It’s not about me, I know. But if it were about me tonight, I would tell you that I am simply emotionally drained. (Okay, sometimes it just has to be a little about what’s inside my aching heart.) There’s not much left in the heart, at this moment, that can make its way to the keys on the keyboard and subsequently to tomorrow’s scheduled post. I feel like I’ve lost my best friend. But, in reality, I have lost two of them.
But “lost” is not a good word, because most certainly they are not. They have never been more saved, found, redeemed. They are not and have not lost, in any sense. They have won.
My friend, Jane McWhorter, passed from this life on Tuesday to the part of eternal life that is beyond the grip of time and toil. She won, at last, the victory over pain and suffering, and, since her Don passed a few years ago, she would say she has also now won the victory over loneliness. I’m told she died while listening to a recording of Don preaching the Word, as she also customarily did each night while falling asleep. That’s how I want to die–listening to the Word of God being proclaimed by the man I love.
I do not know anyone, among my friends, who suffered more than Jane. Surviving (just barely) a car crash which left her fighting for the chance to raise her children, and lots of grueling medical procedures and months upon months of difficult rehabilitation, she quietly bore the pain–going through the valley of the shadow of death several times with her husband as he neared death, even as he, himself, heard the doctor pronounce him dead on one occasion, (He did finally convince the medical team that had covered his body with the sheet that he was still alive.) —surviving yet another near fatal car crash with it’s attendant pain and lengthy rehabilitation–and, finally, the leukemia that weakened her body and set her spirit free.
I do not know anyone, among my friends, who funneled more of the joy of the Lord into the lives of other people than Jane. Did you notice that my friend who suffered most is also my most supremely joyful friend? What gives? Jesus gives. He gives his suffering children the amazing ability to respond in joy (Romans 8:17,18). Like the widows who wept when Dorcas briefly left them in Acts 9, displaying the coats that she had made, I weep for her leaving. I will be showing her books to my daughters and my granddaughters (I hope) in years yet veiled. I will be looking up ideas for evangelistic letter writing in “Special Delivery” and passing along “Let This Cup Pass” to sisters who are grieving. I will be showing our preaching son and son-in-law passages from “God’s Woman: Feminine or Feminist,” the combined effort of Jane and Don. Jane’s sweet little friends in the Fayette Nursing home will be showing the goodies she brought them and her sisters in the Fayette church will long recall the wisdom they found when they brought life’s queries into her living room. I will treasure my photographs with my beautiful friend…photos of a body that was stooped because of injuries, but that housed that sweet, sweet spirit that was so affected by the One who taught us joy in suffering. I’m so glad for her life. I’m glad that I was born into a generation and in an area of the world so that I could know her and Don. I’m glad I will get to see her again.
I will think of her every time I eat M&Ms.
And tonight, my friend and brother, Arnold Wright went home, too. I didn’t have to talk to him every day to know that he loved Glenn and me. It was obvious. It was a really warm relationship and he leaves a huge hole; not just in our personal lives, but in the family at West Huntsville. A faithful, loving shepherd for 23 years, he brought the sharp mind that built rockets for Boeing and NASA to build up something eternal…the body of Christ. Ever the engineer, thinking in black and white, but loving souls in living color, Arnold Wright was the most diligent personal evangelist I have ever known. He loved souls. He worried about souls. He lived for souls.
My husband and I have been around the world a couple of times at least with Arnold. I can truthfully say that we have all been very hungry at times, while we were also very aware that food was just not happening till we finished answering all the questions in a particular Bible study or found a place to baptize a penitent sinner, or got to an airport and through customs. I remember once, when Glenn and I finally had to say to Arnold, our team leader, “We have GOT to take a break and eat or we are going to perish!” Arnold was more absorbed in personal evangelism than anyone I have ever known.
I have heard him say it many times: “I’d like to study the Bible with you. Would you be willing to study with me?” Each time he asked that, he spent about four seconds of his life. Let’s say (and this would probably be a conservative estimate) that he said that 300 times in his life. That would mean that Arnold spent twenty minutes of his life asking people to study God’s Word. And as a result of those twenty minutes, well…you know…I’m pretty sure Arnold has already met at least one someone in glory–someone to whom he taught the gospel. And he just arrived in glory tonight!
How many people did Arnold bring to the Lord as a result of that 20 minutes? I don’t know. Arnold was not one to keep up with how many successful Bible studies he conducted. He was too busy conducting them to record them. But I can tell you one thing….He’s dead, but he will still be bringing people to the Lord for a very, very long time.
See, Arnold taught me and others how to be effective personal workers. He taught our daughter, Hannah, how to teach the gospel. He prodded Hannah and me to approach women visitors in campaign services in Ukraine, Argentina and Columbia. He forced me to become comfortable asking women to study with me. He sat down with me and Glenn one night at the old West Huntsville building and taught us the best method I know of having one-on-one studies. I used this method just last week in Hawaii and Almira became my new sister in Christ. I taught Almira. But so did Arnold, because he taught me. Just 20 minutes. Oh, I know it turned into more than 20 minutes if and when the Bible studies occurred. But, ladies, twenty minutes of your life will put you on the challenging, but, oh-so-rewarding path of personal evangelism.
One day very soon we all will slip from time’s side of eternity to the unfettered realm of bliss or torment. That day will either be the most horrible day imaginable or the very best day of earthly life. Today was the best day ever for Arnold.
I will think of him fondly whenever I study the gospel with people, especially with the help of a translator. And I will think of him whenever I buy an ice cream cone from a Spanish speaking vendor in the middle of a warm South American afternoon.