Church. Some love it, some hate it, and some are indifferent.
In 1974 I was a 26 year old mother of five, moving to a new neighborhood. I was broken, flawed, and so shy, I hardly spoke. I hadn’t always been so broken.
I had been attending Bethel Pentecostal Church of God since I was 14, but that year I decided to attend Victory Assembly of God, a small church closer to home in my new neighborhood. Attending Bethel and Victory were decisions that would be pivotal in my life. At Bethel, I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ for the first time. At Victory, the course of my life was set.
Betty Owens was the pastor’s wife at Victory. She would become my friend, mentor, and family. Looking back, Betty was flawed and broken too, but she hid it well, having overcome much because of her faith. She took me under her wing, encouraging me to get involved and develop in ministry within the church.
The church grew and so did I. Betty believed in me and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Whenever I told her I couldn’t do something, she’d say, “Of course you can. I’ll show you and help you.”
Over my thirty plus years in that church, many things happened. In 1974 my oldest child was 9 and my youngest was 1. My children grew up. I remember Betty during times when we didn’t have enough food, or I couldn’t provide Christmas, or pay for my kids to go to camp. Betty would rally the church to help. I was embarrassed sometimes, and Betty would tell me that’s what church people do.
Betty was there for me during some of the most difficult times of my life – times when circumstances almost destroyed me. My struggles in a bad marriage. My divorce after 22 years. My 15-year-old daughter having a baby, making me a grandmother at 32. Another daughter giving a baby up for adoption. Another daughter rebelling and leaving home. Betty was my shoulder to cry on, my encourager, and she never failed to pray for me and my children. Or give us a lecture and a piece of her mind.
Betty loved to laugh and have fun. She was often the instigator whenever our ladies group pulled pranks or got into shenanigans, and I have pictures to prove it. She coordinated all my daughters’ weddings, and Pastor Leroy performed the ceremony. They oversaw many of my grandchildren’s dedications.
Because of Betty’s and Leroy’s example and support, I have children in ministry today.
We got older – Betty and I. It happens. Even as her health deteriorated the last several years, she always managed to look beautiful. She was a classy lady. It grieved me to watch Parkinson’s destroy her body. In December of 2016, Betty went home to the Trinity (God, Jesus, Holy Spirit) she had dedicated her life to serve.
That last week of her life while her children, Becky, Philip, Sheila and I were talking about Betty going to heaven and what would she be do there. I said she would help Jesus set up for the marriage Supper of the Lamb.Has your influence made someone a better person? Changed the course of their lives? Brought hope?
There will never be another Betty in my life. I can never repay her for all she was to me and my children. But, I, and every one of us, can be a Betty in someone’s life.