• Courtney Dianne

Interview: On a Mission

Name: Judy D.

Age: 75

Hometown: Louisville, KY

Current Occupation: Administrative Assistant at Community Outreach Center

Past Occupation: Global Missionary / Hospital Program Manager / Nurse's Aide

To her daughter and all of her siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, godchildren, and spiritual grandchildren, my Aunt Judy, or “Grand” Judy as she is known to some, is a force of nature. She’s straight-shooting but loving, and her quick wit and hearty laughs belie her 75 trips around the sun and her “habit” of caring for and burying too many of her nearest and dearest, including siblings far younger than herself. Despite her humble Kentuckiana origins, a bevy of health challenges, having lost her mother who died birthing her, and literally dodging a bullet, she’s persevered to find and pursue her calling, traveling the world as a missionary in Australia, Jamaica, and post-war Bosnia. She eagerly sat down with me to share her story, including what it was like growing up without expectations, showing love through action, and the one regret she can’t shake to this day.

I never did hear any expectations growing up. I just felt like God was leading me the whole way.

We - me and my full sister Elaine - grew up with a lot of stepmothers because my dad got married a couple of times. Of course, we were living with our paternal grandparents until my dad’s third marriage, when my dad felt like he should take us because they were getting older. However, I didn’t hear a lot of the word “love.” That’s why Elaine and I were so close; we were 19 months apart. With my grandparents, though, love was there. They didn’t have to take us. I was a newborn baby, and my sister was 19 months. Their actions showed love, even if they got a little switch and you got your butt whooped. We walked to school and had bicycles and skates. Love was there, but I may not remember them saying it.

When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a nurse. I thought it was prestigious.

But I wasn’t good in math and science in high school, so that scared me away. Once in college, I took classes in tailoring and sewing, but I didn’t stay long, maybe a semester. I got homesick, dropped out, and moved back home. I took another road; maybe God was leading me down another road because, despite my health issues, He has provided me the opportunity to do other things I've always wanted to do, particularly mission trips. I was able to travel to Jamaica, Bosnia, and even Australia. In Australia, despite being overweight and having bad knees, I slept in a tent outside on a cot and was happy every minute of it. So, I think that was the right path for me. After I was no longer able to take missionary trips because of my health, I asked God for another mission-type job, and He granted me that. Now I serve at the Baptist Fellowship Center - a community outreach ministry that provides food, clothing, and other assistance for those in need - less than a mile from where I live. I think God planted me there; that’s why I’ve stayed for nearly 15 years now. I’ve retired twice, but I keep going back as long as I’m able.

I was called to missionary work, and I know that as a fact.

I used to do the manual work of caring for people as a nurse’s aide. It was hard work, lifting people. However, it may have had a hand in preparing me to now care for people through mission work. Of course, there are different kinds of mission work: some are called to do work at home and others are called to go away. If you have the potential, God plants that desire. I was sitting in church listening to a missionary and that was when I felt the call, “I’m going to do that one day.” It took a long time, but I did it. It has shaped me to be the Christian that I am called to be. Although I’m not there yet, by the time I’m laid straight out [in the ground], I will be.

This was one stupid way of thinking, but, when I was 25, I thought I was an old maid and needed to get married.

I went to different places, including Fort Knox. That's where I met Freddy, and we started dating and going back and forth. Spiritually, I knew a lot, but not enough to not do what I did. I didn’t have a lot of aspirations about a man that I would marry. My concern was getting married before I turned into an old maid. Now I know people don’t always get married when they are 25. You can wait till you’re 55 and get married; of course, then you’re getting a little late for kids. Anyway, I met Freddy and got married. Afterward, as I was studying the Bible and listening to the Gospel, I realized we were unequally yoked. However, it didn’t mean you get a divorce because you found out you’re unequally yoked, i.e., when one’s a Christian and one’s not. I wasn’t going to stay married if I was getting beat up; that’s for sure. He didn’t do anything like that. Rather, you try to win them to Christ as you go through life. Whether he came to church or not, my daughter and I went to church. When it came time to take care of him as he got older and was on his death bed, he took the prayer of salvation with me and was saved.

I wish I had thought a lot more about health as a young adult getting married and having a child.

If I had, my baby probably would not have been overweight; and I was very overweight then too. I didn’t have it on my mind about either one of us being healthy. I regret that to this day. I’m a feeding person. If you come through here, I’m going to feed you. That’s just the way I came up. You ate everything on your plate. That’s what my grandparents said. And that’s something I should have left out of my daily routine growing up as an adult with a child. Plus, [my now-deceased husband] Freddy was a cook too. I regret not doing more health-focused learning and activities.

Dr. Furhman’s book “Eat to Live” has helped me with my health.

I read it twice to make sure I had it down-packed. I wanted to lose weight and was tired of sticking my fingers with needles; it wasn’t about being pretty. While the book says it can reverse diabetes, mine hasn’t been reversed. However, it’s much better than it was, and my A1C has decreased from 9 to 7.3. While I loved meat and chicken, his book has made it easy to change my eating habits, and now I don’t miss them.

Dave Ramsey’s “Dumping Debt: Breaking the Chains of Debt” has taught me about money.

I was in debt, I’m no longer in debt, and I’m staying out of debt. I don’t have a house note. I found out about him in the hospital when I was there to have surgery. I was flicking through the TV channels and stopped at him. Since then, I read his book, followed his program, and got out of debt. I even taught it at church.

Also, I’m 75 and taking Prevagen, a supplement to help with memory. I’m still waiting to see if it’s going to help me out.

That’s a God thing: if you’ve got it on your mind, and someone brings it to you.

When I was attending church as a young adult, and I was teaching Sunday school, I had a desire to go to an HBCU Bible college in Louisville, now Simmons College of Kentucky. I didn’t say anything to anyone. Then one day, the pastor, Reverend Curtis Crawford, Jr., approached me as we were leaving church one day and asked if I would like to go to this particular Bible college. I nearly fainted and said yes. I was working and going to school and finally graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Christian Education. Later on, another pastor, Reverend Matthew E. Smyzer, influenced me to go back to school, and I got a Master’s degree in Theology. I taught for 18 years at church.

With COVID-19, I’m trying to be extra careful.

I’m going to wear my mask until they say the pandemic is over. I really don’t want COVID. I’ve had enough surgeries and illnesses. I’ve got all of the shots that are required. I don’t get mad because I have to wear the mask. It can be a little frustrating, but you keep doing it to save yourself and somebody else. You never know when it’s coming your way so why not be careful.

To learn more about the Baptist Fellowship Center, volunteer, or donate, please click here.

Photo Courtesy of Shannon Drummond Photography


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