Monday, February 18, 2013

Wilma Weeks' Funeral

The funeral for Wilma was a wonderful tribute to her life.  Several of her former missionary colleagues from Indonesia were able to be present and to share some reflections on her time of ministry there.  In addition, Paul Budd and Darlene Gutshall who both served with her in the Chaplaincy Department at John Knox Village were able to share insights and anecdotes from the 23 years or so that Wilma ministered to the residents at the Village after her official retirement from the Foreign Mission Board.  Our worship minister, Randy Buffington, sang two hymns that Wilma had requested to be sung at her funeral--"The Longer I Serve Him the Sweeter He Grows" and "Where He Leads Me I Will Follow."  I can't think of a more fitting pair of songs to describe her life's commitment to serve the Lord faithfully for so many years.

I shared some of the insights that I had gained into Wilma's life both from visiting with her over the past 10 years and also from information that her niece shared with me on Saturday.  For the message itself, I felt led to base that on 2 Tim. 4:6-8 with Paul's personal testimony of having fought the good fight, having finished the course, and having kept the faith.  Wilma certainly accomplished each of those as well in her long life of service as an international missionary and later as a chaplain.  

Wilma's funeral marks the second one that I've officiated for a 101-year old friend in the past 2 months.  They will both be missed.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Funeral for Emeritus Missionary

I have the privilege tomorrow of officiating at a funeral service for a 101 year-old emeritus missionary.  Wilma Weeks was appointed by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention to serve as a missionary to China in 1937.  After serving one term, she was home on furlough in the States at the time the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  She stayed for a couple of years in the U.S. at that time, continuing her Chinese language study before returning to the field.  Unfortunately, she was only able to stay 18 days before being forced to flee the country.

Wilma's next assignment with the board was in Hilo, Hawaii where she served for three and a half years among the Chinese immigrants to the island.  She would later request assignment to a new field of service in Indonesia, eventually serving a total of 24 years there.  Her accomplishments included helping to open a theological education building in connection with a seminary there, writing a textbook for the Bible, publishing a Baptist hymnal, and creating the Baptist Women's Organization in Surabaya.  Wilma served in multiple capacities as a teacher and evangelist, as well as in helping start new churches.

When she returned stateside in 1978, Wilma moved to Lee's Summit, MO and settled in as a resident at John Knox Village.  She didn't rest on her laurels or her past accomplishments as a missionary though.  She began serving as a volunteer in the Chaplaincy Department soon after her arrival and she continued in that capacity from some 23 years until failing eyesight forced her to abandon that ministry in 2002 at the age of 91.  She loved serving the elderly and sharing Christ's love with them.

It's been my privilege to know and get to visit with Wilma for the past ten years that I've served on the staff of FBC Lee's Summit where Wilma was a member.  She's been a great friend down through the years and her faithfulness to God is both challenging and inspiring.  I look forward tomorrow to the opportunity to pay tribute to a life lived well in the service of God and others as we celebrate Wilma's home-going.