I met LaDonna Carey at a retired clergy lunch at the off-site church at annual conference in May of 2008. Annual conference is the busiest of times for Scott and me. One of the events we always enjoy going to is the retired preachers’ lunch or dinner. My only job at that event is shake hands, smile – a little meet and greet.
So you get the picture. Here we are at the off-site church meeting and greeting with a room full of retired preachers and their spouses, when someone pulls on my arm a bit and says “did you go to general conference?” I’m thinking, well yes, of course we went to general conference. “Did you hear Ellen Johnson Sirleaf?” Well, did we hear Ellen Johnson Sirleaf? She was fantastic!
In case you don’t know, which you easily might not, she is the first woman president of any African nation. She’s the president of Liberia. And she is impressive! She’s been a senior officer for the World Bank. She fired the entire financial ministry of Liberia when she became president to fight corruption. She’s been a strong advocate for women and children and education in her country. She is a force. She is regal, eloquent and real. Her speech had been without a doubt a highlight of general conference.
So here I am looking at this retired minister couple that looked similar to everybody else in the room, in Baldwin City, Kansas, at the off-site church, and they say to me “we were her teachers.” They went on to name other high-level cabinet members whom they had taught that were working with President Sirleaf. She was educated in United Methodist Mission schools in Liberia, and Bob and LaDonna Carey, missionaries from Kansas, had been her teachers.
In that moment, the world changed for me a bit. I heard a huge piece of the connectional puzzle slip into place. Oh, yes, our mission shares go to places we’ve never seen, to help people we’ll never know, who will make a difference even if it’s decades later, after years of civil war and bloody coups (the fairly recent history of Liberia). But our mission shares only work like that when we have saints, like Bob and LaDonna Carey, who give their lives to the work of Christ in the world.
I knew that day I had been touched on the arm by a saint, one of God’s beloveds, a woman to whom Christ is now saying, “well done, thy good and faithful servant.”
Blessings on your continued journey, LaDonna. My life is richer because I felt your story in my heart and met you that day. Thank you, good and faithful servant.
View Rev. Carey’s obituary from the Topeka Capital-Journal.
Mary Lou Reece, wife of Bishop Scott Jones, has offered this remembrance of the Rev. LaDonna Carey, a former missionary to Liberia, who passed away Sept. 29.