Today was all about one of the finest ladies I have ever met--Miss Eva Lodgaard. I met her soon after becoming the pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL. During her student days at Moody Bible Institute in the early 1940s, she attended the church in Oak Park. In January 1945 she left Chicago to begin her work with the Scripture Memory Mountain Mission in southeastern Kentucky. Miss Eva (which is what they call her in these parts) has been on the field serving the Lord in the mountains of Kentucky for 62 years.
In those days you didn’t need as much to get started as you need now. Miss Eva told us how one of the Sunday School classes at Calvary (back then it was called the Madison Street Bible Church) pledged $15 a month in support. Then someone else pledged $5 a month. That’s all she had—$20 in support. But off she went to the mountains of Kentucky.
In the beginning she didn’t have a car, but it didn’t matter because the dirt roads were mostly ruts in the ground. Sometimes they would walk from place to place, sometimes in the early years they would ride horses, going from school to school telling those forgotten mountain children about the Lord Jesus Christ.
It wasn’t an easy life. Nobody had much money, there wasn’t any electricity back in those hollows. People were dirt-poor. Not everyone was glad to see them.
Over these 62 years Miss Eva has seen God do some remarkable things—most especially how God brought into existence Camp Nathanael, which has become the hub and focus of the mission work. Each year hundreds of boys and girls memorize Bible verses so they can come to camp.
You think about it and you wonder what 62 years of mission work in the hills of southeastern Kentucky will do to a person. It’s not a glamorous life and you won’t read about her in People magazine. You wonder, are there any regrets? Does she wish she had spent her life in some more fashionable endeavor? I heard her say, ”If my body could take it, I would do it all over again.” Then she added, “It’s all been good.” She was smiling when she said it.
These days her health is not good. She lives in a nursing home in nearby Hindman. At the age of 90 she is frail and must use a wheelchair. Her voice is weak and she says her memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. But she seemed plenty sharp today. After I preached at the 11:15 AM service, Marlene and I ate lunch with Miss Eva and then we drove about 15 miles to visit the project that is closest to her heart, the Rockfork Bible Church. She and a co-worker began visiting this remote settlement over fifty years ago. They went house to house inviting children to come to Sunday School. It took decades of work but eventually the Sunday School became a church. At first they basically had a double-wide mobile home. Then they purchased some land and built a church. I preached at their Dedication Sunday a few years ago.With the help of volunteer church groups, the facility has been substantially improved. Miss Eva wanted us to see it while we were in the area.
I should note that the church has the most unusual pulpit I’ve ever seen. One of the men of the church saw an old TV set at a garage sale. He thought he could do something with it. Gutted of the picture tube and all the parts, the TV set became the frame for the pulpit. When you stand behind it, you are preaching where the TV screen used to be.
Near the end of our time together Miss Eva told us that she wants to go to heaven. She asked the Lord to allow her to make it to the 75th Anniversary Conference, which concludes tomorrow. Then she is ready to go home to be with the Lord. My feeling is, after 62 years on the field serving Christ, she is fully justified in desiring to go home to heaven. When I told her that I would pray that she would make it through tomorrow and then not long after that, she could go home to heaven, she said, “That’s what I want!” with the strongest voice of the day. Miss Eva is a delight, a model missionary, and a true servant of the Lord. Great will be her reward.