By Kathleen Rogol
On November 29, 1984, sister Rita Warner, a member of the Piscataway, NJ church, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, passed from this life. The shock of the news was even greater to me because I had talked to her on the phone the night before.
Why write this tribute in her memory? Certainly out of respect. But out of a feeling of deep respect because she was an extraordinary woman and a dedicated Christian. This is written to serve as an example and source of inspiration to other sisters in Christ who are burdened with sorrows and difficulties in life as sister Warner was. But you too can have a rich, abundant fife and find the same joy she did by the same manner of life she lived.
I first met sister Warner when we moved to Piscataway, NJ, where my husband worked as an evangelist. Sister Warner was one of the first persons to welcome us there and, throughout our stay there, was very hospitable and supportive of all phases of the work of the church. Sister Warner taught a Bible class of young people. When the members came together to go door-to-door to pass out invitations to meetings, she was always doing her part.
Just before a gospel meeting, she bought fresh flowers for the building to add a touch of beauty. At a few minutes notice, she was ready many times to go to neighboring congregations (which in NJ are not very close) to attend gospel meetings, singings, or other get-togethers of Christians. Many times she visited the sick, the new members and encouraged many Christians to grow in the Lord.
When we moved from that area, she was there to help us with packing and other preparations for our departure. But the most amazing thing about sister Warner is yet to come.
Sister Warner was a widow. Her husband died many years ago when they had two small children, Glen and Jimmy. Not only did she have the difficult task of raising two boys alone, but in addition one of them had juvenile diabetes and often had to deal with complications so often associated with this disease.
Glen, the oldest son, attended Florida College a few years ago and since then returned and is doing a wonderful work spreading the light of the gospel in the Piscataway community as well as among students at Rutgers University. Glen always conducts Bible studies with students of that school. He finds his greatest joy in keeping busy in the service of the Master.
Although Rita had enough burdens to bear, one would never guess that she had any serious problems or difficulties. She was always smiling, cheerful, interested in and concerned for others.
She often talked with young people about their problems and, upon occasions, even helped some find jobs or a place to live. Never did I hear Rita talking or complaining about her lot in life, her burdens and problems; rather, she showed concern for others in their unfortunate situations. She did not ask for herself; she gave herself to others and totally dedicated herself to the Lord.
One time she came to services and had on a lovely black coat. She took it off, put it around my shoulders and said, “It looks good on you; it’s yours.” That’s just another example of the “good deeds” she had done out of love from her heart. This gave her much happiness. As Paul spoke of the Macedonians, so it was true of Rita Warner: “the abundance of (her) joy” was “giving herself first to the Lord” and to others -and that many times “in a great trial of affliction” (2 Cor. 8:1-2).
There was a woman in early New Testament times that the Holy Spirit saw fit to mention and expressed respect for her. In Acts 9:36 we read of Dorcas: “This woman was full of good works and alms deeds which she did.” These words of the Holy Spirit were penned by Luke, not only in tribute to her good life, but to serve as an example for all women through all ages to come.
Truly, we had a “Dorcas” among us in this twentieth century: Rita Warner. As Dorcas died, so did Rita. And as we can know of the good deeds of Dorcas because they were recorded in sacred history, so the life of Rita Warner will long live in the hearts and memories of those who knew her for her goodness of life and of those whose lives were touched and made better by her sincere concern for them.
Dear sisters in Christ, whether young or old, think of sister Warner. Do you have sorrows, burdens and difficulties in life? Do you want the quality of your life to become better with greater meaning and purpose? Let this tribute to sister Warner speak to you to encourage and inspire you to enrich and place your life on a more noble plane. Let this bring a blessing to your life as it did to hers because she found joy in service to God and in giving of herself and comforting others. In what measure that you give to others, in that measure you enrich your own life and find true happiness. No sorrow or tribulation can overcome you if you follow the example of this great servant of Christ.
Indeed a “princess of Israel” has fallen into the beckoning hand of death. But remembering her gives us courage to press on in the calling of Jesus Christ. It proves to us the worth of being devoted servants of the Lord. She cannot come back to us but we can use her example to get strength to travel to heaven in the after-awhile.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 1, p. 11
January 5, 1985