A Song of Thanks Unto the Lord — Remembering Lisa Leatherwood

October 24, 1973 – January 17, 2011

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him.” Psalm 28:7

Lisa Leatherwood was born October 24, 1973 in Fontana, California. She came to know the Lord when she was 3 years old as the Lord used her mom, Elizabeth, to lead Lisa to Himself. From that moment she saw things very clearly. There were no grey areas. Soon after recognizing that she needed God’s love and forgiveness in her life, she was filled with the desire to become a missionary and in fact became one… At only four years old she would boldly go up to older people (mostly in her distant family, but not only in her family) and tell them that they were sinners and they needed God. You can imagine the responses that a four year old would get from an elderly person. Although this situation was sometimes a surprise, it clearly showed her heart for other people and for the Lord. She didn’t have time for lies or misleading words. I remember her telling about a time that she could remember when she lied about something at school (in second or third grade) and she felt horrible about it. When she got home she went into her room and prayed asking the Lord to help her with her “lying problem”. She also would tell of a time that she was shopping in the supermarket with her mom and her brother, John David. John David was about 4 years old and was wearing overalls. They were all in the meat section next to the bacon and John David told an older man who was next to them that he was Farmer John (pointing to the bacon with that brand name) and Lisa felt the need to set the record straight and make the truth known so she rushed over and told the older man that her brother really wasn’t Farmer John!

This trait was not only in the area of honesty as from the beginning she was a very focused person in everything and she didn’t want to waste any time. This carried over into her adult life as she finished her college degree from Christian Heritage College (now San Diego Christian) in three and a half years while she worked at the same time. This alone is an accomplishment but it has to be noted here that the year before she finished school, she married me, Dan Leatherwood, and then 9 days before she walked in her graduation ceremony, she had our first child, Anelise. So Anelise was actually present at her mom’s college graduation ceremony (although she wouldn’t remember it!).

Through it all, Lisa learned to trust in her God and she knew that He would finish the work that He had started in her and that if He said it, He would do it in His time. This wasn’t just something that she would say, but her life reflected this truth. After graduation, we stepped out to raise support to go to Spain as missionaries. We were sure that the Lord would provide the support and that in six months we would have the prayer and financial support raised and would be headed to Spain. Well five and a half years later, we arrived in Spain. Through that stretch of time, I, Dan, often questioned if God really wanted us in Spain, but Lisa returned to what she knew about the Lord and lived the reality that He always completes His promises and His desires in His time.

On November 16, 1999, we boarded a plane with two daughters, Anelise and Aida, headed for Spain. In Spain, Lisa continued to let the love that God had filled her with to shine even through moments with language obstacles. For her, there were no strangers, only friends that she hadn’t met yet. This was true in lines at a restaurant, at the supermarket, at an amusement park, anywhere… Everywhere we went, we would leave having met someone new and often even had invitations to go and visit them at their homes. A dear family that we came to know here, we met this way as we drove along one day and passed by a shepherd who was watching his sheep right by the road. Lisa wanted to stop so the girls could see the sheep. I stopped the car and she jumped out with the girls and in an instant was having a conversation with the shepherd in broken Spanish. He was an older man and told us that his wife would love to meet us so he gave us directions as to where we could meet her. We went and for many years thereafter we would visit with them and they were like adopted grandparents.

For Lisa, people mattered. It didn’t matter what was going on or how busy she was or how she felt, she always had time to listen and pour into people. She just knew that her time was not something to be wasted. In her words and her smile people knew that she was there to help in whatever way she could.

Then in October of 2009, when she was diagnosed with cancer, she again returned to what she knew about God. Although it was a moment that didn’t seem to fit into what made sense for our lives, she returned to the fact that God would complete the work that He is doing and that He would complete every promise and not leave us alone. Her concern was how others were going to take the news. Even in the dark moments, she radiated hope and never lost her sense of humor. I remember when she would have chemotherapy treatments, how many of the doctors and nurses would just come and hang out with Lisa and visit with her. Even when she was put on home care and the medical staff would come here and visit us at home, they would stay until they were called to leave. Her attitude about life and the love of God that was shown through her smile and sense of humor was contagious and drew people.

Above all, she poured herself into the family that God gave. She constantly poured into me and the five amazing children that God gave us. As a result, today as I look at them and myself, I see so much of her and who she was and the love of God that she lived for all of us to see. She also spent a lot of time pouring into other family members and friends. She spent hours, writing letters, preparing gifts, making and repairing clothes for everyone, and praying for each one. There are not adequate words to describe the person she was. She is missed but she left so much of herself in the lives of each of us who knew her. One of the last passages that she wrote a commentary about in her Bible was Psalm 28.7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him.” Next to that passage she wrote, “HE SEES US THROUGH!!!” This was a truth that she lived and her life was a song of thanksgiving to Him. I am sure that when she entered into the Lord’s presence, she did indeed continue that song and thanked Him face to face with her song and the beautiful voice that God had given her. We miss her, but we will see her again and get to join in that chorus of thanking Him. Her testimony lives on and leaves us with the strong reminder that our God is faithful to complete every promise and that He will finish the work that He started in each one of us.