An Empty-Nest Woman Who Changed the World

Jan 23, 2022 | Life Purpose and Callings, Life Stories | 0 comments

“I’m too old to accomplish anything significant for Christ,” is the lament of many a discouraged mom after rearing her children to adulthood. At the opposite age extreme is the prophet Jeremiah who tried to excuse himself from God’s service by declaring “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” The Lord nips such assertions in the bud, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young [or too old],’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you (Jer. 1: 6-8, NLT).”

Do you know the name of the woman whom Christianity Today in 1996 dubbed “The Grandmother of Us All,” despite the fact she remained single her whole life and mothered no children of her own? The evangelist Billy Graham, Cru founder Bill Bright, and Navigators founder Dawson Trotman are among those who credit her teaching for fueling their own passions to reach the world for Christ. Other notable proteges include former Senate chaplain Richard Halverson, Jim Rayburn, founder of Young Life, and Don Moomaw, a UCLA All-American football player who later became Ronald Reagan’s pastor.

How did Henrietta Mears accrue such influence? This third-trimester dynamo taught the college-age Sunday School class at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, California, where she was the church’s Director of Education. Henrietta Mears’ impact is all the more shocking because this inspirational woman did nothing more than single-mindedly spend her time imparting a supreme confidence in Holy Scripture and a heart for God to a younger generation of God-seekers. They, in turn, became revolutionaries set on fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission. Henrietta Mears possessed a focused purpose and lived out God’s call on her life to equip young adults to know Jesus and pass on to others the reality of God’s love. The young people she influenced proceeded to change the world during their lifetimes.

Having personally served as a staff member for nineteen years in the ministry Bill Bright founded and then operated out of Henrietta Mears’ home for its first ten years, I know firsthand the worldwide reach of Cru, (previously known as Campus Crusade for Christ). Although a “church girl” growing up, I knew nothing about establishing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ until Dr. Bright prayed with Chuck and me to invite Jesus to take charge of our lives.

Dr. Bright cited research from the now-deceased head of Harvard’s sociology department, Pitirim Sorokin. According to Sorokin, if a couple prayed and read the Bible together daily, the likelihood of divorce was only 1 in 1015. Since my boyfriend and I were arguing a lot in those days, I was highly motivated to seek better odds than those offered by sad nationwide statistics reporting that 1 out of 3 marriages dissolved in divorce. Because the decision Chuck and I made to follow Christ stood so monumental in changing how we related to each other, Chuck asked me to marry him on the first anniversary of our commitment to Christ. We said our until-death-do-us-part vows before God and man a few months later.

Although there were less than 400 staff members when Chuck and I joined Cru’s campus staff after college graduation, the latest data describes colossal growth. In 2020, Cru counted over 19,000 fulltime staff members working in 190 countries, and countless volunteers. Bill Bright’s simple four-point explanation about how to enter into a relationship with Christ has likely become the most widely distributed religious booklet in history, with 2.5 billion copies of the “Four Spiritual Laws” blanketing the inhabitants of the earth. Cru’s “Jesus Film” Project has been translated into 1,790 languages, with the goal of reaching every people group in existence. All this growth would not have transpired unless Henrietta Mears, a single third-trimester woman, accepted her calling from God to teach and mentor college adults during her third season of life. She imprinted Christ on the hearts of millions through the spiritual leaders she developed.

This biographical information is not strictly about Henrietta Mears; it’s about you! It doesn’t matter whether you have grown kids and grandkids, whether you are married or single. Perhaps your nest has recently emptied, or possibly many years have passed since then. Maybe you feel like such an “ordinary” person. The question is, “Are you living out your life purpose and callings?” Will you be like Jeremiah and accept your call no matter what your age and no matter how ordinary or past-your-prime you feel? Chapter 14 of Life’s Third Tri will help you identify your personal answer to “What’s Next?”

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