Piles of Gold
God’s story becomes our story in the crucible of redeemed life. For Joan McDonald, one could say it’s a tale that unfolded between her two great prayers – “Help!” and “Thank you!”
“Prayer is the most important thing in the world, but the discipline of prayer is hard,” Joan says. “I have to keep fighting that battle.” But prayer is the first thing she requests as we begin our interview and, as she talks, it becomes clear that prayer has sustained her – lifted her higher than she knew possible – through some heavy losses in recent years.
Joan’s husband, Darby (aka Phil), died of cancer in 2012, the same disease that claimed her youngest son, Ty, a year later. To her daily amazement, the peace and sufficiency of God carried her as the Lord pulled off miracle after miracle on her behalf. “He found someone to buy our house before it even went on the market – at the price I asked – and they paid cash!” Joan also wanted to stay near her friends. The Lord found her the perfect place about a mile away from home.
Joan learned long ago that God draws closest in the midst of our struggles – even if we don’t see Him right away.
In 1956, Darby completed seminary and moved his family to Minnesota to begin a lifelong ministry with Young Life first, and then Youth Forum. Money was tight in those early years as he helped raise both salary and budget, and it took Joan a long time to come to peace with that. “I had to let go and realize I’m helpless.” Darby was a “my cup overflows” kind of guy, and he helped her along the way by asking, “How many meals did you miss today?”
It turns out God was more than sufficient, and He rained blessings on the ministry. Young Life was new to Minnesota but the clubs grew by leaps and bounds. As many as 400 students attended Darby’s club at Washburn High School. Seven of them would go on to become full-time pastors. Jesus Christ was revealed through enduring friendships and changed lives, and Joan got to see it all. “We felt so privileged to watch so many young people come to Christ – over and over again.”
Today, Joan prays for nothing more than the persistence of prayer. It is her lifeline to the Father, who keeps her counting her blessings. “We think we have a God who doles out a little at a time, but He opens the floodgates. He says ‘I’m sitting on piles of gold…and you want pennies?’”
Joan knows because she’s been there, and she’s got the gold to prove it.
Joan McDonald, Hope Church member