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Mission Delayed

As a 15-year-old girl in 1927, Lois Secrist promised God she'd go overseas as a missionary, perhaps to Africa or India, helping the needy. But Lois never made that trip of mercy.

At 23 she married Galon Prater, a handsome farmhand who became a heavy drinker.

Many years later, Galon did become a Christian and testify about the peace of Jesus to his drinking buddies. But by then he was almost 80 and nearing death. When he died January 9, 1988, Lois's childhood desire of becoming a missionary returned.

At first she resisted. At age 76, she felt her opportunity to serve overseas as a missionary had slipped away.

"I said, 'Lord, I'm too old to go now. I can't do this,'" Lois admits.

But this great grandmother was determined to fulfill her unforgotten promise. Lois, pricked by the memory of ignoring God's calling as a teenager, would not refuse a second chance at becoming a missionary.

So at 87, Lois Prater has become the unlikely builder of an orphanage in the Philippines, a lifeline to 35 children whose lives have been rescued from neglect, begging in the streets, and parental abuse.

Today the 35 orphans living in the two-story, 2,000 square foot white stucco home call Lois "Lola," which means "grandmother" in their native Tagalog language.

Lois's "children," as she calls them, range in age from eight months to 10 years. Each of their stories is heartbreaking.

Lois has built the orphanage without taking out a loan, relying instead on individual financial support from across the United States. Because of her age, she is not supported by any church denomination and depends solely on private donations.

When asked if that makes her nervous, she says confidently, "I serve a mighty God. He's in control. I feel I'm not talented enough to do any of this. But God enables me. My responsibility is to do what I can."

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