March 24: Strong Women Part 4 with Lori Tupper

Strong Women: Part 4

Acts 16: 12-15 and Exodus 15: 1-2, 20-21

March 24, 2024 (Preached with Lori Tupper)

          Mike: This is the conclusion of our four part message series talking about strong women. It has featured four strong women from this church: Sherry Meyer, Connie Schreiber, Brenda Kniebes and now my wife Lori. We’ve highlighted the reality that all of us have had to be strong in dealing with the challenges we face in life. Each of these women have shared stories of women they have respected for their strength.

Over and over during this series, we’ve been confronted with the terrible and challenging reality of patriarchy and those who choose to discriminate against women. But patriarchy is not the last word, the last and most important word is the strength we find in the women. Lori will start out sharing about one of those women: her grandmother.

Lori: In 1927 at the University of Michigan Medical School, five women completed the program.  One of those women went by the name of Grace Beshgatoor, an immigrant from Armenia.  Grace later married a man named Walter Boyer and adopted the name Dr. Grace B Boyer in Marion, IN where she chose to set up her practice.

        Grace had a heart for the poor and disadvantaged.  Although she worked at the Marion hospital as a family practitioner, she was often summoned in the middle of the night to doctor the poor and those who lived on the edge of town in the “colored district.” 

        Grace often refused to send bills to her patients, knowing of their financial restrictions and personal hardships.  She practiced for over 50 years as a medical doctor in Marion.

        Grace Beshgatoor Boyer was my paternal grandmother.  She saved my life more than once (medically and emotionally), but what I really loved about her was her sense of humor.

        When I was 8 years old, we planned to have a family gathering at my grandpa’s fishing cabin for Grandma’s birthday.  I had painstakingly hand sewed an apron out of some leftover green material I had found, weaving yarn through holes at the top to act as ties.  My mom and dad had gifted her a comical book of medical cartoons and my aunt and uncle had given her a block of cheese, a cutting board and a cheese knife. 

        As my grandmother opened my apron, she gingerly tied it around her waist and modeled it for all.  I was so proud.  Then she opened the other gifts and commented, “This is great!  Now I can wear Lori Bell’s apron while I read comics and cut the cheese.” 

        The entire family erupted in laughter, except me.  I had no idea what was funny in her statement until my mother explained to me that “cut the cheese” was an expression that also meant “to pass gas.”

        Every Thanksgiving, we would all gather at grandma’s house where her three Pekinese dogs, “Shirley, goodness, and mercy” resided.  She named them those names and would explain every time that they would “follow her all the days of her life.”  And they did.  As we prepared to eat our Thanksgiving feast, I loved hearing grandma read Psalm 118, pausing to allow us all to respond “For His Mercy Endureth Forever” when she would pause.

        As a young newlywed, I found myself in a quandry when I ran out of birth control pills and could not afford to go to the doctor.  I wrote my grandma and asked if she had any recommendations.  She sent me some but included a “home remedy” to use until I could get in.  She recommended “a glass of water before bed, a glass of water upon waking and NOTHING in between.”   I got THAT one!

        My grandma was an extremely strong woman.  She didn’t change any laws or move mountains.  But, she changed the world one person at a time with her skills, kindness, and laughter.  And for that, she has always been my hero even after her death at age 94.

Mike: Each Sunday this month our women have selected women from the Scriptures to highlight and complement their own stories. One of the biblical women Lori chose is Lydia because Lydia was a strong businesswoman just like Lori’s grandmother. And they both shared hospitality with those who needed it.

        Let’s look at Lydia and we’ll do that by imagining Paul talking about her.

        “Lydia, Lydia. Now she was a godsend. I don’t know what I would have done without her. She was critical to our outreach in Europe. In fact, I’d say she was probably the first person in Europe to embrace the Jesus message. If it wasn’t for her, our movement would probably have remained in the Middle East.

        I was going around visiting communities on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. I would go into a Jewish synagogue, meet some local Jewish people, and then invite a few of them to listen to me share about Jesus. We’d form a small group of Jesus followers and then I’d move on to another community.

One night, I had a vision which involved someone asking me to come over to Europe. I took the risk and ventured into this new land. Unfortunately, the first place I visited was Philippi where there weren’t any Jewish synagogues. I was at a loss for what to do. I was discouraged and considered turning around. Someone mentioned to us we might find some women gathering on the Sabbath outside the city gate by the river.

That next Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside. There we found Lydia who was leading a group of women in prayer. Lydia had travelled to Phillipi from Thyatira to sell her expensive, purple-dyed goods. We sat through her amazing prayer meeting and then introduced ourselves. We told her about how we were followers of Jesus. She wanted to know more so we talked the rest of the afternoon. Lydia asked if she could be a Jesus follower and so we baptized her.  

As night approached, Lydia inquired if we had any place to eat and stay in the area. We said we needed both. So she invited us to her home, a big villa that had plenty of beds for our whole group. We ate together and stayed overnight – that night and the next and the next.

We started a small group of Jesus followers in Lydia’s home. Week after week we met. People invited their friends and family and we grew. Lydia continued to host us and feed us and invite people she knew in the area to our meetings. I was surprised by the diversity of people who joined us: both men and women, both the poor and the wealthy, both Jews and Gentiles. The barriers that usually keep us apart fell away. What an amazing fellowship God created, all because of the hospitality of one woman – Lydia.

As I look back, I’d have to say that the church in Phillipi with Lydia has been my favorite, the one I have loved the most. They continue to support our ministry both financially and with their prayers and love.”

Those are Paul’s thoughts 2000 years ago telling about the strength and importance of Lydia.

 Now, let’s hear again from Lori as she shares about some of the challenges she has faced.

Lori: It was August 1986.  I was a mother of two babies.  Scott, who we adopted from South Korea was six months old.  Sarah, who I had given birth to, was 2 months old. 

        I flew from Chicago to Dayton, Ohio with the two kids rather than drive the 7 hours to my parent’s house.  The flight was horrific even though it was only a 20–30-minute flight.  I was extremely happy to hand over my children to my parents when we arrived.

        Two days later, I came up from my bedroom in their basement ready to take care of my babies, who had slept in my mom and dad’s room so I could get some rest.

        I took Sarah from my mother and almost dropped her.  Mom made me sit down and then handed Sarah to me.  It didn’t take my mom long to realize I had a serious problem.  She sent me to the local ER with my dad.  They concluded I had Bell’s Palsy because of the drooping left side of my face.  They sent us back home. 

        When we arrived back at the house, my mother had a fit.  She called her own neurologist and asked him to see me and then sent dad and I back to the hospital.  Her neurologist diagnosed me with Multiple Sclerosis.  My mother has MS and although it is not hereditary, there is a tendency for it to run in families.  I was admitted to the hospital for IV treatment immediately and ended up staying in the hospital for a week. 

        Michael came to pick us up and took us all home.  It was not the visit I had hoped for and now I had a lifelong chronic disease.  But my husband refused to accept that diagnosis.  I had not only lost all use of my left side, but I had lost my ability to read and understand numbers.  I struggled everyday to do basic skills for myself and could not care for two infants.

        Michael had to find help.  Our church at the time volunteered to provide help for me during the daytime so Michael could continue to work.  They set up a volunteer system, so I was never alone.  For an entire month, they helped in this way.

        Michael also arranged for me to see other specialists who could not confirm the MS diagnosis, but suggested maybe it was a brain infection or encephalitis.  I just knew I was losing who I was.  I changed from a very extroverted person who loved people to a scared young mother who struggled every moment of every day.  Depression descended on me as rules overwhelmed my life.  I wasn’t allowed to take my babies for walks in the stroller as I was unable to make reasonably safe decisions, like how to cross a street. 

        Michael signed me up at a holistic health center where I received hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and massage therapy. 

        When I wasn’t at the holistic health center, I was trying to read Dr. Seuss books to regain my reading skills.  It would be almost two years before I could read comprehensively again.   The math skills were tougher to deal with.  But, when I bounced a check to the IRS, Michael decided handling our finances would have to be his job.

        After living with the diagnosis of MS for 10 years, I had another “neurological event.”  I assumed it was an exacerbation of the MS, but soon learned from a neurologist (after more testing) in Kalamazoo that I did NOT have MS, BUT that I have a rare blood disorder called antiphospholipid antibody syndrome and that I had actually suffered a major stroke ten years earlier and a lighter stroke at this point.  Putting me on a blood thinner could not only keep me alive but should help to prevent additional strokes.

        I don’t think of myself as being a “strong” woman necessarily.  I think that is a descriptive word used by others about others, but it isn’t a word I would use to describe myself.  BUT I believe the world is full of MANY people, male and female, who do what they must do to live their best life.  And those of us around can’t always imagine what it would be like to live that journey and so we call them strong.

“Anyone is a strong person who lifts up others.”


        Today is Palm Sunday. It’s a day to celebrate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem as God’s leader. There was a lot of singing and dancing on that first Palm Sunday. They waved their branches and sang Hosanna!

        It reminds me of another celebration. One of the first big celebrations in the history of the Jewish people. In fact, the song they sang at that celebration is said to be the earliest fragment of Jewish poetry. The song was written by and the dance was led by the sister of Moses: Miriam.

Miriam is known as a prophet, which means that she was considered a special leader sent by God.

The story is told that after the enslaved Jewish people escaped from Egypt they had to fight against some Egyptian soldiers at a body of water. The male fighters were successful. As they returned back to camp, the women came out and celebrated their victory with dancing and singing. Miriam led the group of women with her tambourine. The others joined in with their voices and tambourines.

The song they sang that day became known as the Song of the Sea since that was where it happened. Even though Miriam wrote it, her brother Moses got all the recognition and honor for the song and for the victory. But it was really all about Miriam, the strong woman, the amazing poet, the musical director. She was in so many ways the foremother of the Jewish people.

So, we’ve spent four weeks talking about strong women in our lives and in the Scriptures. What about the strong women you know? Would you be willing to share their name and what made them special?

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