Four influential friends

Who is influencing your life? To whom are you listening for sage counsel?

Sharon Cress is an associate ministerial secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, with the privilege of serving pastoral families.

Timothy had Paul. Ruth had Naomi. Samson had Delilah. Samuel had Eli. Esther had Mordecai. Ahab had Jezebel. Bathsheba had David. Peter had Andrew. What did all of these share in common? Each, for better or worse, met someone who influenced the path they would follow.

Who is influencing your life? To whom are you listening for sage counsel?

As a young and inexperienced patoral wife, I needed a lot of positive influencing. Jim was raised in a pastoral family that instilled a focus for his life, but I had no idea what I was getting into. But heaven was helping me even before I realized it. Early in our ministry I learned the value of positive people the Lord provides to influence our lives. Four such pastoral wives deserve special tribute.

Vinna Mansell

When we met, Vinna and her husband, Leslie, were almost ready to retire. I arrived directly from seminary, and Vinna must have shuddered when she first saw me. My skirts were too short, my hair had that collegiate look, and I surely did not fit the church's image of an intern pastor's wife. A longtime pastoral wife had already told me to shape up and act properly. Since I perceived in her more criticism and ridicule than love and concern, I paid little heed.

Vinna, by contrast, was the most gracious pastoral wife I had known. She wore grace like others wear fine per fume. Never rude or harsh, she made a person think he or she was the most important human being in the world. To paraphrase Scripture, Vinna was worth more to her husband's ministry than fine jewels; she complemented him by setting a standard of loving concern for church members.

Vinna gave no lectures, just nurture. She showed me tolerance and unconditional love, modeling what I could be come if I were willing to change. Thank you, Vinna Mansell. You taught me that people are the church's most important asset and how to be a gracious pastoral wife.

Corea Cemer

When the call came to full-time evangelism, I was aghast! No way was I wanting to go itinerating around every backwoods burg in the state. I wanted to be home at night in my own bed. I had a life, you know. Because the Lord had other plans for me, He brought Corea into my life. She was almost 70 years old and deserved to retire and enjoy as much of the "good life" as this old world can offer. Corea had served with her evangelist husband throughout the Caribbean and eastern United States, bringing thousands of souls to the Lord. Jim and I were their last associates.

Corea told me stories of growing up in a migrant camp where she lived in a tent. The overseer paid her a penny for every 100 fruit flies she could kill. She never possessed any of the nice things other little girls enjoyed, but she did earn a few pennies each week with her extermination business and soon bought herself a pair of shoes.

Later in the ministry she trudged through years of evangelistic campaigns without complaining. Her husband, Ken, was a great evangelist and I know that God used him mightily. But I also believe that the many who were won to the Lord through his preaching will be re corded as her ministry. Thank you, Corea Cemer, for teaching me self-sacrifice and patience.

Marge Gray

Exchanging warm, sunny Florida for cold, dreary Michigan was difficult for me; I experienced both cultural and climate shock. Through that move, how ever, I met Marge Gray, who showed me that Christ expects more of pastoral wives than just being gracious, self-sacrificing nurturers. He wants to make us soul winners.

Marge demonstrated that a pastoral wife could have a ministry of her own no matter what her profession. She gave Bible studies and shared the good news of Jesus with hundreds of people. Marge in fact authored Bible study lessons for adults and easily understood doctrinal lessons for children. I've prepared many youngsters for baptism with her lessons. Thank you, Marge Gray, for giving me a passion for souls.

Merlo Bock

Merlo was an administrator's wife when I met her. Quite an individualist, she modeled Christianity in her own unique way. I loved her from the moment we met. After rearing her children, Merlo returned to college to prepare for her dedicated, brilliant career in nursing. She never put on airs and never pretended to be anything but the special person Jesus created her to be. She helped me understand that God makes each person special, and He values our unique individuality.

Merlo taught me that it was OK to be me. In fact, it's not just OK but important to be myself, rather than striving to be a mirror image of some other person. She helped me comprehend that Jesus doesn't make mistakes when He creates distinct personalities, and it is all for His glory. Seldom have I had a conversation with Merlo without hearing about how eager she is for Jesus to return. Thank you, Merlo Bock, for teaching me that we don't need to wear masks, and it's OK for me to be the person I am.

Not by mere chance

In His plan for our lives Jesus places in our company people who strengthen us spiritually. We each need a teachable spirit to profit from the wisdom of those who have experienced life more widely.

Who is influencing your life?

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Sharon Cress is an associate ministerial secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, with the privilege of serving pastoral families.

August 1994

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