Persistence. Tenacity. Determination. Staying power. All are synonyms for perseverance. Perseverance defined as, “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” When Gavin was three, in his first year of preschool, he received the character award for perseverance. The definition he learned? Never ever give up!
I wasn’t surprised at all that this last child of mine would get the perseverance award. Some may call it stubbornness. I actually have thought it numerous times. But it’s a character quality that pushes us through in life’s difficult circumstances. Perseverance. Never give up. Yes, maybe some naturally born hard-headedness, but something we all need in order to do and become what God has called us.
Oh, it can be difficult raising a child with such strong will power. However, stick around and you can see how the Lord can use it for His glory. It’s inspiring. Inspiring, as is the story of my friend Heather and her husband Sam.
I met Heather shortly after my little Gavin was born. When he was six weeks old I started one of my last two prerequisites for nursing school. I sat down beside a girl who would become one of my dearest friends. That girl from Massachusetts who called the water fountain “a bubbler,” and who could test over anatomy, but couldn’t stomach dissecting a cat.
In those beginnings, we never realized we were on the same track, both planning to attend nursing school at OU. Our friendship blossomed in those years together. We juggled schedules, laundry, clinicals, grocery shopping, studying, cooking, and only the necessary spot cleaning. Heather introduced me to her great love of Starbucks. She spoke wisdom into the simplest of moments. She shared her heart, her history and her faith. Through it all, I also got to know the love of her life, Sam.
Heather lights up when she speaks of her husband. Her admiration is as deep as her love. And it’s not hard to see why. Sam was that stubborn little boy. Although a bit difficult to raise, his strong will was and is an attribute that brings glory to God.
Sam was born and raised in Nigeria. Like Paul writes in Philippians 4:12, Sam knows what it is to be in need and what it is to have plenty. Life was good when he was young. His family did pretty well, being the only ones in the neighborhood with the latest technological gadget, a video cassette recorder. But Sam watched those items go to the wayside when his dad lost his job and sold that VCR, along with other things, in order for his children to continue on in their education.
“My mother was a school teacher, so education was always very important to us,” Sam recalls. His father eventually moved to Italy to work crops, sending money to Nigeria for the family. That hardheaded kid gained an opportunity when he moved in with his uncle to attend a better school. Despite being eight hours away from his family, he improved his English and sharpened his intellect.
The family moved to Italy to be with their father for a time, but when they went back to Nigeria, Sam stayed with a brother, working, learning Italian, and allowing God to use him in ministry. His next step was to come to Tulsa, Oklahoma to attend Rhema Bible College. But first he had to have $16,000 saved to live on while he attended school. How in the world could he get that money?
Having the goal before him, he went to work. Riding a bike one hour each way, working twelve hour shifts in a factory, five days a week, Sam saved that money. And when it came time to get his Visa to come to America, he didn’t allow a denial to deter him from the plan God placed in his heart. God granted him favor when his call to the Embassy resulted in another appointment. Regardless that he got the slim chance of meeting with the same agent, the conversation went a little differently, Sam telling him, “I just want an opportunity.”
Sam’s desire for an opportunity got him to America with a brown paper sack containing $16,032.78 cash in tote. God provided for Sam. He provided for someone to get him to a bus after his flight from Italy to Oklahoma City. And He’s provided for every need since, as Sam has been obedient to Him.
When I met Heather and Sam, they were Bible College graduates, Sam was in pharmacy school at OU and they had two beautiful children, Ryan and Olivia. It was a challenging season for them to tackle those lofty goals. I watched completely impressed. Then along came 2011. I became even more impressed. Not because of what they did, but because of their confidence in what God could do.
After Sam graduated with his doctorate in pharmacy in the spring of 2011, he and Heather welcomed their third baby, Toby. She was in her last year of nursing school. Meanwhile, Sam studied for boards while awaiting that needed promotion from intern to pharmacist. Sam did not pass. He rescheduled, took the test again. Unfortunately, he did not pass the second time. Because of the results, he not only missed his promotion, but he was let go.
I’m not merely painting a picture of discouragement. I’m hoping you see where the opportunity lies for fear to creep in. Let’s talk about the house payment, the car payment, the utilities, or the school loans. This family was under pressure.
In their faith, they anointed their lawn, their house, and their vehicles, laying claim in Jesus name.
Not wanting to keep doing the same thing expecting different results, Sam desired to take a prep course. But where would the money come from? While some of us may question and ask, Sam believed. And God provided. One of his instructors from OU paid for him to take the course!
Third time to test, Sam passed!!!!
There is so much more to Sam and Heather Falana than a blog post could contain. But what I hope you receive from these words here today is NEVER EVER GIVE UP!
This family is an illustration of perseverance.
They motivate me to press on in those times of unanswered questions. They inspire me to believe beyond what I can see.
I pray their real life journey helps you to redefine those challenges on your journey as opportunities for God to move.
“Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”
James 1:2-4 NIV
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
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