I had the great privilege of writing and editing with Bill Bright for 14 years. One my favorite articles of his was one about the three people who had influenced him the most in life: his mother, a single church leader/educator and his wife, Vonette. I am going to let him tell you about each one over the next few weeks.
The first week I posted some of his perspective on Jesus’ view of women. Then we discovered how his mother, Mary Lee Bright, had great impact on him. Last week we met the remarkable Henrietta Mears. We conclude this week with what he had to say about his beloved wife, Vonette.
The third key woman in my life has been my beloved wife, Vonette. Since 1948 she has been my partner in everything I have done, as well as my wife, lover and friend. I value her counsel more than anyone else’s because she truly is a wise and godly woman. Frequently we bounce ideas off each other and sometimes challenge each other’s ideas to help the other person think more clearly about his opinions.
Though God gave the vision of Campus Crusade to me, Vonette has been a vital part of the movement from the beginning. In fact, we began this ministry
as partners even though Vonette was becoming an outstanding teacher. At the same time she was writing a column to teach young men manners. The column was picked up by the King Syndicate and featured in newspapers in different parts of the country. But in spite of her success in teaching and writing, we both agreed that it was better to serve the Lord together rather than to go separate ways in our vocations. And God has used her in a remarkable manner.
I remember that, as we went into different sororities and dormitories that first year at UCLA, Vonette led 50 young women to Christ through one-to-one appointments. Not a single one said “no” to Christ. Of course, the students were hungry to know the Lord, but still it was a phenomenal experience. And she did not stop there, but would spend long hours each day following up these young women.
Our partnership was especially evident in the influence she had on our two sons. Although I was spending as much as 85 percent of my time traveling to establish the ministry in many countries of the world, she didn’t complain and made it clear to our two sons that they were a part of everything I was doing. As I traveled they would study the geography and history of various countries I was visiting, study the Bible and follow me with their prayers.
Even to this day my sons are asked, “Do you feel cheated that your father was often away from you during your growing up years?” Many times I’ve heard them say that they felt a vital part of my ministry. It is obvious to me that Vonette helped to give Bradley and Zachary a positive attitude.
I often tell husbands, “Encourage your wives.” Our wives are our number one disciples and therefore, our number one priority as our Lord commands in various portions of Scripture such as Ephesians 5:25-30. Don’t be intimidated if you think your wife is smarter or more gifted than you – encourage her!
I have tried to do this through the years. Vonette is a very naturally gifted, outgoing person, but at the same time her writing, speaking, organizational and leadership skills were somewhat underdeveloped in the early stages of our marriage. I wanted to help her maximize her natural gifts and abilities, so I sought to encourage her, and she has sought to encourage me.
As she developed those skills that God had given her, she brought great blessing to the body of Christ, to the Campus Crusade ministry and to me as well. In 1971, she began the Great Commission Prayer Crusade with my encouragement. It is possible that through her worldwide influence she has encouraged more people to pray than almost anyone in our time.
She also has served on the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization for 10 years and served as co-chairman in the planning and success of the International Prayer Assembly in Korea in 1984. When Vonette is honored with honorary doctorates or named International Church Woman of the Year or when God uses her to lead others to Christ, I rejoice. In many ways I am more blessed when she receives honors than when they are given to me personally for something I have done.
Another way that Vonette has been a blessing to me is that by nature she is more of an extrovert, while I am somewhat shy and could be very happy as a hermit reading good books and listening to beautiful music. Because Vonette is more outgoing, it has caused me to relate more to people and to deliberately be more outgoing than I would be naturally. She has helped me to balance my reserve and shyness with her outgoing, joyful personality.
But the greatest blessing of all that I receive from Vonette is her godly walk with our Lord. It is a great encouragement to see her in the morning reading her Bible and consulting her prayer diary, where she keeps her list of prayer requests and the names of people for whom she prays. It is a wonderful assurance to have a godly wife who truly seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. It is a great encouragement and strength to me to know that my wife is undergirding me and this ministry with her prayers and Christ-like lifestyle.
I have been privileged to have been blessed with a godly mother, a godly teacher for my early days as a Christian and a godly wife. It serves as a reminder again of the crucial roles God has given women in our society.
If you are a mother with little children, you may be frustrated and feel that you’re not being maximized for the glory of God. Yet my mother, although she had a sensitive heart for our neighbors, felt her primary ministry was rearing her seven children. And all our lives were dramatically touched by her influence.
Wives, you can have a phenomenal role in helping to maximize the effectiveness of your husbands, even as Vonette has helped to strengthen my ministry. She has done this through her encouragement, her wise counsel and through communicating a positive, loving, gracious spirit to me and to our children. And you can discover the ways God wants to use you.
Single women, you need to do what God has called you to do with a joyful, happy heart. Don’t feel that the Lord has shortchanged you. In fact, as a single person you can give even more time to loving and serving Him because you do not have the responsitibility for children or for responding to a husband. Dr. Henrietta Mears was a single woman and was used of God to touch the lives of multitudes.
All that I am or ever hope to be is, in no small measure, because of these three women whom God has used in my life. Without question mothers, wives and single women can make a difference in our world as they trust the Lord for His resurrection power and obey His commands.
What about you? How is God using you in your season of life?