Country Club Road church of Christ, Tucson Arizona

She was on her deathbed and had been for some time, but heaven must have taken notice, blessing her with a neighbor who decided to visit her in her affliction. That neighbor sat next to her as she lay helpless, and in the single most relevant way one soul can show another soul compassion — she made the offer, and in doing so changed history. "Would you like to look into the Word of God together to ensure you are ready to meet Him face to face?" The answer was in the affirmative and upon reading what Jesus said we are to do to prepare to meet our God (Mark 16:15-16), and observing in the Word the consistency of the actions every soul in the book of Acts took to rid themselves of the sins that separated them from God (Acts 2:36-42; 8:5-13; 8:13; 8:36-4; 9:1-9; 22:6-16; 26:12-19; 10:25-48; 16:13-15; 16:34; 18:8; 19:1-7), she too believed, repented, confessed Christ as her Savior and prepared to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of her sins, so that God would add her to the church (Acts 2:47).

Her decision would surely make the angels rejoice (Luke 15:10), but was entirely repugnant to her husband. So repugnant, in fact, that he threatened to divorce her, deathbed or not, if she followed through. After giving that consequence some consideration, she replied to him from her deathbed, "Do what you think you need to do, but what I know I need to do is to be baptized for the forgiveness of my sins",  and that she did.  

Then the unexpected happened. No one saw it coming. She began to slowly recover, and as her strength gradually increased, she was able to begin worshiping with her church family. Her husband, still as repulsed as ever by the body of Christ, came with her to worship as a sort of barrier or bodyguard to, in his own mind, somehow “protect her”. Long story short, over time, logic overcame his fear and light overtook his soul’s darkness, and eventually he, too, was not only baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of his sins, but in the latter part of his life, he became an elder, doing everything he could do to draw souls into a relationship with God. 

Among other children, they had a daughter. That daughter grew up in the Lord and birthed two sons and two daughters. One son died in infancy and the saddest day of her life, she once told me, was the day she finally wiped her little son’s fingerprints from the coffee table that he had been holding onto to learn how to walk.  It was the most tragic thing she had experienced, but her faith sustained her. Just as dreadful, near graduation from high school, the younger of the two daughters, Charmaine, caught what initially seemed like a bad chest cold, but soon turned to a coughing spell so violent and uncontrollable that when the home physician finally arrived, he was too late (and too drunk) to treat her, so that Charmaine also died. The loss shook this family of four to the core, but was just what Charmaine’s father needed to revive his faith that had died down to a small ember. He used this excruciating emotional pain to run back into the arms of God for comfort and purpose, and there he remained the remainder of his days, raising his surviving son and daughter in the Lord.

That son was barely out of high school when three months later, he met and married a tiny little green-eyed brunette with a sunny disposition, a confident quick wit, and energy through the roof. He soon joined the Air Force during the Korean War serving in Okinawa and while there, his young wife gave birth to their first daughter. When he returned, like many who marry young and have not yet put Christ as the center, they had a rough go of it, and after only a few years, the marriage blew up and they divorced. The extended family did not give up, but rallied and did what they could to encourage reconciliation. After some time, the couple reconsidered and decided to give it another go. Shortly thereafter, this son was offered a position managing a dude ranch in Tucson, Arizona, in the off-season. This son, who is my father, took the offer and moved his little family to Tucson where my mother spent her days swimming, studying the scriptures with the preacher, Frank Thompson, at the Tucson church of Christ, and going outside after dark with her flashlight to look for scorpions, tarantulas and other interesting creatures. It was during that summer that my mother became a Christian and I was conceived at that dude ranch on Tanque Verde Road right at the base of Lemmon Mountain and Mica Mountain — both of which serve as the backdrop of the Saguaro National Park. I owe my very existence to their reconciliation.

Fast forward fifty-five years. It was around 2016, and Mark had been preaching for the Beaverton church of Christ for twenty-four years. It had been his practice to train as many young preachers as he could and the congregation contributed generously toward these efforts. Though a couple of them broke our hearts, a few of these young men became like sons to us, and it was the last one that Mark trained who became a part of us, healing, to an extent, some of the heartache we’d suffered. Unlike most of the young preachers we trained, this one did not have parents who were faithful Christians, having fallen away several years before.  At the age of 16, he realized something was missing, and asked his grandparents if they would begin taking him to worship again, obeying the gospel about a month later. As he began studying in college for a degree in history, toward the middle of his college education, he realized that rather than becoming a history teacher who preaches on the side, what he really wanted to do was to change history where he could, by preaching the gospel full time. Brenden Ashby became Mark’s preacher trainee, and because of his humble attitude, vulnerability and earnest desire to improve, we bonded over hours and hours of countless heart-to-heart conversations during setbacks and victories — conversations that knit our hearts together for life. Just as Christ has said, family becomes those “who hear the Word of God, and do it” (Matthew 19:29).

When it came time for Brenden to find a congregation to preach for, he found one with the perfect setup; working under an older, experienced preacher to complete his training, which happened to be the very congregation in which my mother had been born again. Hugh DeLong became a wonderful mentor for Brenden. However, shortly after Brenden started, Hugh’s aged parents suddenly needed him nearby for their care, necessitating his leaving Tucson to meet those responsibilities. The training wheels were suddenly off and before he knew it, Brenden was behind the wheel flying solo in his first full-time congregation. (There’s one way to learn to swim!) Fortunately, Brenden had thick enough skin to take the heat, and both he and the congregation as a whole ironed out what was needed and grew together. They are blessed to have such a well-read evangelist who, as a historian by nature, is in touch both with what has gone on and what is going on in the brotherhood. He is one of the best conversationalists I know and is always an encyclopedia of information, from whom I learn new things every time we talk. We’ve done a few podcasts together, and what I’m most appreciative of is the level of conscientiousness that would cause a young man under thirty to have a red circular stamp created that reads “WARNING: False Teaching - ‘but test everything: hold fast what is good.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:21” with which he can quickly mark any book in his library that contains theological conclusions that are not biblical. May God give us 100 million more who are just as willing to be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, and be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13). It seems quite full circle that where my parents would have worshiped the summer I was conceived, has now hired a preacher that my own husband trained. 

The first time we passed through Tucson happened to be on the eve of Mother’s Day, about four years after my mother’s passing. It was very meaningful to me when Brenden drove us to the grounds of Tanque Verde Dude Ranch. The ranch has certainly expanded in size since 1961, but even still, it was relatively easy to tell which buildings were the oldest. As a souvenir, before we left, I bought at the gift shop something to remind me of the special place where I became a part of a family tree. It is a colorful purple, blue and rust-colored Raku pottery tile with a white tree pattern and heart in the middle, — a keepsake only paralleled by the homemade wooden pencil box and valet box with our Nomads You And I logo on it that our host that week, Russ Hewlett created, and a set of Tanque Verde Ranch coffee cups gifted to us by his wife Diane during our stay with them. 

We are not the only recipients of this generous couple at the Tucson congregation. They often graciously house families that are in the process of adopting through Sacred Selections, and whenever we are in town, they offer us not only a place to plug in the van but also great conversation in the backyard late into the night that can sometimes includes shooting stars and coyotes howling at the moon. 

If you visit the congregation on Country Club Road in Tucson, you, too, will be received with open arms. I met a new member upon entering the church building who could tell you that. She and I introduced ourselves to one another and this lovely, aged woman began to tell me how all her life she lived in so many places all over the world, trying just about every religion and lifestyle in an attempt to fill her empty soul, but no man-made religion or philosophy could complete and fulfill her.  In 2019 that all ended when she was introduced once and for all to New Testament Christianity and was, like my mother, some 60 years ago, born all over again at the bottom of some beautiful mountains near Tucson, Arizona.

Country Club Road church of Christ

145 N. Country Club Road

Tucson, AZ 85716

(520) 326-3634