. Her foundation and rock was Jesus Christ, her Lord and Savior. Here are 3 things (among many) that I, and many of the ladies she knew, learned from her:
First, her priority:
Every time you were with Arlene, you would know either things she is praying about or the scripture she read that morning in her time in the Word. She did not brag, she did not apologize, she just LOVED the Lord, so she LOVED speaking about him to people she met with. It was effortless, genuine and authentic. This was one of her text to me one day: “Hey Lina, just want to let you know I’m praying for you and your hubby and I missed you this week. No need to reply, I’m getting ready to turn my phone off and have some time with our Father (smiley face). Love ya.” That was on a Monday night at 6:24 pm.
She understood that her identity did not come from her passport or her resumé or even her bank account, but what her Creator God says in His Word. She knew and delighted in being a child of GOD through Christ, and that relationship, was her priority.
Second, her intentionality:
Although all I wanted to do around Arlene was listen to her (with a notebook in hand so I could jot down all her wisdom), what was remarkable about her was how intentional all her life was. Many of us will agree that she challenged us with her deep questions, mostly about how to live out deep biblical truths, whether at the evening Women’s Bible Study, or on Thursday nights or in one-on-one relationships. The other thing was, every time we met, she’d give me homework. HOMEWORK. You gotta love teachers! She would say something like: “Next time we meet, I want you to think about what you understand about seeking first the kingdom of God and we’ll discuss together.”And, you bet, she’d ask the next time.
I will not forget at some point during this COVID quarantine, my husband and I had a Zoom call with Arlene to discuss challenges in evangelism in our lives. We were on the couch in our home. She was in a hospital bed on the other side of the screen with her Bible, notebooks and glasses. She had obviously thought it through and prepared verses and questions.
She did the same with many other women. Because her priority was to please her Lord, she was intentional with her life.
Third, her generosity:
Words and time aren’t enough to speak of Arlene’s generosity. She valued everyone she met and believed in God’s providence in the big and the little things. I think of her good friend Kadien who did her hair at a salon here in Dubai. Their first conversations were about the goodness of God. They quickly became kindred spirits. Arlene was still working in Ras Al Khaima at the time, and would drive on Thursday nights to spend time with her for discipling. They spent Christmas in Dubai together. During the lockdown, as most businesses were closed, Arlene would order groceries to Kadie’s door. Arlene’s care for Kadie did not stop with Kadie, she was in touch with her teenage son in Jamaica, as she encouraged him to follow the Lord.
One time, I had been sick for a few days and did not tell her, partly thinking that she had bigger things to think about. You know what she said when I told her a few days later? “My dear sister, please don’t wait to let me know when something is going on with you. You are so precious to me and I want to always be able to advocate on your behalf to our Lord.” That was the day she started her radiation therapy.
Arlene was generous with her time, with opening her home and with her resources even through her sickness. She could have isolated herself in exhaustion and so she wouldn’t “be a burden.” But she knew how Christ had been generous to her, forgiving her sins and giving her a new heart and a new life in Him, so she did not hold back in loving others, whether she was well or sick.
One day she said this to me about her treatment: “Quiet frankly, the insight that I am receiving from God outweighs this little temporary discomfort by FAR! It can’t compare to the level of intimacy that God has so graciously given to me through this cancer!”
I look up to Arlene as she reminded me to come to Jesus, hear his words and do them. She indeed was like the one who built a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the Rock. Her priority, her intentionality and her generosity, among other things, spoke so much of our Lord.
Here is one of the songs that was dear to Arlene. Some of you know it. It’s called “We’ll Work Till Jesus Comes.”
O land of rest, for thee I sigh! When will the moment come, When I shall lay my armor by, And dwell in peace at home? I sought at once my Savior’s side; No more my steps shall roam; With Him I’ll brave death’s chilling tide, And reach my heav’nly home.
Arlene is no longer laboring. The moment has come. She’s reached her heavenly home and is in the presence of her Savior.
Lina is assistant women’s ministry director at the United Christian Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.