The Beautiful and Faithful


given by permission by national WMU

In the Fall of 2000, my husband and I, along with a mission team arrived in Odessa, Ukraine. Our assignment: to prayer walk in a village in the Crimean peninsula. Although we’d been trained in the months preceding, the journey was new. Preparing to go was an extraordinary undertaking and prayer walking, a new concept in our lives. Our team leader trained us using a book entitled,  Prayer Walking: Praying On-Site with Insight  by Graham Kendrick.

The day arrived for the 12-hour flight. Once landed, the Odessa airport experience was uncomfortable and primitive. The environment was punctuated with a quiet mystery looming as armed guards watched suspiciously from a distance. The freedoms we enjoy in America seemed suddenly gone and replaced by a grey, colorless, restrictive environment. No bustling people, announcements, television newscasts, bathrooms, food kiosks or shops. We were in a new land and the mission was before us.

The poverty, unpredictable electricity, potties in the ground, undrinkable water and dirt roads all normal to Ukrainians, were unusual and humorous at times to us. We saw God at work and were rewarded immediately and consistently for our obedience, yet still, the lay of the land was unfamiliar and kept us on our toes.

Ukraine sept oct 2000

This is why Thomas and June Nolen were key to our navigation from the familiar to unfamiliar. Their easy demeanor and genuine joy gave us strength for this incredible task. Their humor was medicine to our weary souls. We will never forget their attentiveness, and reliability. Their smiles, even their appearance spoke of a couple ready to serve, able to care for those who’d come to be on mission. The week was inspiring and faith building, but it was the Nolens who God used to orchestrate it.

The Nolens are a retired couple from Mantee, MS. They served in Ukraine from January 1999 – Fall 2002 being Coordinators for the Mississippi/Ukraine partnership. Many Mississippians went to Ukraine those years. As far as our week in Ukraine, the Nolens presence felt like protection; their cheer and humor like familiarity; their appreciation like confidence.untitled.png

Last fall I saw the ad in the Mission Mosaic magazine for a Walk of Faith garden being constructed at the WMU headquarters in Birmingham, AL.  June Nolen came to mind and I decided to purchase a brick in her honor.

If you decide to do this, the WMU Foundation will send a letter to the person you are honoring with your gift or to the family of the person you are memorializing. The letter they receive lets them know you gave. This is a picture of the letter I received showing a replica of the brick going in this garden to be seen by generations.IMG_9661

It’s my joy to honor June Nolen. A kind, organized, thorough, sometimes funny, real, and beautiful missionary. She and Thomas have loved me and Clark through the years and enriched our lives with palpable memories and spiritual commitment.

If you would like  more information so you can honor or memorialize a person who’s impacted your life through missions, visit the website here.

See a video telling about the Walk of Faith garden here.

The Nolen’s walk of faith certainly impacted our walk of faith. And now you can impact those who’ve impacted you with a Walk of Faith brick too.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2


June Nolan went to be with the Lord in 2019. In light of the events today in Ukraine, there’s no doubt in my mind that her spiritual legacy lives in the hearts of many there and is bringing encouragement and help. She and Thomas brought spiritual strength to the believers there and it was not in vain. Clark and I are indebted to Thomas and June Nolan and their mission hearts and love for Christ, and we carry their influence with us always.

©Valerie Rumfelt

Big Announcement! Good Comes Out of 2020

This is the 2nd installment in the goodness of God in the 2020 series.

By this time, Covid19 has likely impacted someone close to your inner circle, perhaps even in your inner circle. Our Governor this week issued a statewide day of prayer and fasting. As scary as Covid19 is, I believe this year has brought about good things. But people complain, and people are weary.

John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Covid19 has changed us. But for Christ-followers, the trials of life are meant to transform us into His likeness and, yes, bring Him glory. With that truth out on the table, I present to you someone who has a story of the goodness of God in 2020.Recently, it was my pleasure to receive a text recently from a past graduate of Buried Treasures Home, where my husband and I were Directors. The text resonated with this idea of the goodness of God in 2020. I asked Shonnon if I could use her words in the text for a blog, and she said she’d be honored. This is in her own words, just slightly edited.Shonnon’s testimony:

As we all know, 2020 has been a strange and weird year for so many. I have heard time and time again how people can’t wait for it to be over. Here is how I Shonnon see 2020….. I can genuinely say that I am more than thankful for this year. I would probably say it has been one of the best years of my life. 2020 started for me at Buried Treasures Home. At Buried Treasures Home is where I grew a hunger for God, who He is. I began to understand the love He has for me the best way I can because we cannot comprehend the love of Christ for us. We just can’t. It took me a little while and a lot of learning, but I began to cling to Him.

By His grace, I graduated on June 1, 2020. That was one of the most significant accomplishments in my life. I received my driver’s license, and God poured His blessings on me with a car. I am honored to live in a home with a fantastic family who guides me and shows me how life is supposed to be. They help direct my path, even on hard days. They show me what true love is and what living a Christian life is.

God has blessed me with a great job, and my boss is a woman after God’s own heart. She prays for me and will pray with me. She also guides and teaches me. I have never had a boss that prays for me and especially not with me, in my entire life. And not to mention a Christmas bonus; I got almost exactly what I owe to have my fines paid off.

And to put the icing on the cake, I was blessed when God put Mrs.Mary and Mr.Roy in my life. They have chosen to pour their lives into mine as I attend their GED classes at the Grace Center in Richland, MS. They never once gave up on me. They constantly encouraged me and loved me, no matter how hard it was. I struggled with Social Studies and had to take the test a few times. I didn’t give up. I kept trusting God even when I didn’t see Him working. He was!!! I passed my GED test, and now I’m graduating in cap and gown. These things I never once dreamed of could happen to me, yet God is pouring favor. Through all of this, Mrs. Valerie and Pastor Clark, and I are closer than ever. When they left Buried Treasures Home, I thought that was it; they are gone for who knows how long. I thought I had lost them forever, and then God shows up again. While they wait to go to their country, God sent them right back to me as they live in a mission house waiting to go overseas as missionaries with the International Mission Board. Through it all, I have learned to do my best and let God do the rest. This is just a taste of what God is doing in my life in 2020, and so much more. Thank you, Lord, for who you are and for blessing me to be a part of this amazing year. God’s timing is ALWAYS ALWAYS PERFECT!! 

Isaiah 43:18-19 Forget the former things do not dwell on the past. 19. See, I am doing new things! Now it springs up, do you not see it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.                                                                                                           

Shonnon Carlson December 11, 2020

Shonnon’s Salvation story:

In October of 2018, I was a resident at Crossroads. Before this, my life was out of control. On this day, there was a conference at the ministry, and I heard testimonies of what Jesus had done for others. I had felt a tugging at my heart for a while even in prison but ignored it. That day after seeing and hearing what others said about Jesus and how no matter what you have done, He still loves me and will still forgive me, I decided, well, honestly, what could I lose? I knew, after all, I have tried everything else, and well, nothing worked. So that evening, when I went to my room, I was listening to worship music, and I said God, please help me. Help me like you have helped others. Everything I have tried and done isn’t working. Please help me with my addiction, my kids, my life. Jesus, please come into my life and save me, and be my Lord and Savior, because Shonnon can’t do it anymore.

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8</


Do you have a goodness of God in 2020 story? Please share it in the comments below.