Mary Glenn Ingouf, 91, “crossed the graduation stage” in her retirement home apartment in Decatur, Alabama recently but did so without a cap and gown or Pomp and Circumstance. For Ingouf, receiving the diploma was as memorable as it was long in coming.
Jamie Dew, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary president, conferred the master of discipleship degree diploma at Ingouf’s home August 4, with husband John at her side.
“I have done graduation ceremonies in chapel. I have done them in prisons. I’ve never done one in an apartment,” Dew quipped.
The “graduation ceremony” closed a chapter in Ingouf’s life that had remained open for 66 years.
“Now, it’s taken care of, at last,” Ingouf said. “I’m very thankful that they would do this.”
Ingouf was three weeks away from graduation in 1957 when the couple’s firstborn child—born prematurely—lived just one day. That spring, Ingouf instead watched her husband graduate and soon afterward the couple moved to John’s pastorate, moving later to the international mission field. After 29 years in Indonesia with the International Mission Board, the couple served ten more with IMB in Richmond helping others go.
Through the years, Ingouf had hoped to finish her master of religious education degree but the timing never seemed right.
“Every time we came home on leave, we’d say, we’ve got to get that finished, but we never did because we had four children by then,” Ingouf said.
But what was left unfinished in the seminary classroom was more than completed in the classroom of mission service as Ingouf discipled women, and led them to disciple others.
With family members gathered around, Dew drew from 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 to “charge” the graduating class of one.
While the world defines good stewardship in terms of success and achievement, God looks for something “much more simple, and that is, just faithfulness,” Dew said.
Pointing to verse five, Dew said “gifted” and “flashy” youth often garner esteem when a more true assessment of one’s life and work should be taken at the end. Dew said Ingouf was worthy of the day’s honor and praised her faithfulness “as a pastor’s wife, as a missionary, as a mother.”
On the field, Glenn Ingouf often helped with translation as John Ingouf served as editor and writer for a publishing house for Indonesian churches.
”Anybody can start well,” Dew said. “What the Lord wants to see is people who finish well.”
After family members alerted the seminary earlier this year of Ingouf’s wish to finish her degree, the master of discipleship degree was soon recognized as the right fit.
Ingouf’s investment in discipleship through the years impacted many for the gospel.
“Mrs. Siti” closed the curtains to her store whenever John and Ms. Glenn came to visit so neighbors wouldn’t see her talking to them, Ingouf related. When Siti first visited the women’s Bible study, she carried a basket to pretend she was going to the market. Siti and her family faced ridicule and some loss of business after coming to faith, but they remained faithful. Today, Siti leads the women’s Bible study Ingouf first started.
“Siti was a natural leader,” Ingouf said. “I counted on her all the time.”
Another woman Ingouf discipled, Kosasih, resolved to get up at 4 a.m. to disciple a woman who insisted she was too old to memorize scripture. Together, the women practiced scripture memory as they rolled banana leaves with meat to sell as a breakfast item.
“Kosasih taught her one verse at a time,” Ingouf explained. “They repeated it each time they wrapped a package.”
Life was not easy for those leaving Islam for Christ, and life was not always easy for the Ingouf family. Another devastating loss would come.
EVEN IN SORROW
While in Indonesia, the Ingoufs lost their eleven-year-old daughter Ann to leukemia.
“After Ann passed away, Mom wrote a booklet,” wrote daughter Susan Lafferty in a recent blog post honoring her mother. Lafferty explained that her mother used “her grief experience to help others who go through such a loss.”
In her booklet, “Comfort in Sorrow,” Ingouf wrote, “For His children, God promises that His strength will give us songs of praise in place of a heavy heart (Isaiah 61:3). I have experienced the truth of this verse … Our Lord never leaves us alone.”
For those considering mission service, Christ’s promise to always be present must be remembered, Ingouf said, pointing to Matthew 28:18-20.
“That tells us who has the authority. All authority is given to Jesus,” Ingouf said. “Then He said, ‘Go.’ The promise goes with it, that He will be with us until the end of the age.”
“They continue seeking the Lord,” Lafferty said, “and reaching out to encourage others. Daily, Mom and Dad pray for family and unreached people groups and missionaries around the world. Every evening they sit together and review passages they read in their morning quiet times: what they saw, what they learned. Then they pray. I thank the Lord for their faithfulness.”As John and “Ms. Glenn” continue to live faithful lives and trust in Him, she remembers the verse that years ago was so important in their call to missions, Isaiah 6:8—“Here am I. Send me.”