An Interview with Laurie Stallings Vanderpool – 3/18/2019
[0:00] JVB: Hello, everybody and welcome back to another LiveBeyond podcast. My name is Jacklyn Vanderpool Barnett and today I am so excited about who we are talking to. We are interviewing Laurie Stallings Vanderpool, the co-founder of LiveBeyond and my mom. So, thank you so much for joining us today.
[0:18] LSV: Thank you, Jacklyn.
[0:19] JVB: So, Mama, I know, I know. But the people who are listening, they need to know your background.
[0:26] LSV: Well it’s a lovely background to get to tell about. I grew up in a family that has always loved the Lord. I know that from the very moment I was born, my parents were praying over me, telling me about the love of Jesus and that’s an enormous blessing that I’ve always had. It’s a heritage that’s been passed down in our family, and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to also pass that down to our children for as far back as we know on both sides, on David side and on my side of the family. We can trace ourselves back to strong committed Christians. We have a deep blessing and a deep heritage in loving the Lord. I actually met David, Dr. Vanderpool, when I was thirteen years old. I can still remember the very first time that I saw him at church. And that was the way that we became friends and then eventually became boyfriend and girlfriend. Our family has always had a rule in the family that you had to graduate from college before you could get married. So, within weeks of college graduation and before David was in medical school, we got married. We’re just about to celebrate thirty-eight years of marriage, and I am extraordinarily grateful for the wonderful man that I have been able to be beside for most of my life. We have three delightful children, and I have made the commitment to David that I will follow him anywhere he goes in all the world. And there have been places that have made me question that commitment a few times, but I am very, very satisfied with the life that the Lord has given us to live and to lead together. So that’s the enormous blessing that I have.
[2:25] JVB: So, Mom, was there a moment that happened that led you to leave Nashville?
[2:32] LSV: Starting in 2005, when we began the organization, David and I started traveling to quite a few different places around the world, doing short-term mission work. And then in 2010, when the earthquake hit in Haiti, David would actually close his practice for about a week each month, and we would lead medical teams down to Haiti to serve there. But one time that was the most telling for me, David and I were having very deep conversations about when we would leave Nashville, when we would actually make the move. And there was every reason in the book not to go. Jacklyn was still at home in high school. Our two boys were in college. We were struggling a little bit with the idea of whether or not we actually could leave all of our family members, the rest of our family, behind in the United States. And I was actually sitting at our piano worshipping and playing a song that I had worshipped to many times. I was all alone in the house, and I was I was actually playing the song that was written by Tim Hughes, and it’s been sung and recorded by many people, “Here I Am to Worship.” And it was the second verse of the song that goes, “King of all days, oh, so highly exalted, glorious in heaven above, humbly You came to this earth You created, and all for love sake became poor.” For some reason, when I was playing the song, that particular song, that particular time, I felt like the Lord just came upon me. And I was broken in a way that I hadn’t been broken before. And I realized that if Jesus could leave heaven to come to Earth and be a poor man, then surely, I could leave Nashville, Tennessee and move to Haiti and try to follow in His footsteps. That was the one event that I can point to and say that from that moment on, I had no question that I was ready to go, that I was ready to follow as closely in the steps of Jesus as I could.
[4:54] JVB: Mom, I know that you share this story a lot in Haiti, and I’ve heard it dozens of times from being in Haiti, and yet every time it makes me cry and just touches so many people. So. do you mind sharing the story that you like to share so much?
[5:11] LSV: But you know what the truth is, Jacklyn, I don’t like to share this story. I don’t. It is hard for me to tell it. And the only reason I do is because I know it is impactful, I know that it touches people. But I have to sort of get up my courage every time I tell it. And I go into a place of repentance every time I tell it because it shows the kindness and the mercy of the Lord and at the same time shows the confusion that I had about so many aspects of the Lord. So, the story that you’re referring to is the time when I went into a season, we were living in Tennessee, and I love the Lord Jesus. I don’t even know how to describe the intimacy that He has given to me. The nearness, the mercy that He has shown me. To always let me know that I’m loved. I have never questioned whether or not the Lord loved me. And I was in a season when I just wasn’t satisfied. I did not think I had enough of the Lord. I wanted more. I actually told the Lord, “I want to see you in the flesh.” I’ve never known of anyone else to ask that, to make that request of Him, and it took a lot of courage on my part to make that request. But I really wanted it. So, I would get up early in the mornings and I would say, “Oh, Lord, please meet me. Let me see You in the flesh. I’m not satisfied until I see You.” And I’d be with Him during the day and I would make the request and I would ask Him at night, “Can I please see You?” And I knew that was just almost a silly thing to ask. And I went through scripture, and I said, “You know, I know I’m not like Abraham. I know I don’t deserve the kind of visit, the kind of meeting that You had with Abraham. I know I’m not like Moses. I know. I know that I’m not worthy of having that sort of relationship with You.” But then I found Samson’s mother, who was just out in the field, and the Angel of the Lord, the Lord Himself came and visited her. And I almost raised my hand and said, “Can I be like Samson’s mother? Would You just look at me like Samson’s mother? And would You come and would You visit me?” And I begged Him. I begged Him for weeks and the weeks turned into months, and I begged Him for months, and one morning I really felt like in my spirit, I heard Him say, “Okay, today you’ll see Me.” And I can still feel the feeling of electricity going through my arms just thrilled me. And I had this picture that He was going to be on the bench. So, we lived close to a park and I ran down to the park and I looked on all the benches expecting to see big, strong, handsome Jesus just waiting to greet me. And He wasn’t there. So, I went on through the day and went to the grocery store and there was a bench beside the door going into the store and I looked on the bench, and He wasn’t there. So, all through the day I was looking for benches and looking for Him. But it was Friday afternoon and our boys were playing high school football. So, I did what I do or did in those years. We got our boys ready for the game and got them all outfitted and had the pregame meal and did all the hoopla that I know families like ours do for their boys playing football and got them off and I went to the game. And our family has always had a very strong football heritage. I’m a football coach’s daughter. So, we don’t go games for entertainment, we go to games because there’s work to be done. And I don’t do the tailgating, didn’t do all that kind of fun stuff, didn’t always go to the game with friends because this was serious business that you have to have your voice prepared for and you’re going there to see a task accomplished. David and I always reserved four seats on the very top row of the stadium, right underneath the press box. And I liked to sit there under the press-box underneath where the coaches were, the press-box coaches, just with the hope that they might call down and say, “Hey, Laurie, what do you think we ought to, what call do you think we ought to make next?” Not once in all the years of my boys playing did they ever once make that sort of request of me, not once. But I was there just in case. And I do think that one time I was the very first one to call out, “twelve men on the field!” And I don’t know if I really was first or not but I take credit for it, and they got the timeout called before we got a penalty. But I think that’s as close to football coaching that I’ve ever got to make. But anyway, this night, David and I had our four reserved seats just in case we brought anyone to a game with us. If family came in town or brought an extra friend or two and that night we didn’t have anyone, so we didn’t need our two extra seats. So, we were walking up the stadium and I noticed two men were sitting in two of our seats and I just thought, “Oh brother, don’t they know they have sat in reserved seats? On this side of the aisle it’s reserved on the other side of the aisle, not reserved.” So, I almost asked them, would they mind moving over, but we didn’t need those two seats, so I didn’t say anything to them and I could sort of squeezed in behind them, and I patted them on the shoulders as I sat down. But I sort of turned my back to them. I didn’t really have very much to say to them unless my boy did something good. And then I pointed out, “You know, that was my boy that made that good play.” And that was really the only conversation I had with them because they didn’t smell very good. They were very large. They seemed like they were sick. I can still see the runny, rheumy eyes that that one of the men had, and so I sort of kept my space. I kept my distance away from them. At half time, I stood up and I called down to my friends who were sitting down sort of below us, and I said, “Hey, I’m going to go get some water. Does anybody want a water?” And a few friends said yes, and I didn’t ask these two men. And so, I went down and got waters and came back up and when I came back at the end of halftime, they were gone. And I thought, “Oh good I can spread out, I can enjoy myself, and I don’t have to worry about these men anymore.” We won the game, so we went home after the game and did all the postgame stuff that our family would do. We’d watch some of the film and would replay in our minds all of the good plays that our boys had made and got everyone to bed and went to bed with David. But then I got back up. I went in to be alone with the Lord and I said, “Oh, Lord I must have misunderstood because I really thought You had said that today I would see You,” and I heard Him say, “I sat beside you at the game tonight.” And I heard Him say, “I sat beside you at the game tonight.” and I thought, “Oh no, no, no, no Lord, those men were very poor. They were dirty. They didn’t smell good. I think they were sick.” And then I saw those eyes, those eyes that I still remember today and the first thing I thought was that, “I didn’t even offer You the drink of water,” and, Jacklyn, that just hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t recognize Him. He sat beside me on the bench and I didn’t recognize Him. All my life, I thought that He had been here for me, that He was my provider, that He was my protector, that He was the one who adored me. And I didn’t recognize Him, even though I could quote so much of Matthew 25 that tells about the glorious King when He comes and will sit down on His glorious throne and all the angels will come with Him. And like a judge He will sit, and like a shepherd He will divide the sheep from the goats and He’ll turn to the sheep on His right and He’ll say, “Come and enjoy all that My Father has prepared for you. For when I was sick, you took care of Me. When I was hungry, you gave Me food. And when I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink. And when I was naked, you clothed Me. And when I was a stranger, you brought Me in. And when I was in prison, you visited Me.” And the people said, “Lord, when did we see You like that?” And He said, “whenever you did it to the very least of these, you did it to me.” You know, He didn’t say, “when you did it to the least of these it was like you were doing to Me.” He said, “You did it to Me.” And on that night, my life did a 180. I completely turned around. I realized that when I look for Jesus in the flesh, He is poor, He’s sick, He’s naked, He’s thirsty, He’s hungry, He needs visiting. And that’s the way I get to see Him in the flesh. So, now I have this incredibly delightful life that I go to visit the poorest of the poor. I go into their little huts, their shacks, their little tin shanties, and I may see them lying on the ground, covered in their own vomit, in their own feces, smelling bad. And I look at them and I think, who am I looking at? And I know it’s Jesus. And I think, do I want to miss the opportunity to kiss Jesus on the cheek? And the answer is, no, I don’t ever want to miss that opportunity.
And I get to look deep in the eyes of so many people, and I looked right past them. I look deeper inside them, and I think, “Oh, Lord, I see You. I see You and I want to do everything I can to express my love to You by the way I express my love to the very least of these.” And the Lord continues to deepen that in me. I know that I get to express my love to the Lord in the way I express my love to my children, in the way express my love to my parents, especially in the way I express my love to my husband. The way I talk to my husband is literally the way I talked to the Lord. So, I try to remember that. I’m a hypocrite so many times when I tell this and when I teach this because I don’t always talk to David with the way I should, the way I want to talk to Jesus. But that is the truth. I only love Jesus as much as I love others. I only show Him as much love as I show other people. So that is the impactful moments I’ve shared with you too, of the impact for moments of my life.
[17:58] JVB: Thank you so much for sharing because I know that’s a hard story for you to share. It’s so humbling, but it’s so incredibly impactful and so nice for us to be reminded that we have to look for Jesus in the least of these because that’s what He said. That’s where He is. So, thank you, I know that’s not always easy. Now, one of the things that I love so much about you is that you have such a clear mission from the Lord. I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone who has such a straight-forward and clear mission. So please share that with us.
[18:38] LSV: Well, I do think that I’ve been given a good job description. And my job description is to have the understanding that Jesus is coming soon, that the King is returning soon. And my job is to prepare the Bride for the return of the King. To make sure all who I know and all who I touch are prepared for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. The King is coming soon and we must be prepared. So not only do I get to reach out to those who have not heard who are not yet a part of the Bride and evangelize and touch and bring in the very poorest of the poor and the needy and those who are hungry and thirsty and they just don’t even know what they’re hungry and thirsty for. But I also get to reach out to those who are already in the Church and to remind them, “Be prepared!” There were ten virgins waiting for the bride groom, and only five were prepared. So, my mantra is be prepared. The return of the Lord is imminent. Jesus Christ is coming soon. Be prepared.
[20:02] JVB: Thank you so much for joining us, and before we wrap up, is there a verse or anything like that that you would like to leave with us?
[20:08] LSV: You know, there are. Two versus that I’d like to leave with you if that’s all right. Maybe in some future podcasts we can go more into depth with these. But one is from 1 Peter 1:8, That says, “Though you have not seen him You love him.” Isn’t that precious? And I feel like in so many ways, the Lord has said you have not seen the glorious Lord Jesus but you get to love Me as you love the poorest of the poor. Another one is from 2 Corinthians 8:9. And this is one that I’ve actually learned to love because of my husband, David. When it says, “For you know the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that though He was rich yet for your sake, He became poor so that you by His poverty become rich.” And this is something that David has taught me to do. To actually substitute my name in this, that it goes along these lines, “For, you know, the grace of Laurie Stallings Vanderpool, that though she was rich yet for your sake… And I, I have Roberto in mind today, one of our precious boys in our LiveBeyond school… Yet for Roberto’s sake, Laurie became poor so that by Laurie’s poverty Roberto might become rich.”
[21:43] JVB: Mom, thank you so much for sharing that with us and for the challenge to us to not only to live beyond ourselves, but to be prepared as the bride of Christ. To also live a sacrificial life so that others may live. Everyone, thank you so much for joining me today. If you are interested in learning more about LiveBeyond, you can go to livebeyond.org where you can set up a one-time or a recurring monthly donation, and we also have our 2019 and 2020 mission dates online. Thank you so much for joining us, and don’t forget, go out and LiveBeyond.
See Laurie and Dr. Vanderpool’s interview with Revive Israel here.
More about the Vanderpool’s move from Tennessee to Haiti here.
To give to the LiveBeyond programs, click here.
Hear the latest news from Haiti, read posts about faith and community development, and find transcriptions from the LiveBeyond podcast.