Recently I have been reading about some of the heroes of Appalachian history and came across the name, Jenny Wiley. I knew there was a state park named after Jenny Wiley in Kentucky, but I was truly amazed to read about her story. Jenny was one incredibly courageous and determined woman in the early history of our nation.
Jenny’s husband was away helping a neighbor one October day in 1789, when Jenny’s cabin was surrounded by American Indians. The Indians were seeking revenge upon the Harmon family who had shot two of their men. They had attacked the Wiley cabin by mistake. Before Jenny could understand what was going on, three of her children were killed and her teenage brother was also killed trying to defend the family.
When Jenny was finally able to explain that they were not connected to the Harmon family, the confused attackers decided to burn down the cabin and took Jenny, who was expecting the Wiley’s fifth child, and her toddler as captives. The toddler and Jenny’s baby boy, both eventually suffered violent deaths. Jenny was about to be burned to death when a Cherokee chief was so impressed with her bravery, he decided to spare her life and force her to serve as a slave to the women of his tribe. During a heavy downpour, Jenny escaped and was later reunited with her husband, Tom, and they were blessed with five more children.
Mrs. Wiley’s story is one of amazing bravery, survival and resolve. Others would have given up in despair and bitterness, never to return to the Appalachian wilderness to build another cabin and restart a family. She could have returned to a life of relative ease in Virginia, but her pioneer spirit would not allow her to surrender her dream of living on the American frontier.
Dreams can be fragile things. Hopes can be easily shattered. It takes real determination to see them come to pass. That is especially true in the work of God. We dream of a church of mature disciples taking the gospel to a lost world. We get excited about the opportunity to teach a classroom of children the truths of God. We imagine the potential of discipling a group of teenagers or adults to impact the world for Christ. And then we are attacked by Satan. He gives us every reason to be discouraged. The temptation is to give up, or maybe worse, become cynical about doing the work and begin spreading our pessimism to others.
Well known author, John Maxwell once said, “The true nature of leadership is really sacrifice.” Without a willingness to work through the setbacks and discouragements of ministry, most people give up before ever seeing even part of their vision become reality. That’s why many in vocational ministry, change churches every three years. That’s why we need to stay determined in our resolve to reach and disciple people for Christ. Without determination, we are likely to become inactive in the work of God. Our sacrificial, serving spirit will be challenged, but determination is key for us as we press on to the goal.
Our close walk with Christ will also be essential for facing spiritual setbacks that inevitably come our way. He carries us through and moves us forward when nothing else can. He is determined to finish what He has started in us and we thank Him for that! I guess we need the determination to finish what we have started in the lives of others as well. People are difficult and spiritually lazy at times, but they are also worth it. Stay determined, my friends.
CABA Disciple-making Catalyst
Pastor, FBC So. Lebanon, Oh.