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.
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.
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.
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.
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.