Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Remembering Vonette Bright, Day 3

Leslie Basham: Even though she'd been recently widowed, Vonette Bright had a great way to wake up in the morning.

Vonette Bright: Just before I opened my eyes to be able to say, "Lord, this is Your day, and I want You to live it through me. Take away any anxiety and take away any apprehension. Let me express Your thoughts. Let me be Your mouthpiece." It's giving Him control of the day.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Wednesday, February 3, 2016.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: This week we've been taking some time to honor the life of Mrs. Vonette Bright. In 1951 Vonette and her husband, Bill, founded a ministry to college students called Campus Crusade for Christ, now known as Cru. The legacy of this precious couple is indeed mighty in the land. And Vonette holds a special place in my heart.

I've known her literally all my life. She's been something of a second mother to me. As of a little over a month ago, Vonette is with Jesus now. About a year after her husband, Bill, passed away (over a decade ago), we talked to Vonette here on Revive Our Hearts.

As you listen to this interview, I hope you'll think about how you respond to the difficulties of life and what you can learn from this amazing woman of God. I asked Vonette how the Lord had been ministering His grace to her in those lonely times after her husband had gone home to heaven.

Vonette: In terms of how I'm doing, I think because in the very beginning we decided that we were going to accept this as an adventure. We were going to believe God for the very best and that we were going to rejoice in what God brought to us. We have had the most wonderful life together.

Nancy: So now, what is it that you miss most about daily life with Bill Bright?

Vonette: I miss him. I miss his sense of humor, his laughter. I miss his arms around me. I miss just snuggling up with him. I miss being able to go to him for counsel. I can't say I haven't had one single moment of despair. I've had times of semi-loneliness. But I have such a wonderful support system around me.

I have to tell you this. You'll laugh. I am very definitely human. I'm not super-human. I think Sundays are the hardest day to be alone because everybody is in church or they're going someplace or they're doing something. This particular afternoon, I guess I was experiencing a little more loneliness. Anyway, I walked into the living room and thought, I'm going to be courageous to say this aloud that being a widow is for the pits.

Alone in the living room, I looked out my west window, and here was the most gorgeous sunset. It was as if the Lord said, "Yes. And I'm taking very good care of you." So I had to chuckle. It was off my mind. I had said it.

So I went over to a couple of friends who are widows, and I said, "I got brave. I said the words to the Lord," in terms of what happened. But when I said that "being a widow is for the pits," they both said in unison, spontaneously, "I agree!" both of them at the same time. So we had a little pity party quickly and laughed and prayed and thanked God for who we are and what we have and the way in which He's caring for us.

Nancy: How have other people been a blessing to you during this time and what are some ways that we can minister to those who are in times of suffering or loss or to those who are lonely? What's been a blessing to you?

Vonette: Well, just the support. Just being there. People who call and say, "Let's go to lunch together," or "Can I take you out to dinner?" Of course, I'm busy and I can't always accept all the invitations that are given but people just call to say, "I'm thinking of you and just trust that everything's going well."

They say, "Anything I can do for you?" Just being available. I have so many beautiful cards and expressions of sentiment. Flowers continue to come all the time. I just am very seldom without a fresh bouquet in my house. I just appreciate so many wonderful friends that are so dear in expressing love. And flowers are such a comfort and such a joy to have about.

Bill loved flowers so much and so do I. Someone sent me fifty-five beautiful American Beauty red roses for our fifty-fifth wedding anniversary. Our grandson and the children were here. They were still here from Christmas. Our anniversary is the thirtieth of December. Our sixteen-year-old Christopher walked to the front door. He said, "Grandmother! There's a field of roses out here." The florist had just brought them and put them at the door. He didn't bring them on in. I had said, "Grandfather has ordered red roses for me."

Nancy: And sent them from heaven.

Vonette: And sent them from heaven. Well, they had somebody else's name on them. But Bill ordered them and Jesus gave somebody the privilege of delivering them. It was such fun. So there have been lots of joyful times.

Nancy: How has this whole experience affected your perspective on heaven and on eternity?

Vonette: Oh. It's made heaven very, very real. I imagine Bill, I know in fact in the Living translations it talks about when everything is ready, "I will come for you," Jesus said. I've always thought it was an angel that came to pick us up. But He says, "I will come for you, and I will take you unto myself."

I imagined at that moment when Bill was breathing his last breath. In fact, I had said to him, "Honey, why don't you let Jesus carry you to heaven?" And as I turned and looked back, I thought his heart had stopped, and then I saw heart beats and I saw a flutter. But he never had taken another breath. It was as if I saw his last breath here and his first breath in heaven. I think I witnessed seeing his heart but knowing it was there. He's more alive today than he was here.

I'm just seven months, at this point, closer to seeing him. I often think, I wonder what awesome experience Bill is having today? I wonder what is really awing him at this moment? I am enjoying his time in heaven. And I'm enjoying my time here. And because I know he's rejoicing, I'm rejoicing, Nancy.

Nancy: So much of what you're doing now is the fruit of a commitment that you and Bill made to the Lord back in 1951 to surrender everything to Christ as Lord and to make your lives available for His purposes. And you're really just continuing to live out that contract and to say, "My life is still Yours. Take me and use me for Your purposes."

Vonette: That's very true. Even this morning . . . I have the habit of just before I open my eyes to be able to say, "Lord, this is Your day, and I want You to live it through me. Take away any anxiety and take away any apprehension. Let me express Your thoughts. Let me be Your mouthpiece." It's giving Him control of the day. That's what Bill and I did for fifty-four years, six months, and twenty days. It was a great adventure and a wonderful, wonderful life. We cannot possibly complain. And I have to be, Nancy, one of the most fortunate women walking the face of this earth.

Nancy: Again, that was an interview with Vonette Bright from 2004, just a year after her husband, Bill, died. Vonette was amazingly cheerful and optimistic in spite of her great loss and how much she loved her precious husband. Throughout her life Vonette was passionate about encouraging women to fulfill their God-given calling.

Last March I had a chance to visit Vonette as she was doing physical therapy in a rehab center in Florida. She was going through a lot of pain. It was a really difficult time in her journey. But at the end of that conversation, as I picked my iPhone up and put it in front of her, she had a strong word of encouragement for women. Even though more than a decade had passed, Vonette, who was now in her eighties, still had that characteristic spunk and a deep heart for women.

Vonette, you have had such a heart for calling women to prayer. I'm just going to put this microphone in front of your face, and I want to hear you say that to any women I might play this for down the road.

Vonette: I was supposed to be so profound.

Nancy: No, just your heart.

Vonette: Well, I have felt since I was a young girl that women largely hold the key to the moral factors of the nation and of any society, and the standards of women determine the moral standards of society. We have come to the place where we have really neglected, I think, our responsibilities that we have been so absorbed with our own families and with our own goals and the things that we're interested in and not wanting to get too involved in some other things.

So I just feel like that we are at a time of moral crisis in this country. It has just been building for a number of years. I don't know whether the Lord's getting ready to come and that the rapture's going to take place quickly or just exactly what's happening. But I believe that it is time when we as women begin to be very serious about praying for our individual homes, about our churches, about the situations that are taking place in our cities and in our country. Nobody is saying "no" today. We're just letting people just haphazardly go about whatever they want to do and it just seems that we're falling apart.

With all of the brutality that is taking place. Who would have ever thought that in our lifetime we would see the slaughter of people being beheaded as we have. It is such senseless thoughts and we're not standing up against this. I believe that women can make a change. Our greatest source for change is prayer. As we pray, God will give us the influence to see what we can do to make a change. I believe that what a woman wants done gets done. Men are very attentive to what women have to say and that they want to keep mamma happy . . . and "if mamma ain't happy, nobody's happy." So we have a lot of responsibility.

But I just feel like I've had a burden for a long time to see 100,000 women come together to call out to God in unity for a spiritual awakening in this land. But if we don't have to necessarily come together but if we begin to carry the banners individually and with our own families and first of all with ourselves and to begin to take a stand against that which is really wrong and is detrimental to our nation.

I just feel like we need a rally of saying, "Enough is enough." That we begin to speak out particularly in the church. And for church people to begin to explain to other people. Our country was not established on the principles that are being followed in this country today. We're not going to survive if we don't get back to that which is honest and true and constructive and building and really caring and loving in our nation.

When women pray, God works, whether it's in the home or whether it's in the community or whatever. God honors the prayers of the wailing women. You know, we can wail quietly, our hearts wailing for that which is right for our nation. We need to be crying out to God to show us what we can do personally but what we might be able to do unitedly as women to make a difference in this land.

We need to be crying out to God to show us what we can do personally but what we might be able to do unitedly as women to make a difference in this land.

Nancy: Well, in the months following that conversation nearly a year ago, Vonette Bright's health continued to deteriorate. She was diagnosed with leukemia. She knew that her days were numbered and getting around was becoming more and more difficult. So I was humbled and thrilled when Vonette knew that I was getting married to Robert Wolgemuth, and she said, "I have to be at that wedding if it's the last thing I do."

She did come to my wedding seated in a wheelchair and accompanied by her precious son and daughter-in-law and one of her caregivers. I was so touched by a sweet prayer that she prayed for Robert and me at our rehearsal dinner the night before my wedding.

Tomorrow I'll share a cute story about Vonette on the day of my wedding. But just a few weeks before she passed away, my husband Robert and I had a chance to spend nearly a week with Vonette in her home. It was a precious time.

She was getting weaker and her speech was slowing, but her love for others and her love for Jesus had not waned one bit. During those days we spent many hours talking and praying together. On one occasion we had a chance to sing a hymn together.

My life I give, henceforth to live,
Oh Christ, for Thee alone.

Robert Wolgemuth: There we go.

Nancy: So you said you've been wondering about some things.

Vonette: I just wonder what it's like to die. Wouldn't it be wonderful if I'd see the face of Jesus in the beginning before I fade from this world and that I go immediately into His presence. That would be great.

Nancy: Do you think about what it will be like when you get there?

Vonette: I'm going to be looking for Bill standing at the gate and for my parents to be close around and the people that I've loved being close around. I don't feel very worthy, honey. I just haven't done very much. I feel like I have so little to offer for the last year of my life.

I'm grateful for what God's allowed me to do. It's all been His doing. I've served Him with great joy. He's honored my efforts far beyond anything I could ever understand. By the way, the National Religious Broadcasters are giving me some kind of a standing award.

Nancy: They love you.

Vonette: Well, I just hate to think that I'm not going to be able to be there and the whole ministry has been so responsive to what is happening to the National Religious Broadcasters. We've been very much behind them and encouraging them and trying to let them know how important it is that we think that they're doing evangelism—not just entertaining people but reaching people for Christ.

Nancy: You were just talking about my wedding being like a fairy tale. You had an amazing marriage for how many years to Bill Bright? Like sixty?

Vonette: I think it was fifty-three. It was 1948, December 1948 until July 2003.

Nancy: I'm not very good at math.

Vonette: I'm not either. You'd best put it on a piece of paper.

Nancy: That's a lot of years. And it was a magical marriage in so many ways. Why do you think it was?

Vonette: Bill Bright. Bill was such an anchor. He knew where he was going and how he was getting there. And if I wanted to be a part of it, that was wonderful. I quizzed him many times to make sure that this was solid and he knew exactly what he was doing and that we weren't going off on a tangent in some way. So when I was convinced that his ideas were, I couldn't talk him out of it, so I was sure that this was what God wanted him to do.

And it was the same time that I had a reverential awe about this guy. He was just so pure and so wonderful and so visionary. I really tried not to interfere in any way with anything he was doing. I asked lots of questions. And when I was sure that he was sure and that this was going to happen, God began to put it all together, it was just a miracle. It was believing God for the impossible. That's the reason why we saw it.

As we look at what the world is like today and the needs that there are for people to give their lives without reservation to Christ and to be sharing their faith with others and multiplying disciples, it's just one of the greatest experiences that any of us can ever have—leading a person to Christ and seeing their lives changed and profitable ministry. That's a great thrill.

I'm glad God gave me that experience multitudes of times. I wish there's been more particularly in later years when I've been more sedentary. I've had to spend so many months of being an invalid. It has really taken a toll on my spiritual life. I'm having to reconsider some things. I'm feeling very inadequate right now. I'm wishing I'd been more faithful, that I'd been more exuberant rather than just wasting hours and hours and hours of just nothing. But I had no challenge. I had no energy. It was vegetating. That was not a healthy thing to happen.

I would encourage people when you have people who are ill to really encourage them to think, to give them a thought of being productive, of keeping them actively thinking about what's going on in the world, and just to get their eyes off of themselves and to really look to God for something far better than just lying there and doing nothing.

I don't know what I could have done, but people did come by. But I was so out of it I could do nothing more than just say, "Hello" and wasn't even really aware except for the fact that I was told who they were. I wouldn't have remembered even their coming had I not been reminded of it.

It's been a very blank experience that I would never ask for anybody to experience. But I'm out of it now. So I'm getting ready to see Jesus. That's an exciting thought and an exciting experience. I'm looking for Scripture that is going to help to hold me and to carry me through and remembering especially John 14, "When everything is ready, I'll come and take you unto myself." The third verse and the twenty-eighth verse, "If you really loved me you will be happy in that I am going to be with Jesus."

And so I encourage everybody to rejoice that I am going to be with Jesus. That is my great thing to rejoice about as well that I'm going to see Jesus. It brings brightness to my morning, brightness to my day.

Leslie: And Vonette Bright did go to see Jesus just before Christmas 2015. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth had that opportunity to talk to her just a few weeks before her home going. Tomorrow we'll hear some highlights from the memorial service of Vonette Bright.

Pastor: In the name of Jesus Christ, I want to welcome you to the service of worship today bearing witness to the hope and the promise of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and in celebration of the life of Vonette Bright. We are grateful for that which is always the hope and the promise of God's Word. It is available to us in our times of great joy, our times of sorrow, every moment and experience in life.

Leslie: I hope you'll join us and think about the kind of legacy you're leaving and the way you want to be remembered. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

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

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