Monday, January 27, 2014

Influence: Flowing from the inside out!

The events earlier this month surrounding the home-going of my dear mother, Rose, are bringing to mind some incredibly important spiritual leadership lessons.  One of these leadership lessons is about influence.  I've been reminded that influence as a leader comes primarily from who we are on the inside.  It doesn't come from our position or even from what we do.

I saw this powerfully in the life of my mother.  She had this amazing trust in God that stemmed from a deep personal relationship with Jesus. Her love for others and her grace as a mother and as a wife all grew out of her dependence on Jesus, her confidence in Him, and her daily reliance on His love and faithfulness. For her, the capacity to serve in ministry, the ability to go the extra mile as a friend, wife, employee, and mother, and even the ability to engage in activities which were well out of her comfort zone, all grew out of who she saw herself to be in Christ, and her dependence on Christ in every situation.  It was this inner quality that gave her the ability to leave a huge and lasting impact on so many people over the 90 years that God gave her on this planet.

In thinking about her and her life, I want to give tribute to her by sharing a little of her story, and really a bit of my own story!  What an amazing impact she had on me and on countless others for good and for God!

Rose Peterson was born on June 29, 1923 in Rockford, IL, along with her twin brother, Roy, to Swedish immigrant parents, Peter and Sigrid Challberg.  Peter and Sigrid had only been in America for a few short years, yet, relied fervently on their personal relationship with Christ and led Rose and Roy to place their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  Peter worked in a furniture factory and among other things, helped to make pianos which would become a life long love for his daughter Rose.   Peter and Sigrid spoke Swedish in their home, but Rose and Roy soon picked up English at school and with their friends.  Music and a deep love for Christ and for serving Him characterized Rose's growing up years.

Rose's journey as a young adult led her to attend Bethel College in St. Paul, MN.  She had a heart for the Bible, for God, and for serving Him.  In the summer of 1944, she was serving in churches throughout the State of MN by helping to lead summer vacation Bible classes for children.  One of Rose's friends invited her to Sioux Falls, SD for a picnic on the Fourth of July weekend.  Who would have thought that one of the army servicemen temporarily stationed in Sioux Falls would have his eye on this lovely Rose and begin a pen pal relationship that would eventually lead to marriage.  Yes, Rose married Walter Peterson or Wally as he was called on May 3, 1947, after Wally completed his military service and began his own training for the ministry. A new home was set up in the married couple's dorm at Bethel in St. Paul, MN.

While Wally studied at Bethel and served as Pastor at Glenwood, MN Baptist Church and later Isanti Baptist Church, Rose and Wally's family started to grow as Dan was born in 1950 and Dave came along in 1952.   Rose served in the ministry along side of Wally and showed God's love in her home as their new family started to grow.

At the age of 30, with 2 small boys in their home, Rose moved with her husband, Wally, to Grand Rapids, MI to begin a journey of missionary work that lasted for nearly 50 years.  They worked together to plant new Christ centered churches all across the State of Michigan as they served for the Michigan Baptist General Conference.  Churches were planted and nurtured in Detroit, Muskegon, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, St. Joe, Beaverton, East Lansing, and in many other towns and cities.  While Wally did the preaching, Rose did the music, the children's ministry, and a lot of the office work.  Without her faithful, tireless, and joyful service, none of this ministry would ever have happened. She became a dear friend to pastor's wives and church workers, to camp directors and nurses, and to countless Christian workers in churches and homes all across the State of Michigan and beyond.  Only eternity will be able to adequately measure the impact Rose had on the lives of people all across this region.

Yet, one of Rose's greatest legacies lies in the quiet and tender ways she nurtured her children and her 11 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.  In 1954, Rose gave birth to her third boy, Douglass.  In 1957, Debora Joy was born, and in 1961, Delora Lynn joined the Peterson family.  Up early every morning to get the 5 DP's off to school, playing piano for solo and ensemble contests, helping with homework, cooking, cleaning, and encouraging her tribe, were a big part of Rose's daily and weekly ministry in her home.  She served her family with joy and consistency.  She prayed for her children and served as a godly example in every way.  Her inner beauty qualities of love, compassion, grace, patience and tenderness were in full bloom in her home.  During these years with a growing family, Rose continued to serve with her husband in the ministry, in mentoring other women, and of course, in playing the piano and in singing at South Kent Baptist Church in Kentwood, MI. 

When Rose and Wally retired from their 30 years of ministry as Executive Minister for the Michigan Baptist General Conference, their ministry for Christ was simply "repositioned" to another setting.  Rose and Wally began a series of Interim Pastorate ministries in communities all across the Midwest.  These were some of their most enjoyable and gratifying days, serving people and churches as Pastor and wife.  They touched leaders and communities in Temperance, MI, in Moline, IL, in Marquette, MI, in New Castle, PA,  and in other communities.  Rose's ministry in music, in mentoring, in being a friend, and in supporting her husband were as strong and vibrant as ever.  Of course, the role of a grandmother was one she cherished as well.  Rose was 76 years old when her dear husband of 52 years went home to be with His Lord.   Family became even more important during this season.  Yet, her faith and trust in Christ never wavered.

 At the age of 81, Rose moved to Sturgis, MI to join the Thurston Woods retirement community.  She was 20 minutes away from her son Dave, and his church in Centreville, MI.  She entered a new chapter, but continued to live and bloom faithfully for Christ.  For 5 years, she enjoyed independent living in her own apartment, but when Parkinson's struck her body, she soon needed to relocate to the nursing home at Thurston Woods.  She continued to witness for Christ and had a profound impact on many of the staff at Thurston.  For the last 9 years of her life, the Lord gave her Florence Nilsson as a best friend.  The two of them would talk and sing in Swedish and laugh together.  As her voice became weaker and weaker, God continued to allow her to use the piano; her other voice, to praise the worship her Lord and Savior.  While laying in her bed on Saturday, January 4, 2014, with her sons Dan and Dave at her bedside, and with friends singing in the distance, Rose entered her heavenly home to be eternally with her Lord and Savior.
Dan, Dave, Doug, Debbie and Dee Peterson

Somehow in God's amazing plan, the fragrance and beauty of this Rose still lives on.  Yet, it all grew out of a deep and personal trust in Jesus.  She exemplified for me in a very powerful way, the fact that leadership and influence are all about who we are; it's about allowing God to shape us so that in His own way and place, He can use us for His glory.

Thanks, Mom, for living this out for me and for so many others!

Your son,