Our trip is taking us from Charlotte, NC, to Zagreb, Croatia
Silvana (far right) with some members of our family at Patrick’s graduation, 2012
By the time you read this, I should have travelled 4,817 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to Zagreb, Croatia. Part of former Yugoslavia (before it was broken up into 5 different countries), Croatia is home to more than 1,000 islands and beautiful coastlines on the Adriatic Sea.
But, for me, Croatia’s greatest attraction is our former exchange student Silvana Milic, who lived with me and my family in 1995, while attending South Rowan High School. We have stayed in touch all these years (19 and counting). My family loves Silvana. In fact, my mother and mother-in-law are joining me on this travel adventure so they can see Silvana and experience her country as well.
I could never thank the Lord enough for allowing this amazing young woman to become part of our lives. We have a beautifully rich history together, and we actively work to keep our relationship strong. In fact, we talk over Skype just about every Sunday to stay in touch and pray together.
I’m about 20 years older than Silvana. I think of her as a daughter. She occasionally calls me her “Mother in Christ.” She also calls my mom and David’s mother, “Grandma.” I love that. It reminds me that we can have families of the heart, especially as believers in Jesus. That’s Biblical. We are urged to reach out to those younger and older.
Reaching Out To Those Younger
Older women in the church are told to “encourage the young women” in Titus 2:4, NASB. No matter what your age, most likely there is someone younger than you at church! When I was a young mom, I met a sweet teenager named Julie while I led the kindergarten Vacation Bible School at church. I fell in love with that energetic young lady with the big heart (so did most of the children). We kept in touch for years, talking, hugging, and encouraging one another. She went home to be with the Lord a few years ago, but the light of Jesus in her still shines in my soul. I feel I was so blessed by having Julie in my life, and I hope I was able to bless her a little, too.
With Silvana, I have had the joy of loving, counseling, and encouraging her as well. I’ve seen her faith unfold and grow stronger with time. The Lord has given me the privilege and blessing of being part of her life. I am a little farther down the road of life, and the Lord has allowed me to use my experiences to help Silvana . . . and others. What a gift! It gives me such joy to be able to help her at times because I love her so dearly. She helps and blesses me, too.
Connecting With Those Older
I’ve also experienced the treasures on the other end . . . being the younger one in a mentoring relationship. From the moment I visited our current church, Faye Bragg, a senior member of the congregation, took me under her wing. She loved me, encouraged me, counseled me, and strengthened me in my walk with the Lord. She always called me “Dear One,” and treated me as such, even though I was very young and new in my walk with Jesus. She loved me like He did, and she helped me learn more about Him. Faye gave the best hugs, and I could smell her perfume on me for a while after she hugged me. It made me smile. She went home to be with Jesus several years ago, but the fragrance of Jesus still clings to me from her life (2 Corinthians 2:15).
This idea of mentoring those younger and being mentored by those older is a good idea for all of us. We each have something to offer those in different generations, and we have something we can receive, if we are willing. Men and women alike can benefit from inter-generational relationships. Consider asking the Lord today to lead you in cultivating Christian friendships with individuals of different ages.
I am excited that we will have three generations together in Croatia for the next two weeks. I can’t wait to tell you about everything the Lord taught us in our travels together!
How has the Lord used older and younger individuals to impact your life? Comment at the link below.
Visit Susan’s website at susanjaneking.com