Monday, November 29, 2010

A Tribute To My Best Friend

Warning: If you don't like mushy and sentimental stuff, don't read this. If you don't think it is right to lavish praise upon a person, don't read this. This post is simply the reflections of one very happily married man about the wonderful person that God gave him to be his wife. You have been warned.

Fall of 2009
When I was a teen boy and later a Bible college student I remember that many of the guys (including me) had Proverbs 18:22 as their life's verse. "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD." Now as I approach 14 years of marriage I find that I believe that verse more wholeheartedly than I ever did before. Back then, I HOPED I could find a good wife. Now I KNOW that I have found one! As we celebrate 10 years on the mission field, I want to take a few minutes to pay tribute to my very best friend, my beautiful wife, Angela.

I thought about doing an interview like I did with my kids, but that is just not her style. She doesn't like to talk about herself, and doesn't like public attention. So instead of an interview, I decided to just write from my own heart about who she is and what she means to me. So without further ado, here are a few of the reasons why I love my wife. 

1. She has always supported me unconditionally as I follow God's leading.
When we first met, she knew I was mission-field bound, so it's not like I had to spring any big announcements on her as some missionaries have had to do; nevertheless, I appreciate so much being married to a woman who has always stood with me and encouraged me to follow God's leading no matter the place. I will never forget the day we made a final decision that Cambodia would be our field of service. After numerous circumstances in which God seemed to be opening the door of opportunity and opening our hearts to Cambodia, I told her that I was ready to make it official. I have never forgotten her response. She said, "If that's where you think God is leading us, then I am all for it!" And from that day until this she has maintained that same kind of support for our life as missionaries in Cambodia.

Angela and I with our language teacher, Sopavee, 2001
2. She proceeded to an unknown place with a great deal of courage.
For the record, I do recommend that future missionaries take a survey trip if possible. I think there is much value in that, but it just didn't work out that way for us. We were planning to take a trip to check things out, but deputation was progressing quickly and smoothly, so we made the decision to save the money we would have spent on a trip and use it for getting set up in Cambodia. It was actually her idea to forego the trip. Once we got to Cambodia, I was surprised at how quickly she adjusted and how happy she was with everything. Only later did I find out that she had been thinking that we would be living in a hut with no electricity and that she would be doing laundry by hand in the river! Well, I guess if that's what she was expecting, I can see why she was so quickly and easily satisfied with her new life.

3. She has always been willing to do without when necessary.
When we first got married, I suggested that we just buy some used furniture at a thrift store since we were soon to start deputation. She agreed. When we travelled on deputation, she was so easy-going and flexible about living out of a suitcase. The first couple of years in Cambodia, we postponed some of the "settling-in", since we were not yet living in a permanent place. Then we rented our current house to start a church and needed to use the living room as an auditorium. One of the 3 small bedrooms had to serve as a living room for a couple of years, and I was feeling kind of bad for our family to be so cramped. Then it got worse when the church grew and we had to knock down one of the bedrooms to expand the auditorium. That meant we were down to no living room at all. When we had company over, we would just set up some of the church chairs in a circle and visit in the auditorium. I continued to feel bad for my wife to have no place to decorate or to make her own, but I never heard one word of complaint the whole time. Finally in late 2005 God provided an opportunity for our church to move to a different location! It was my joy to take my wife out and buy a few pieces of furniture and help her hang things on the walls...7 and 1/2 years after we married! I appreciate her willing spirit to just make the best of every situation.

Mother's Day, 2006, with Candace, Deborah, Emma, Faith, and Stephen
4. She has exhibited rock-solid faith in heavy trials.
I have always been amazed and thankful for my wife's steadiness when unexpected (and sometimes dangerous) situations arise. For instance, when thieves broke into our house (while we were in it), when a large rock was thrown through the back window of our van (while we were in it), and when a large German Shepherd attacked one of our daughters, she expressed the natural fear and concern that would be expected, but never out-of-control panic. But no valley has been deeper than the death of our 22 month-old daughter, Faith, back in 2006. I remember thinking a couple of hours after Faith passed away, "Well, that's it...we'll have to go home...Angela is not going to want to live here any more with this painful memory." But I was wrong. Although the hurt was very deep and the tears were many, yet she had a mature and faith-filled view of life even in the midst of those dark days. Her view was very typical of her - short, practical, to-the-point: "You have to live SOMEwhere, so it might as well be here where God called us." To the glory of God, I never once heard her accuse God or blame God for anything.

5. I know without a doubt that I am her favorite person in the world.
I know this sounds selfish, but I really like being liked. I especially like being liked by my wife! It sounds silly to even have to say this, but these days it seems like so many couples have their own worlds, separate from each other, and merely come home at the end of the day and sleep under the same roof. Some women have so many friends and such a full social calendar that one wonders when they have time to cultivate a friendship with their husband. I'm really glad that my wife would rather go to lunch with me than with anyone else in the whole world. I'm glad she would rather go to the store with me than by herself. I'm glad that I am her favorite person in the world. She's mine too!

Santa Barbara, California, 2006
6. She makes our home really comfortable and inviting.
Several missionaries have said to us over the years, "You have the most comfortable house in Cambodia!" And I agree! Angela decided from day one that she would do her best to make our home a pleasant and desirable place to be, and she has succeeded. Those who live here will know what I mean when I say that it is not always easy to make your home beautiful here in Cambodia. The concrete walls, the electricity and plumbing which are constantly malfunctioning, the odd-colored tile in many of the rooms, the prison bars on every window, the water spots from heavy rain and poor construction, the lizards dropping their "gifts" on every wall in the house, the never-ending dirt and dust...yes, it is a challenge. But I have seen her make a determined effort to make sure that the house is a haven of rest for our family. She decorates beautifully for each season of the year. She sews and makes little accents to add to the ambiance. She rearranges and experiments in a never-ending quest to make our house a place that we all want to be.

Our dining room, decorated for Thanksgiving
7. She helps everyone maintain a cheery and happy mood in our home.
We laugh a lot in our home! All of our children are fun-loving and fun to be around, and I credit much of that to their mother. She knows how to have a good time. Sometimes at bedtime when she is in the bedroom with the older girls I will hear all of them just laughing and having a grand time. Usually she is telling some funny story from her own childhood. And when just the two of us are together, there is even more laughter than when she is with the kids. I know how to make her laugh, and she knows how to make me laugh.

8. She creates many special memories with our children.
I have often heard it said that one of the greatest things a person can do for their children is to love their spouse with all of their heart. While I certainly do believe that, I also think the same principle applies in the other direction - one of the greatest things a person can do for their spouse is to love their children. I love the things my wife does with and for our children. I can't tell you how many times I have come home at the end of the day and heard one of the girls say, "Daddy, we had a tea party today! Mommy made cookies and served us tea out of her good tea set!" Or little Stephen will say, "Daddy, Mommy made us S'mores parfaits after lunch!" She also takes time to teach each individual child how to do things. Each of our older girls have meals, cookies, and pies that they consider "their specialty", because Angela has spent time teaching them how to make it. The girls perhaps love nothing more than getting to spend a couple of hours working in the kitchen with just mommy.

A special tea party that Angela made for the family on Valentine's Day, 2010

9. She is very creative and industrious.
I remember when I first met my wife at Hopewell Baptist Church in Napa, CA, she was a very efficient secretary working in the church office. She was a proficient typist and could very competently operate all of the office equipment. I didn't really think much of it at the time, but later I discovered that everything she knew how to do she had taught herself. In the past 10 years in Cambodia, she has taught herself a whole different set of skills. When we first moved here, many of the needed ingredients for cooking American food were not available, so she learned how to make things from scratch. She now has a reputation among both Cambodians and missionaries alike of being an excellent cook. In fact, my kids are constantly telling her that she should start a restaurant! A few years ago, I bought her a sewing machine, and she started playing around with it, learning how to use it. When she is learning something new, her learning-style is to observe, attempt, adjust, and try again. We bought two couches at an Australian embassy auction a few years ago. They were super comfortable (compared to what they sell here) but totally hideous. Angela took the slipcovers totally apart, then made new covers for the couches by using the pieces of the old cover as a pattern. Many times when her sewing machine or surger has broken down, she has just gotten out the manual (the surger manual is in Chinese, but it has pictures!) or logged on to the internet, found the solution to the problem, and fixed it herself! 

Angela likes to announce activities on the
chalkboard hanging on the kitchen door.
Last week she started some holiday baking,
so she designated a certain day as "Cookie Day"
and scheduled each of the three older girls
to work with her to make a different kind of cookie.

10. She excels at behind-the-scenes work.
Some people like to be in front of people, and other people like to serve behind the scenes. My wife is the latter. She doesn't do public speaking and she doesn't like being in the public eye, but she is a first-rate champion when it comes to details, logistics, and making things happen. When we have a church potluck, she herself is hard to find, but everything is perfectly in place down to the last serving utensil. When engaged in an active ministry of teaching, preaching, coming and going, making visits, counseling, picking people up for church, taking them home afterwards, etc, it is so important to have a co-laborer who can be trusted to keep everything running smoothly on the home front. I'm glad she takes this role seriously. I'm glad she does this job well. And I'm glad she does these things with joy!

11. She is content with life.
I guess conventional wisdom is that missionaries love furlough. To be sure, we all look forward to the chance to see friends and family, to hear preaching and music in English, to eat at some of our favorite restaurants, and to enjoy the change in weather and scenery. But you may be surprised to hear that the one who anticipates furlough the least in our house is my wife. It's not that she dislikes America, but she is just so content with her life that she doesn't care for the disruption. She loves her house, her husband, her children, her church, and her little corner of the world. And you know what? It's really easy to love a person who is that happy and content. How I thank God for this special lady! It has been my great joy and privilege to make this journey with her, and I look forward to all the years and miles that yet lie before us.

Bangkok, Thailand, 2009, with Candace, Deborah, Emma,
Stephen, Gabby, and Seth (about 2 days old)


  1. I have to say that was my favorite post :)

  2. What a beautiful tribute to an amazing woman! It is a blessing that you have a gift for so eloquently expressing your thankfulness for her. It allows us all to share in your desire to praise the Lord for His wonderful plan of marriage! Thanks for posting this.

  3. Angela is a special person!!! How blessed I would be to get to "rub sholders" with her. I know I could learn a lot.
    What a joy it is to have her in our family. Love you, Angela!!!!

  4. That was a wonderful article about your wife and help meet. However, I think I can speak for most anyone that reads your updates regularly: this was not a surprise at all! Everything you said in this article has been said a thousand times before in numerous other articles in not so many words. What a joy to hear how God put the two of you together and how He is using you today. Praise the Lord!
    Kari Quinlan

  5. Angela, thank you for the wonderful testimony. It sounds like you are truly a Proverbs 31 women. Thank you for your sacrifice and love for the people God has sent you. Pro 31:28 "Her children arise up,and call her blessed;her husband also, and he praiseth her."

  6. It's good to be reminded what a treasure you have in Angela. Nothing you said surprised me, but I realized that because Angela likes to stay in the shadows we sometimes forget how God has blessed you by bringing your lives together. Every husband and every child should be so blessed. Only eternity will tell all that she has done for your family and your ministry. Knowing you have Angela with you makes our minds and hearts rest easier over here.
    By the way, love the picture of the two of you on the water.

  7. Thank you for sharing this! It convicted me in many areas-she truly is a Proverbs 31 Lady!

  8. You've got to be kidding me! No way am I letting my husband read this! I don't think you found a wife, I think you found an angel! What a blessing, I'm so delighted for you. If I ever get to meet her, I'm sure she'll be gracious enough not to notice how humbled I'll be, lol! Thanks for the great article, and reminder of what we wives are supposed to be.

  9. Bro. Benefield, Linda and I just read this together, and with the time that we have spent with her both in Cambodia and in the States, we have seen all of these attributes that you have mentioned. I think about the giant heart-shaped cookies she made every day during the VBS weeks back in 2008. One of the greatest aspects of my time in Cambodia is the wonderful time I have had with your family in your home. You and Mrs. Benefield and the kids have always made Linda and me feel so welcome- and I know that Mrs. Benefield has a lot to do with that. Thank you for this awesome post.