“Only eternity will reveal the impact of one imperfect life given wholly to Jesus.” This was Connie Lawson—an imperfect life lived fully for Christ from her childhood decision to accept Him as her Saviour until her final breath. Her timeless legacy continues to have immeasurable impact because of her unwavering faith.
In 2015, the celebratory occasion of Connie’s milestone 60th birthday was abruptly overshadowed by the devasting diagnosis of lung cancer. That fateful day of receiving her test results marked the beginning of a grueling ten months consumed by a relentless fight for her life. A dedicated wife, mother to five grown children and grandmother to twelve grandchildren, Connie had always been intentional about imprinting their hearts and minds with the joy of loving Jesus.
Connie’s heart ached from the stinging reality that she would not be present to see her loved ones flourish in their God-given gifts. As her body weakened, her resolve to cling to her Saviour strengthened, humbly surrendering to the truth of Psalm 139:16 — the Lord had assigned the date of her birth and He had also assigned the date of her death.
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” -Psalm 139:16
Connie was never alone on her cancer journey. Faithfully by her side upholding her was the love of her life, Ian. They were inseparable as they faced each triumph and tragedy together for 39½ years of marriage. Connie and Ian met at Briercrest Bible College where they both graduated in 1975. They loved to serve the Lord together and eventually set their roots at the Evangelical Free Church in Lethbridge, Alberta where Ian pastored for 20 years. Connie dove into ministry as well, serving as the Director of Women’s Ministry for 15 years.
Their desire to fulfill the biblical mandate to care for the poor led Ian to become a member of the Board of Directors at Compassion Canada. Wanting to engage in a deeper way, Ian and Connie embarked on a life-changing journey to the slums of Mathare Valley, Nairobi where former gang members escorted them through dangerous streets ravaged by the wrath of poverty. They warily trekked over open sewers carved into pathways and were overwhelmed by the despair that flooded the eyes of each passerby.
The breathtaking beauty on their drive to Kisoro through the mountains of western Uganda was something they’d never forget; but neither would they forget the startling crack of gunfire across the border in the Congo. Never before had they encountered the stark reality of extreme poverty. It stared them boldly in the face, and yet, in this sea of despair was an island of hope. The Compassion centre was a beacon, joyfully alive with children dancing and smiling ear-to-ear as they greeted their honoured guests.
Connie’s heart was profoundly moved when she encountered the desperate need of moms whose malnourished babies relied fully on the aid of others for survival. She witnessed the tender care of Compassion staff as they walked alongside these moms, mentoring them and meeting their critical needs at a vital time of their babies’ lives. This indelible memory, first planted when she visited Thailand, was held tightly in Connie’s heart for the remainder of her life. Little did she know that God would use this life experience to bring hope and healing to other mothers just like these.
Connie loved ministering to women and became a personal mentor to many, supporting them in their Christian walk. She was also a gifted teacher, sharing the gospel with hundreds as she led the women’s ministry at her church. As an expression of gratitude for her 15 years of service as Director of Women’s Ministry, Connie was graciously gifted $1,500. Her initial thought was to buy a new laptop until she remembered how it would be of little worth given her impending death. When she became aware of a new Compassion Survival Program in Leon, Nicaragua waiting to be funded, that indelible memory she held from her Compassion trips sparked an idea that would grow beyond her wildest dreams.
As Christmas of 2015 approached, all of the Lawson family gathered at Ian and Connie’s home for a bittersweet final holiday together. In previous years at Christmas, they focused on redirecting holiday giving away from themselves, putting others’ needs above their own. This Christmas would be no different. On her last Christmas, Connie presented a creative challenge to her children and grandchildren. She wanted to see her gift of $1,500, designated to supporting the Survival program in Leon, grow with their help. The entire family accepted her challenge and together, almost doubled her original gift.
Word of Connie’s challenge began to spread among friends at their church who quickly jumped on board to join her vision. It was just two short months later that Connie met her Saviour in eternity. Those who gathered to honour her life wanted nothing more than to keep Connie’s challenge alive. Through their thoughtful gifts, a garage sale by her children and a lemonade stand by her grandchildren, the gift of $1,500 that Connie had received grew to $40,000!
Inspired by Connie’s life of faith and generosity, the Evangelical Free Church where Ian pastored made the decision to provide ongoing support to Compassion’s Survival program from their mission fund. Connie’s thoughtful gift in 2015 continues to grow and impact the lives of countless mothers and babies to this very day.
One year after Connie’s passing, Ian and his daughter Rachel had the opportunity to join Compassion’s Board of Directors on a field trip to Leon, Nicaragua. Both were flooded with emotion when they visited the very Survival Program funded by Connie’s gift. A touching display labeled “A Race Run Well” honoured Connie. Compassion staff, volunteers and the mothers whose lives were changed because of Connie’s legacy, showered them with words of heartfelt appreciation. Reflecting on the scene of that memorable day, Ian shared, “We were overwhelmed with emotion – just to see the impact of her one decision. How thrilled Connie would have been if she could see all the moms there with their babies!”
Connie’s legacy lives on… in her children, who daily walk with Jesus and teach their own children the same values they received at her knee. Three of Connie’s granddaughters have sweet memories of their grandmother:
“Grandma left a beautiful and powerful impact on my faith. The way she lived by loving and serving others wholeheartedly inspired and continues to inspire me to serve and love others in a Christ-like way.” – Hannah
“Grandma’s faith has impacted me so much as she showed me firsthand how to walk with Jesus. Through ‘Cousin Camp’, she always taught us grandkids how much God loves us and incorporated Christ through all the activities we did.” – Jayden
“Although I was fairly young when she passed, I know her life of faithfulness and prayer have impacted me. Through the lives of my grandpa, mom, aunts and uncles, her love, generosity, creativity and wisdom are still felt. I remember about a week after her funeral I received a Bible from her for my birthday. It is still the sweetest gift I have gotten and has changed my life.” – Kenya
Connie’s legacy lives on… in the women she personally mentored and prayed with, and the hundreds of women she discipled in the Bible studies she led. It was during her teaching of Philippians that she received her lung cancer diagnosis. As she shared her message with others, God comforted her with the powerful truth of Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Connie’s legacy lives on… in the Nicaraguan children, their families and communities who are forever impacted by her generous gift. Because of Connie’s vision, mothers living in poverty were given the life-saving opportunity to receive vital medical care, nourishing food and critical pre- and postnatal education. Most priceless of all, they were given the gift of hearing the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Only eternity will reveal the impact of one imperfect life given wholly to Jesus.” Thank you, Connie, for your life, your faith, and your legacy of love.