By Mike Willis
On 1 March 1991, one part of the Willis clan assembled in Houston, Texas to celebrate their parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. It was a joyous occasion; I appreciate my brother Don and sisters Sue Morris and Ouida Stover who worked to arrange the celebration. There were over 60 descendants from Onan J. and Wilhelmina Willis who gathered to observe their 60th anniversary.
Mom and Dad had seven children. The four sons (Cecil, Don, Lewis and myself) dedicated themselves to full-time gospel preaching. One of the daughters (Ouida) is married to Billy Stover, an elder at the Southside church in Pasadena, Texas and another daughter (Sue) is married to Forrest Morris, a deacon in the Alvin, Texas church. Aside from the children who were too young to be Christians, there were few non-Christians present in the 60 + who assembled that evening.
One of the most emotional parts of the celebration occurred when the family joined together to sing “Through the Years,” during which time the grandchildren and great-grandchildren marched in front of Mom and Dad and placed red roses in a vase. The singing was interrupted by tears of joy and happiness. Even now my eyes water as I recall the moment.
After this, each of the children paid tribute to his parents, recalling in his own way the memorable moments of his youth. These tributes were living proof of the statement in Proverbs 31 about the “worthy woman”: “Her children arise up, and call her blessed” (31:28). We laughed and cried together.
After each of the children had paid his tribute, Mom and Dad had some things to say. One of the statements from Mom has lingered on my mind through these several weeks since the celebration. When Mom spoke, tears were flowing down her check and her speech was broken by emotion, but she finally got out the words, “I’m the richest woman alive!”
To fully appreciate that statement, you must understand the relatively meager circumstances in which Mom and Dad live. They live in a modest, three-bedroom brick ranch in Woodlake, Texas where property values are low. They probably have very little in their savings account. Mom had no financial connotations in her statement that she was the “richest woman alive.”
Rather, she recognized as her treasure her faithful, Christian children. She has been blessed with longevity of life to see her children reach maturity, marry, and give birth to their own children. She has been blessed to see all of her children and most of her grandchildren become Christians. She has witnessed several of her grandchildren marry and have children of their own. She witnesses the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ being passed down in her family and recognizes this as the greatest of life’s blessings.
Mom’s statement, ” I am the richest woman alive, ” emphasizes in my mind the necessity of placing our values in the right places. Many who have much more money in the bank and are worth much more in wealth do not have the peace, joy and contentment which my parents experience.
I appreciate he indelible mark which my parents have made on our family by transmitting values to us. They told us to worship God and serve him daily and then showed us how to do it. My parents were not hypocrites. They never manifested pride and arrogance. Rather than being concerned with mere reputation, they were concerned about character.
I have been deprived of much of their company by preaching the gospel 1000 miles away from where they live for 24 years. Only in recent years have I recognized the sacrifice which was made that the gospel might be preached. My children barely know two of this earth’s greatest people — their grandparents. Were it not for the expectation of all of us sharing heaven together, the recognition of the importance of preaching the gospel to others, and the good which I have witnessed from the work which our preaching has done, I would so regret the choice to be away preaching that I might change my life. Having the choice of these goods not being accomplished were their sons to move, I doubt that Mom and Dad would encourage us to quit what we are doing to live nearby.
I pray that Sandy and I will be as successful as parents who have passed the gospel down to their children and grandchildren as Mom and Dad have been. The wise man wrote, “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children” (Prov. 13:22). Mom and Dad, thank you for the rich heritage.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 10, pp. 290, 311
May 16, 1991