We’ve recently lost several important and remarkable people in our lives.
Debra became part of our congregation early in Jerry’s ministry. She came to us from the Peace Corp where she served in Ecuador. While with us she earned her Master and Doctorate Degrees and went on to a lifelong career in education at the high school and collegiate levels.
She had many talents, only one of which was needlework. When Jerry and I were married, she crafted an exquisite and intricate cross stitch sampler with our names and wedding date. It has hung on our bedroom wall our entire married life.
While with us, Debra participated in the choir, Bible studies, and served in several church positions no matter what else was going on in her life. She never looked for recognition. When I think of her, I’m reminded of her selfless faithfulness to God.
I had never met a cowboy before, but that’s what Tim was when he walked into our church when Jerry was a student pastor. He, his wife Alice and daughter, Rebecca were the first people Jerry ever received into church membership.
Tim was humble and quiet and yet his presence in any gathering carried weight. In time, he and his family bought a property which they turned into an incredibly special organic farm where he also developed a process to grind corn using his mule, Luke. The result was Red Mule Grits which he shipped all over the country. His products were served in some of the finest upscale restaurants in the world.
Whenever we had a church meeting, many professional people from all walks of life gathered and spoke on various issues, but when Tim stood to speak, a hush fell on the room. We all realized, we needed to listen. Because Tim had something exceedingly rare in this old world—wisdom.
I will remember him Tim for his sage and poignant words that often saved us from error, and I pray God is raising up someone else with those same qualities.
Our friend Evelyn was also a person who did not announce herself, yet her gift of encouragement helped sustain many. Though we only knew her for a short time in the latter years of her life, her influence was profound and will last well beyond the span of her years. She’s someone I would have hoped to spend more time with, but circumstances did not allow. I will count on catching up with her in heaven.
Gwen, the wife of my husband’s former law partner gave us many gifts. We will especially never forget her gracious hospitality that made it possible for Jerry to have a specialized cancer treatment while staying at her out of state vacation property.
Also possessing a master’s degree, her list of accomplishments is long in civic leadership and church service.
Whenever we received a note from her, its eloquence made it seem as if it were destined for the pages of a literary novel. That’s the kind of person she was. If you had opportunity to even brush up against her, you would know she was extraordinary. And yet, she too, carried herself in a quiet way. One of my favorite facts about her is she competed in the Miss America pageant in 1948 as Miss Georgia. She was a real beauty all her days—inside and out.
It has been such a great privilege to have known these exceptional people. When I reflect on these lives, they are as different as you could possibly imagine, and yet they all have commonalities. They were people of great faith and substance, yet they did not shout about their own importance.
We knew it without being told.
In these days of endless selfies, social media drama, and living loud, Debra, Tim, Evelyn, and Gwen had nothing to do with any of that. But the impressions they made are deep and long lasting. More than what they gave us that hangs on our walls, it’s what they gave us that hangs in our hearts that has made the real difference. Each of them in their own way has profoundly changed our lives and the world and taken their place in the great cloud of witnesses.
Oh, how I wish we could take a page from their book. Or better yet, take a page from THE book that each of these dear people embraced.
As Eugene Peterson translated Hebrews 12:1 “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed . . . “
Let’s not forget where we’re headed either and keep our eyes on Jesus. Let’s allow Jesus to give us the perseverance and power to help change our world as well.