When Staci Powers was growing up in Girls in Action in Brownwood, Texas, she told God she would go anywhere, but she never thought He’d send her.
But He did — after college, she went as a journeyman with the International Mission Board to West Africa. She drove all over the region she was assigned, sharing the gospel and discipling believers.
Years later God would set her on a path she hadn’t signed up for. After she graduated from seminary, got married and spent 15 years with the IMB in Botswana and Zambia, her husband, Jeff, started experiencing pain and lethargy and started losing weight.
When he went to see a doctor in South Africa in 2013 at the recommendation of the IMB, Powers said she “wasn’t thinking it was what it was; I was just thinking we would have to adjust our eating habits or something.”
But she soon got the news that he had tumors on his pancreas. Everything happened quickly from there — the IMB booked flights to the U.S., and their ministry partners in Zambia packed up their house after they left.
One of those ministry partners was Darbi Tidwell, who along with her husband, Blu, had been part of starting an orphanage.
Not over yet
“We were tasked with cleaning out their house and packing up their keepsakes, their wedding china — all of us thinking they’ll never be back,” Tidwell said. “We didn’t know if he was going to live but definitely didn’t think they would be back to the field.”
But the story of the Powers’ work in Zambia wasn’t over yet.
It would be a couple of tough years before Powers got back there to stay. Over the next year, she watched her husband’s health decline, but she said she also saw glimpses of God’s grace she wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
She remembered one day he was singing “Marching to Zion” loudly even though in previous days he’d been unable to speak much.
She and their pastor’s wife joined him, then she prayed — and he joined in.
“He said, ‘Lord, You know that as I sing that song I see a bright light. And You know I want to embrace that light one day, but forgive me, Lord, I don’t want to embrace that light right now. I still have things I want to do and people I want to see.’
“And then he went on to praise the Lord again,” Powers recalled.
She carried moments like that with her as she grieved his death in the following months. As she returned to Zambia, the memories strengthened her faith.
Powers now lives at the orphanage the Tidwells helped start. She drives every week to the village where she and Jeff used to live. There she disciples new believers and support church leaders. She’s continuing the ministry they started together.
Bridge to gospel
She now has a connection she believes wouldn’t be there if she hadn’t walked through the valley of losing her husband. She said Africans experience suffering and don’t often see missionaries suffer, and that was a bridge in relating to them.
One Zambian church leader told her, “Now we know you really love us since you came back.”
Her husband’s death has given Powers a new platform from which to share how Jesus is better than anything.
She said along the way she’s shared over and over that “what I see in Scripture is ‘many are the afflictions of the righteous’ and ‘this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory … count it all joy when you face various trials.’ I see all through Scripture we’re going to have suffering, we’re going to have trials.”
But what Powers has found is that Christ is worth it. She wouldn’t want any other road than the one He has asked her to walk.
Laurie Wilcox, who along with her husband, Wes, helped start the orphanage, said they love Powers and are grateful for her partnership in ministry.
“We really admire her,” Wilcox said. “It’s really amazing. I don’t know if I could’ve done that, to do all the things that she does to continue the ministry they were involved in.
“It’s challenging. But she’s faithful. She’s very faithful to the task.”
Hear more on the Stories podcast
Want to hear more of Staci Powers’ story? Check out Season 5, Episode 3 of TAB Media’s Stories podcast, available now. This season tells her story along with those of two other women who lost their husbands while on the missions field, but saw God do incredible things to sustain them. Listen at tabonline.org/stories or wherever you get podcasts.