She was on her deathbed, and had been for sometime, but heaven must have taken notice, blessing her with a neighbor that 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 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 was baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of her sins, being added by Him (Acts 2:47) to a local body of Christ who teach accurately (2 Timothy 2:15) God's plan to save souls, and thus remain a “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).
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 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 recover, and as her strength increased she was able to begin worshiping with other Christians. 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 somehow “protect her”. Long story short, over time, logic overcame his fear and darkness, and he too was not only baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of his sins, but over time he became an elder so that he could do everything in his power to also draw souls into 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 his little fingerprints from the coffee table that her son 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 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 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 he met and married three months later, a tiny little green-eyed brunette with a sunny disposition, a quick wit, energy through the roof and a humble assuredness about her. He 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 dad, took the offer and moved to Tucson where my mother spent her days swimming, studying the scriptures with the preacher at the Tucson church of Christ, Frank Thompson, and going outside after dark with her flashlight to look for scorpions 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 existence to their reconciliation.
Fast forward 55 years. It was around 2016, and Mark had been preaching for the Beaverton church of Christ for 24 years. It had been his practice to train as many young preachers as he could and the congregation contributed generously toward these efforts. Many of these young men became like sons to us, and a couple of them broke our hearts. But it was the last one that Mark trained who became a part of us and healed, 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 had realized there was something missing, and asked his grandmother if they would begin taking him to worship again. He began attending in January and on February 21st 2010 he obeyed the gospel. As he began studying in college for a degree in history, toward the middle of his college education, he realized that rather 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 hour 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 set up, under an older, experienced preacher could complete his training --- and happened to be the very congregation in which my mother had been born again. Hugh DeLong became a wonderful mentor for Brenden. Shortly after Brenden started, however, Hugh’s aged parents suddenly needed his presence for their care, and this required leaving Tucson to take care of those responsibilities. So 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 for me an encyclopedia of information, from whom I can 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 30 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 willing to be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, and be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13). It of course seems 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 4 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 multiplied 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 store there 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 pencil box and valet box with our Nomads You And I logo on it that our host Russ Hewlett created, and a set of Tanque Verde Ranch coffee cups gifted to us by he and Diane during our stay with them. This generous couple at the Tucson congregation often graciously houses 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 great conversation in the backyard late into the night. We felt pretty lucky to see from that backyard a shooting star and hear a coyote howl 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. In 2019, 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