By J. Wilson Copeland
What a special blessing to be born the child of a gospel preacher. People often joke about P.K.s (preacher’s kids) in such a way as to imply that growing up in a preacher’s home is about the worst fate an individual could suffer. Such could not be further from the truth, especially if one were fortunate enough to be born to Jady and Dorothy Copeland.
This article was supposed to be a short tribute to my father, Jady Copeland, who died suddenly of a massive heart attack on December 11, 1995. But I cannot possibly talk of his work without also speaking of my mother. They were a team. Mother has always been an integral part of Dad’s work as a gospel preacher. Together they devoted their entire adult lives to the service of the God they love and the kingdom of his beloved Son. Their example of love and sacrifice is one that we would all do well to imitate.
My parents are known from coast to coast for their love, kindness, thoughtfulness, faithfulness, and hospitality. From my earliest days I can remember asking, “Dad and Mom, where are you going?” “We’re going visiting,” would often be the answer. My older sister Neva would be left to baby-sit Mary and me while Mom and Dad visited the sick, shut-ins, or widows. At the family visitation the evening before my father’s funeral, a man introduced himself to me and spoke with pride and amazement that during a recent sickness Dad had visited him everyday he had been in the hospital. Not impressed? He was impressed because he was not even a member at Lakeland Hills where Dad was an elder, but worshipped with a congregation across town!
To many brethren, the names “Jady and Dorothy” are synonymous with “hospitality.” They loved to have people in their home and saw the positive impact that it could have on their local work. While growing up, we had company constantly. Dad and Mom didn’t believe in playing favorites they invited everyone into their home. If you worshipped in a congregation where Jady and Dorothy worked, and if you hadn’t seen the inside of their home it was your own fault. You had been invited and more than once. Mother’s desserts are legendary, and Dad had the ability to make anyone and everyone feel comfortable in our home. Throughout their lives, my parents have been completely selfless in every way. With regard to the material possessions of this life, they have given generously; almost to a fault. They cared little for the material things of this world. Dad never demanded a certain salary to preach the gospel or threatened to leave a place unless he got a raise. He was always thankful for the things the brethren provided, even when he knew it wasn’t really enough. He humbly said on a number of occasions, “I am glad that the brethren are willing to pay me enough to live, because if they paid me what I am worth, I couldn’t live on that!”
Mother always made do on what Dad received. She never complained or nagged him to ask for a raise. She scrimped and saved and made every dollar stretch as far as it possibly could. When they first got married, Dad bought Mother a sewing machine and through the years she undoubtedly saved them hundreds and hundreds of dollars by making so many of our clothes. As the news of Dad’s death spread across the country, tributes began to come to us via E-mail on “Marks list.” Thanks to all for your kind words. I end with a part of the note that was sent by Ben Shropshire who lived in Lakeland and worked with Dad on a radio program for a number of years. “Jady was a faithful preacher whose life and work were always worthy of the gospel he preached. He was not an eloquent, powerful preacher, but he preached the `power’ with conviction and courage. His lessons were the simple, old Jerusalem gospel that we love to hear. He never compromised the truth, to my knowledge, either in his teaching or in his life. I respected him for the good life he lived, and the attitudes he reflected in his words and actions. His life was a noble example that many of us preachers, both old and young, would do well to emulate. His deeds and words will go on bearing fruit for many years, and my memory of him will always be one of goodness and joy.”
Guardian of Truth XL: 2 p. 18
January 18, 1996