Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Remembering Vonette Bright, Day 2

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Hi, I'm Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Before we begin today's Revive Our Hearts, I want to ask you to think about this: Throughout history, when things looked the most bleak, God's people have prayed with a desperate cry: a cry for Him to revive the Church; a cry for Him to awaken non-believers to new life, to cry for Him to transform communities, not through political means or education or human programs, but by supernaturally changing hearts.

And I believe that's the kind of cry we need in our day. That's why I'm issuing an urgent call for women to join us in Indianapolis for True Woman '16: Cry Out. It's coming September 22–24.

Now, this is going to be an event, but it's going to be so much more. It's a call to women around the globe to join together and cry out to God in earnest prayer for such a time as this.

At a True Woman event, you're used to hearing speakers share God's Word in powerful and practical ways, and that's going to be true this year as Dr. Russell Moore, Mary Kassian, Janet Parshall and others will be joining us.

But this year we're going to do something we've never done before. We're going to devote an entire evening, Friday night of the conference, to crying out to God to revive His people and bring about spiritual awakening in our nation and our world.

Registration to True Woman '16: Cry Out, opens today. Right now is the time to get the most affordable registration prices. So I want to encourage you to get more information and register at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now, the woman who perhaps more than anyone else inspired me to have an event like this, focused on crying out to the Lord, is a woman named Vonette Bright. She also modeled for me over many years what it means to be a true woman of God. Vonette went home to be with the Lord this past December 23. Through every difficulty she faced through her long life, she learned to lean on the faithfulness of the Lord.

Vonette Bright: In learning that God's way is best, whatever the tragedy we're going through, something good is coming out of this, and He has a plan that's going to be better.

Nancy: This is Revive Our Hearts for Tuesday, February 2, 2016. I'm Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

As we get older, it can be tempting to fear the future. That's one of the subjects we covered in an interview with my lifelong friend, the late Vonette Bright. As we remember her life and legacy, we continue listening to this interview. It took place in the home of Dr. and Mrs. Bill Bright over a decade ago.

At the time, Dr. Bright had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease that would take his life not many weeks later. At the time that Vonette and I had this conversation, her husband Bill was oxygen-dependent. I talked with Vonette about her role as a helper to her husband, and then I asked her thoughts on the whole process of aging.

Vonette, you've always seen yourself as being a helper to your husband, to Bill Bright. Now, people look at Bill Bright as a very successful, well-known Christian leader. A lot of women may think, Well, if I were married to a man like that, I could succeed spiritually. It would be easy to be a helper.

But they don't know the in's and out's and the demands that being in the very public life has put on you as a couple and that, as wonderful as Bill Bright is, there are still challenges of being the wife of a busy, well-known Christian leader.

Yet, you have adapted to him, to his schedule, to the ministry that God has called him and you to, as a couple. Talk to us about women as adapters, as helpers, and why that's so important for women to see themselves in that way.

Vonette: Well, Nancy, I don't believe it's possible for a person to achieve their maximum fulfillment totally on their own. There has to be someone who comes alongside to help, to encourage, to boost, to pick up the pieces.

Sometimes it's an older person who devotes themselves to a younger person. Sometimes it's a parent. Sometimes, certainly with a man, it's his wife, that's the intention.

I just feel like, in a husband and wife situation where they both have great abilities, one has to give in order for the other to achieve at a particular time. There was a time when Bill said to me, when I was asked to be a part of the Liaison Committee, and it was an opportunity to spread this internationally. I was getting invitations to speak in different parts of the world. Bill said, "Honey, I think the Lord would want me maybe to step away from Campus Crusade some and devote some time to you so that you can really have a personal ministry. I want you to know you're free, now with the children grown, that you're free to travel anyplace in the world you feel led to go. I'll back you, and if it's necessary for me to go with you in order for it to happen, I'd do that."

I sat there with my mouth open, and I said, "No way!" I don't have any desire to be in one part of the world and Bill in another part of the world just so I can have a ministry. I think God wants us to minister together, and I've never wanted to have a ministry that would be anything but what would be a complement to him.

I would have done anything for Bill. I loved him so much. And when he said to me, "I want you to be my partner," that was a little bit confusing to me in the beginning. He didn't have to push very hard because I have some ideas of my own, and I'm a pretty expressive person as you can imagine. But there have been times, too, when I've had to say, "Honey, I need your advice," or "What do you think I can do in this situation?" And here again, you're working these things out.

I came to the place where Zach was entering high school; Brad was entering junior high, and I realized that these boys were pretty big. If they would ever become defiant, what was I to do if it got to the place where I couldn't handle them?

I'd talk with him about it every once in a while, and I said, "Bill, I want to know what you want me to do. What can I do to be the greatest help to you? And what's going to happen if I need you?"

He said, "Honey, if you need me, I am as close as it takes me to get on a plane to get here." And he said, "I have a backup every place I'm going. I've told them to have an alternative plan in the event Vonette has to call me home."

Nancy: That took the pressure off.

Vonette: Whew! That really took the pressure off. There was a time I was saying, "What do you want me to do? I feel at loose ends. I feel like I'm not really making any contribution to this ministry."

He said, "My dear, if you will just see that I have clean shirts and take care of the children, if you see that they're happy, that they get the proper meals and keep this house going and keep things in reasonable routine, that's all I need you to do. If you'll just do that, that's the greatest help you can be to me right now."

Okay. I was happy doing that, and he praised me a lot for what I was doing because I was doing what I felt God wanted me to do and what he wanted me to do, and I wasn't going to be disappointing anybody. I could go about my work a whole lot happier.

I also taught our children that ours is a family ministry, and God has called our daddy to travel. He has called us to stay home and to pray for him and to follow him and to grow up to be happy people. I found lots to do to help in developing myself. I did lots of kids' things when Daddy was away, and we did lots of fun things when he came back.

We prayed for him. We followed him by map and by the clock. I kept a time clock set at our house at the time where Daddy was so we could anticipate what he was doing.

We had prayer with him. Daddy called generally at the end of every day. It was one of the prices that we paid because we were apart. So we prayed together almost every day on the telephone, and the children were a part of that, so that was a help.

I think that we need to help our husbands to know that we need their assurance as well, to help them to know, "I need you. I need to hear from you. I need to know that you're pleased with what I'm doing."

Nancy: Vonette, I look at you as a woman who really is enjoying the Lord, enjoying your husband, your children, your grandchildren, the ministry God has given to you, and yet I know a lot of women look ahead to being older, and they feel fearful.

Did you ever twenty, thirty years ago, or as you approached becoming an older woman, was that ever a fearful thought to you?

Vonette: No, I never thought of myself being older.

Nancy: Probably still don't. Right?

Vonette: As a matter of fact, I still don't. But, I never told my age. Bill would always tell his, and I'd think, Be quiet, because people can figure out what it is!

It was only about four years ago that I stood before the staff because I was beginning to have some physical problems. When you hit seventy, your body begins to tell you that it doesn't function exactly the same way. You don't handle stress as well. You don't handle pressure quite as easily. Your body responds to the things around you.

I had lost seven friends within about a two-year period, and that takes its toll. We had moved to a new community, which is like, I understand, a death in the family. The ministry was growing, so there were new relationships. I ended up being diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

I learned a lot through that, and I made myself admit to the staff my age. First of all, that I had something that was bigger than I am to cope with, with the fibromyalgia; that I was sure I was going to lick it. I was not going to let it lick me, but I just felt it was healthy for me to admit that I was not so young.

That was not real easy to do, but we must accept where we are and our limitations. That's been wonderful, and in many ways, I'm doing as much or more than I ever did but in a different way.

I have learned to try to put myself in situations where I don't have deadlines, where I don't have pressure, or to extend the deadline, or have somebody come along and do things for me that I was never able to do for myself.

I think life is far richer. Bill is not having to adjust. He always comes first. I don't want anybody to ever do anything for Bill that I can do, and it's a privilege to care for this man. I just pray I can stay alive until the Lord takes him.

It's a fun time. It's a different time, but it's a special time. It's a new adventure. I don't want to have any regrets, and I don't believe I will. We've learned to laugh at things that could be catastrophic, and we've learned to discuss the fact that he can go at any moment. I may wake up some morning, and he's not there. I pray I'm here.

I've taken a few trips. Brad, our son, lives here in town, and I've left him for overnight a few times when I felt it was safe enough to do that. If anything would happen when I were away, I would have a hard time with that.

I went to San Francisco a couple of weekends to go to speak for a pastors' wives' conference. So Bill said, "I don't need anybody to stay with me. I'm perfectly fine. I can stay by myself. I enjoy being alone."

I know he does but, if anything should happen to him, I would never be able to live with myself that I needed to be home. This was my place; I should not be off speaking somewhere. The whole world wouldn't forgive me. I'd have to live with that, that Vonette Bright was not there. She left her husband, and he died while she was gone? No way!

So he said, "Well, all right I see the importance." So I began to think of who I could get to come. No one, did Bill agree with, until I came across Howard Ball, a very good friend who said to me early on, "Vonette, if you ever need someone to come to stay with Bill, give me a call," which is a dear friend.

He came. They had the greatest weekend together. They enjoyed the time. We had meals all planned so that everything worked out. Bill even went to church on Sunday; Howard took him. They just had a wonderful fellowship, a memory that neither of them will ever forget.

So God provides when you need it in the special time to be there, but I'm not going to leave Bill. I probably won't plan anything else quite like this unless we have a back-up to Brad. If Brad can't come, someone else would come to be with him, and I won't leave him if it's more life-threatening than it is now.

I want to be with him when he goes to heaven. I want him to be able to tell me what it's like when he goes. I'm trusting that he will. He'll be able to explain to me what heaven is like, and that we'll be joyful when he goes.

Nancy: You say you've learned that God is trustworthy, and you don't need to worry. Has there been any times when you felt that maybe God wasn't coming through, that you were perhaps disappointed with the outcome or tempted to doubt?

Vonette: Oh sure. I think that's a part of the learning process. I doubted. Bill's faith was so strong. He's always been so strong. I've learned from him to trust. He'd say, "If this isn't what God wants for us as we're praying this way, then He has something better."

One of the crises that we faced was with the purchase of Arrowhead Springs, our conference center that God had provided in a very unique way. Someone had offered a very large sum of money that would help to pay for the property if we raised the balance. The deadline was approaching and actually was there, the very date.

Bill had kept saying, "God has not called me to raise money. He has called me to minister to people, and He will raise this money."

It was nine o'clock at night, and Bill came home, and I said, "Well, the money must be in."

He started getting dressed and ready for bed, and he said, "The money isn't in."

And I said, "Honey, how much do we lack?"

Well, it was something like $70,000, but $70,000 then was like 7 million or something [now]. But he said, "If God doesn't want us to have this property, He has something better in mind. I can't imagine what it is, but I've done everything that I know to do, and I'm going to bed."

And so he proceeded to go to bed, and I started walking the floor. I know we have seventy friends that we can call and say, "Can you give us a thousand dollars?" And we've got some jewelry. I'd give my wedding ring. It would help a little bit.

Nancy: You wanted to figure it out.

Vonette: It would be the only time I've ever been willing to give up my wedding ring. I didn't know what was going to happen, but I knew that we had to do everything that we possibly could to make it happen, following God's leading, if we were going to.

And at that point, I saw some things that I thought we could do. Actually, as it turned out, Bill made some telephone calls, and we began to talk and talk things through and think of who we knew and what to do and so on. That money was provided about two minutes before midnight, which was absolutely fantastic. Then, that involved some sale of the property, that was the plan that was worked out at the last minute.

The man who was giving the money said, "Bill that was not the agreement. I did not mention about the sale of property. I told you to raise the money."

So it looked like, here we had announced all over the world that we've made it, and he withdrew his offer. And it's the only time I have seen Bill Bright discouraged, and it was just for about five minutes.

Nancy: In a lifetime, that's not bad.

Vonette: I had fixed dinner outside on the lawn for him to come home to because it had been such a time of rejoicing. I remember we were just out on a point where we lived at Arrowhead Springs. I was so excited about his coming home.

He came home and sat down, and he said, "Well, it looks like the deal is all off. It looks like we failed."

So I looked at him, and I thought, Oh, I've never seen Bill like this.

He said, "But God knows. He has a way of putting this together. He must have a better plan." And off we went.

Nancy: Just that quick.

Vonette: Just that fast. That's the only time I have ever seen Bill discouraged in the fifty-four years of marriage, to the place where he gave an appearance as if it were a little bit of despair. But it was just that he realized what God had done.

That's a very unusual man, but that's been a walk that's been so consistent. I've learned so much from him and through him and trusting him. Sure, there are times when I've been disappointed or I thought,  Why is this as it is? But in learning that God's way is best, whatever the tragedy we're going through, something good is coming out of this, and He has a plan that's going to be better.

I don't think He takes us away from this world until He has finished what He wanted us to do. Psalm 139 is so great in telling us that we are uniquely made, and God knows the number of hairs on our head, and He has a specific plan.

I love the footnote in the King James Women's Study Bible, that's an excellent Bible, by the way, well, in this footnote in the passage of Psalm 139, particularly in verses 13–18, it points out that God has His eye on us even before we're born.

And these verses avow that personhood does exist from the moment of conception. Then it goes on to say that we are, in a real sense, prescription babies, in that God has a custom design for every individual, equipping each of us for specific achievement and purpose. And even the greatest tragedies can be overruled or transformed to good within the providence of God.

We praise God for the wonderful way in which He has fashioned our bodies and our minds and our spirits. We recognize that God isn't going to take us one minute before our lives have accomplished His purpose.

I look at that with tiny babies. Even children that, in terms of miscarriages, God uses that in our lives, if we will but recognize that He's protected us from something, it just hasn't turned out right, that it was the loss of children, or whatever it is. The faster we are able to praise God for the situation, the faster we're going to be able to see His answer.

It doesn't mean that we do not grieve. I've learned that God gives us the liberty to grieve without guilt, and it's healthy to grieve. It's also healthy to rejoice in trusting God to know that He has something better, or He has something specific in mind.

I, right now, don't know what the future holds. But I know that He has something for me to do if He leaves me here longer than Bill, that He has a plan; thatHe has a purpose or something that I am to accomplish.

Who knows? I might go before Bill does; you can never be sure. But I know He's not going to take me before He's finished what He wanted me to accomplish.

Nancy: If you could rewind the tape of your life, anything you'd change?

Vonette: I would just be quicker to respond to the leading of the Spirit of God. I'd be quicker to respond to my husband's desires, I think, in every way. I just think I could have made myself more. I would have believed God faster.

I would like to have responded more positively to my husband in some of his ideas and some of the things he wanted to do and he has done.

I wouldn't make such mountains out of little things, particularly with my children. I wouldn't get so upset over things that I thought were big at the time that really were not so big. I think I would have trusted their judgment a little bit more.

And I would desire to have even more time in the Word. I would devote myself more to Bible study and so on. But if I'd done that, maybe I wouldn't be able to do some of the things that God has had me to do.

I've really endeavored to please the Lord. He has made "the crooked places straight." I've made lots of mistakes, but it all comes out, in the end, okay, as long as we're trusting Him.

Nancy: How do you want to be remembered?

Vonette: Oh, I think I would want to be remembered as a woman who had committed her total life to Christ, was dedicated to my husband and my children and to the achievement of the staff and to other women, to help other people reach their full potential and that anything about my life that could bear fruit in theirs.

The greatest satisfactions, I believe, come in what we have reproduced of ourselves in someone else and, most of all, through our family.

Nancy: If you could give a single word of counsel, wisdom, advice to younger Christian women today, myself, young wives, moms, what would you say to us?

Vonette: Well, the first thing that comes to mind is serve the Lord with gladness, and just give yourself in total abandonment to Him. Whether you're single, whether you're married, whether you have children, whatever ages your children are, do it all to the honor of God and just serve Him with gladness.

As long as we base our decisions and base our walk with God on the principles of the Bible, we can't make many mistakes. And then, giving ourselves to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, allowing the ministry of the Holy Spirit to dwell in your life and to follow His leading.

God doesn't want us to work for Him; He wants to do His work in and through us. As we make ourselves available to Him, allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives from the top of our head to the tip of our toe, then He's going to do what He wishes to do through us. That will be serving the Lord with gladness.

Nancy: Wise words from Vonette Bright, or as she preferred, Mrs. Bill Bright, who went home to be with the Lord on the 23rd of December, 2015. This interview was recorded in the Spring of 2003, shortly before Dr. Bright's homegoing.

If you missed any of today's program, you can hear it again at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now, just a few weeks before her homegoing, when Vonette knew that she was just weeks away from heaven, I had the chance to spend some precious hours talking with Vonette. Tomorrow we'll hear some of what she had to say. Please join us again for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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