90 Years Young

Ninety candles are a lot to fit on a birthday cake, but when Ms. Frankie Taylor turned 90 on September 12, she didn’t try to make that happen. She only put three candles on her cake. Each candle represented 30 years, and each flame stood for a multitude of stories and themes that have been woven together to make 90 years of life. Frankie will tell you that the Lord has been the Weaver—and He’s still working.

When we spoke to Ms. Frankie, just like the candles on her cake, she divided her 90-year journey into 30-year segments.

“The middle 30 years of my life, I thought I was doing stuff. The last 30 have been the ‘calling stage,’ where God’s calling me to do what I do and telling me, ‘You can do it,’” she said.

As you would expect from someone who has lived nine decades, wisdom and grace freely flow from Ms. Frankie. She is warm and honest, quick to smile, offer a kind word, and speak the truth. She is familiar with hardship and hope.

“Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes is a poem that depicts themes of hardship and hope, and it resonates with Ms. Frankie. The end of it reads:

I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

America was in the middle of one of its greatest economic crises when Ms. Frankie was born. She grew up in a time of turmoil and division, when the color of your skin determined much of your life.

“I’m a product of the Depression. I’m a product of segregation and discrimination,” she explained. “What got me through was this: God said, ‘You will have trouble, but I am for you.’”

Ms. Frankie’s relationship with God began in 1943, when she was saved at a revival at age 10. While she grew up in Memphis, church was important to Ms. Frankie and her family, and so was school and work.

Ms. Frankie spent long hours and longer days working and attending high school and college. She started her first job in 1948 at the Daisy Theater on Beale Street, where she sold candy and popcorn. After learning to type in high school, she became a typist at the Army Depot, and she revived that skill later on after leaving Memphis.

Ms. Frankie moved from Memphis to the Washington D.C.–Baltimore area in 1953. She worked for the government at every level: federal, state, and local, helping with computer programming and applications.

Breaking into that field was not easy. Ms. Frankie had to continually prove that she could do the job, and she did time and time again.

At one point, she was an instructor of computer programming and applications at Bowie State. Later on, the governor of Maryland appointed her as access and equity chair to ensure that rural communities and low-income areas had access to computers. At another point, she oversaw a computer camp that educated 1,000 kids.

But computer programming wasn’t the only career Ms. Frankie pursued. She also received a master’s degree in international social policy and traveled to the Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Mauritania to interview those countries’ social security officials to learn about their systems and improve them. She was a success in the world’s eyes and in her own.

“God just gave me opportunity after opportunity,” Ms. Frankie said. “You know what happened? I thought it was me.”

The Lord got her attention when her career began to slow after she got her last big government contract. She continued to work harder, but she got fewer and fewer contracts. Ms. Frankie noted that this was her “learning moment”—the moment she realized the spotlight was pointed in the wrong direction.

Looking back, she can see that God was on her side in everything. Through the struggle of proving herself and her successes, He provided and directed every step.

She now lists her accomplishments not to boast in herself but to boast in God.

“Take no credit for God’s blessings. Give Him the glory,” she encouraged.

In the last 30 years, God has been given much glory through Ms. Frankie’s faithfulness, and she has another list of accomplishments that are very different from those of her earlier life.

Ms. Frankie went on her first mission trip in 2013, and she went back every year after until the pandemic hit. She’s volunteered, serving with several churches in the Memphis area. She’s traveled back to the Ivory Coast and visited new places as well: China, Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. She shared Scripture with villagers in the Ivory Coast, and in Kenya, she helped with vacation Bible school and taught children how to read through ARISE2Read.

“God has called me to share what He and He alone has done,” she said.

Ms. Frankie joined Bellevue in 2015 and has taken four trips to Kenya with our team. Bellevue Missions Pastor Ben Taylor noted how her commitment to spreading the Gospel remains the same whether she is going or staying.

“I cannot tell you how many times Ms. Frankie has expressed to our team that she is here to help in any way she can even when she has not been able to go in person,” he said. “Her faithfulness to the Lord and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a testimony of God’s grace and a blessing to all those who know her!”

During one of Ms. Frankie’s trips to Kenya, Bellevue member and International Mission Board Journeyman Lauren Milewski had a front-row seat to her love for and dedication to the Lord.

“I remember taking photographs in the back and just watching how our Kenyan friends were drawn to her, but I believe it was Christ in her that they were drawn to,” she said.

Lauren recalled another time when Ms. Frankie was so excited while sharing about Jesus that she started jumping up and down.

“My thought was, ‘Man, I just pray that when I’ve reached that age, my passion for God and His faithfulness is like hers—unwavering.’”

But because of her age, Ms. Frankie’s thoughts did waver. At first, she thought it was too late to answer God’s call to go on mission trips. Then, someone reminded her that Moses was 80 when the Lord called him.

“I thought I couldn’t do it because I was too old,” Ms. Frankie said. “No, no, no—you’re never too old. God doesn’t send you where you shouldn’t be. He sends you where He wants you to be.”

Ms. Frankie has loved like Christ on the mission field, and Peggy Williams, Ms. Frankie’s Life Group leader, has seen how she does the same in her everyday life.

“She just loves people—all people. She initiates conversation with just about anyone in order to learn their story and tell them about Jesus,” she said.

Rika Hood described how Ms. Frankie encourages her and others in their discipleship group.

“She is proof that you do not age out of the army of Christ, and you are never too old to stop serving the Lord,” she said. “At her age, she is still vibrant and yearns to learn more about the Lord.”

Ever learning and ever growing, Ms. Frankie knows that the Lord is not done with her yet. Giving God the glory for what He has done and what He will continue to do is a daily activity for her.

“It matters not how dark the night; the sun comes up in the morning,” Ms. Frankie said. “Rejoice. Every morning should be a rejoice.”