Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Quiet Testimony of a Woman of Faith

I've just returned home from a funeral service of a friend. The eulogy printed in the bulletin (picture included below) began this way: "Julia (Judy) Leann (Hutton) Williams, 55, Joplin, "transcended to heaven" Thursday, October 4 after a brief battle with an exceedingly rare breast cancer. She is survived by her loving husband, Martin, and their two children, Ryan Michael, and April LeAnn."

Martin and Judy were special to both of us. I first met him when Rose was working at the old Revival Fires Ministry located across the street from Ozark. Martin was actually her boss, during part of the time that she worked for Revival Fires. I got to know him a bit better during 1974 and 1975, as I was playing on a fast-pitch softball team in Joplin, and he was a teammate. When Rose and I got married, they were some of our "older married" friends. I really didn't realize how close in age Judy and I were. Martin was five years older than she. In 1976, when we made plans to go to the mission field, they asked us to share our plans with them. I remember going to their home, slide projector and all, and sharing our plans for the mission field. They supported us regularly while we were on the field. On several furloughs we would get together with them, and share about life.

Judy got sick in August, and ended up in the hospital. At first she was at Freeman Hospital, not far from our home. After several weeks there, she was transferred to Freeman East. I visited Martin and Judy at Freeman, during a time that she was heavily sedated. On a later visit, she told me that she didn't remember that. Rose visited her about a month ago (I wasn't able to go), and came away talking about how Judy was ready to go to be with Jesus. The last time we visited her about about 2 weeks ago today. We went there, and saw the sign on the door, which said to limit visits to about five minutes. We entered, and visited with Judy. She was there by herself. It was Sunday evening. Martin plays the organ for the Park Plaza Christian Church, and was at their evening service at the time. We were there beyond the five minute limit, and I was feeling guilty about it, so I prayed for her and we tried to leave. We couldn't get away from her, though, because she wanted to talk. The five minute visit turned into about 40 minutes, but we left, being encouraged, because we could see that she was ready to meet her maker.

As we were leaving, Martin was arriving from the evening service at Park Plaza. We visited with him briefly in the hallway. We went to the funeral home for visitation yesterday. The entire family was there, resting in the goodness of God. Martin told me that he doesn't understand how people who don't know Jesus can go through things like this. Judy's hope was firmly fixed on Christ, and gladly went to meet him. It was obvious that she had left a legacy of faith in her family, as well.

Paul penned these words: "And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word." (1 Th 4:13, The Message).
B. A. Austin, Jr., former minister at College Heights Christian Church, and current minister at Park Plaza Christian Church, gave the funeral message. In it he related that Judy had told him recently that she had called both her children, Ryan and April, and had given them a stern message: "Don't ever do anything that will keep you out of heaven, because I want to see you there." She is now resting with Jesus, and has joined the cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1). She went home to be with Jesus, facing a terrible cancer with dignity, grace, and faith. To paraphrase words from the author of Hebrews (11:4), by faith she still speaks, even though she is dead.
Judy, we will miss you, but will look forward to seeing you in our true home. Thanks for ministering to us! May God be praised!

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