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112-year-old “Grandma Kwong” offers a lesson in missional faithfulness

close up of a senior adult's hands folded in prayer over a Bible
© Tyler Olson/stock.adobe.com

Most of us have never heard of Wai Lim Fan, yet she made an impact with her missional living, supporting the kingdom through her prayers and financial giving. 

Affectionately known as “Grandma Kwong,” she loved having visitors. The first thing she wanted to know about them was if they were believers, according to her grandson, who partnered with the ministry, Lausanne Movement. 

“She would take the initiative to engage with the young adults . . . and find out how she could pray for them or their families. . . . she kept her notes on them and would pray for them as a group and as individuals,” he said. 

He added that even in her final days before her death at age 112 on December 27, 2020, she expressed her mission-mindedness with her reminders about praying and giving. “Grandma never ceased to amaze or inspire us,” he said. 

“I owe Jesus everything”

Sadiri Joy Tira, former Lausanne Catalyst for Diasporas, wrote about his meeting with Grandma Kwong at the age of 111: Her “mind was clear, her grin was radiant, and in her prayer for Kingdom workers . . . her deep and life-long devotion to Jesus and his Kingdom was steadfast.” 

When Tira met Grandma Kwong in the fall of 2019, he could not have known what the next year would bring, with a pandemic and his upcoming health problems. Tira had spent five months in hospitals following a stroke by time the elderly woman died. Two of the months were spent in geriatric units and three months in a hospital unit with primarily senior citizens, even though he did not yet fit that category. 

There he witnessed “seniors in missions, and missions to seniors.” He said senior patients prayed for him, for each other, and for the world.  

One former patient came back on Sunday mornings to devote his time to the hospital and play his saxophone. Tira asked him why he continued doing that in his eighties. 

He replied, “Jesus loves me. He saved me. I owe Jesus everything.” 

“The longer I serve him”

As the population of senior adults over the age of sixty-five grows, we continue to see their resilience. Grandma Kwong is representative of so many senior citizens in the Christian community. They remain faithful to prayer, even in the face of a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting them. They embrace their faith. 

I can’t help but think that in losing so many of our senior citizens, we are losing some of those warriors. 

The psalmist says the faithful remain fruitful in old age: “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green” (Psalm 92:12–14). 

I love the old song “The Longer I Serve Him” by Bill and Gloria Gaither. The song was often sung by George Beverly Shea in Billy Graham crusades. These lyrics from the song express the sentiment of so many faithful seniors: 

The longer I serve him, the sweeter he grows,
The more that I love him, more love he bestows;
Each day is like heaven, my heart overflows,
The longer I serve him, the sweeter he grows. 

In the book Something Beautiful: The Stories Behind a Half-Century of the Songs of Bill and Gloria Gaither, Gloria shares the story of Bill’s grandmother’s death. He asked her, “Has it been worth it, serving Jesus all these years?” 

She answered, “Billy, the longer I serve him, the sweeter he grows.” 

She died forming the name of Jesus with her lips. 

That was the legacy she left her grandson and millions of others who have listened to the song he and his wife wrote. 

What fruit will we bear in our old age? 

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