Maria Teresa de Giustina Standridge was a remarkable woman. She was small in physical stature but a giant spiritually. She was the first Italian woman to graduate from Bible school, the first to be in full-time Christian ministry, wrote many spiritual books and pamphlets, had a great burden for souls, and faithfully served alongside her husband Bill for over fifty years. In the short time we knew Maria Teresa we found her to be gracious, compassionate, kind, and encouraging. One did not have to be long in her presence to sense her love of Christ and of His word.
The last Sunday in June we said our good-bye to Maria Teresa. Since we were flying back to the States for the month of July we were glad to see her and Bill stop by briefly to the spiritual retreat held by the church at an agriturismo on the outskirts of Rome, even though she was weakened with her illness. She greeted Sandy with her familiar “hello dear” and before stepping back into her car she put her arms around us and felt our spines. With a sober voice she charged us, “Remember, you are missionaries. God gave you a backbone. Use it.” These were her last words to us. She entered the presence of our Lord Jesus the very day that we were flying back to Rome.
Maria Teresa had seen many missionaries come and go in Italy. She held serving the Saviour in the highest regard and I believe her last words to us were meant to encourage us to press on and fulfill God’s calling of reconciliation to the Italian people, no matter what obstacles and difficulties we were to face. Upon her passing many people have sent letters to Bill relating how the words of Maria Teresa had made a great impression upon them and impacted their lives. She had a gift from God of proclaiming biblical truth with unusual force, conviction, and insight, in a very simple and concise way.
Not all of us possess this gift that God bestowed upon Maria Teresa but I wonder what difference we could make in the lives of others if we lived upon the meditated truths of God’s word and spoke with the understanding that it might be our last opportunity before eternity to inspire, impact, or provide biblical insight to those that God allows in our sphere of influence.