GRANT CITY, Mo. (BP)–Heart heavy with each step, Julia Moore walked around the perimeter of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Her husband, Donald, lay dying with cancer. Their five children faced an uncertain future. Anguish had driven Julia from bed in the middle of the night to pace and pray.
Donald had enrolled at Southwestern with dreams of serving God as a bi-vocational minister. The family had managed to pay off $30,000 in debt in a year and a half and followed the Lord’s leading to move to Texas. Within a month’s time, the couple’s fifth child was born, their only car was wrecked and Donald was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma.
Even then, their faith remained strong.
“I felt God was going to use this to equip us to be better able to serve in ministry,” Julia said.
For a time, it appeared that way. Donald was declared cancer-free after nine months of intensive treatment. But on Feb. 14, 2005, they discovered the cancer had returned.
“We walked the tightrope of God’s sovereignty, on one hand praying for physical healing, but on the other side knowing there was ultimate healing in heaven,” Julia said.
In December of that year, despite the illness, Donald managed to graduate with his master’s of divinity in biblical languages.
“He had such a love of God’s Word, to study it. He was so hungry for it,” Julia said.
It was also clear that despite the most aggressive conventional and alternative treatments, cancer would claim his body.
As Julia walked the sidewalks of the seminary that night, she begged God not to waste the experience but to use it for something good. She heard the Spirit speak to her, “I’m not going to waste this, but you could.”
“My prayer became, ‘Don’t let me waste this,'” she said.
More than two years later, Julia stands on the steps of a nearly finished home and gathers her children ages 5 to 14 around her. She is determined to use the most painful tragedies to give God the glory.
“This story is all about God,” she said. “He cares about the little things and the big things as well.”
As Donald’s time on earth grew short, the Moore family longed to return to Missouri. The couple had met at Northwest Missouri State University where they both earned degrees to teach agriculture education.
Family friends offered the use of an old farm house in Worth County, where Julia is from and her family lives. Friends at Southwestern packed all their belongings, and they moved north. The setting was perfect for Donald to spend his last few months, Julia said.
“It was a really precious time,” she said.
On Aug. 14, 2006, Donald died. And at age 34, Julia became a widow.
“It’s a strange shadowland I venture in,” she said.
She put her education degree to work and became an English teacher at Worth County High School. The family attends First Baptist Church in Albany.
“God has provided for us continually without fail,” she said.
She is grateful for use of the house, but the aging house is much too small for a family of six. The remote location is 15 miles from her parents and 12 miles from school. She looked for another house but couldn’t find anything that met their needs.
Julia became acquainted with Charles McCrary, a member of Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church in St. Joseph and a patrolman with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. McCrary also is an active participant in Missouri Baptist Builders.
“She has such a positive outlook and gives God the credit,” McCrary said.
He told Julia if she could provide a plot of land and the materials, they’d make sure she’d get her house built.
“I just wanted a place we could sink some roots and serve God,” she said. “This is where He led us.”
They broke ground on the site in May 2008. Julia created her own floor plan to suit the rural setting and five children. The Builders descended for one week in October. They framed the entire house, roofed it and put up the walls in the basement.
Julia said every church of all denominations in Worth County was represented during the construction. Pastors, retirees, state troopers, church members and countless volunteers hammered nails and women brought in meals.
“It’s been a real community effort,” McCrary said.
Before the workers began construction, Julia went over the floor plan and shared her testimony. The volunteers were stirred by the recounting of her journey with Donald and with the Lord.
“Just meeting her and seeing all she’s been through, God is right in the middle of it,” McCrary said.
In the smallest details, He has shown his hand, Julia said. As she talked to one of the Baptist Builders from the Kansas City area building the deck at the house, she discovered that Donald had worked for him during his first semester of classes at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he went before Southwestern.
Builders did electrical and plumbing work on the new house. Crews came back to do finish work, tiling and the ceiling. When her church in Albany built a new building, Julia rescued two stained glass windows from the old building to use in her new office.
“There is no way we could have a home like this without the Baptist Builders,” Julia said. “I don’t know how many man hours have gone into this.”
The children are equally amazed at their blessings. Lincoln, age 5, has grown up in a house without closets. When his room was framed in, he timidly asked his mother whose room was in the back of his. She assured him it was just a closet for his clothes.
“It looks like someone else’s house,” said Victoria, age 11.
For the young widow, sitting on the nearly finished porch of her home on a warm summer evening feels like living in God’s fulfilled promise.
Shortly after her husband’s death, Julia was drawn to Jeremiah 29, where the Lord delivered detailed instructions to His children living in exile: “Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat what they produce … Find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage … Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you in exile.”
“We’re building a house we’re going to live in. We have a garden and we’re going to eat its produce this year,” Julia said. “We’re praying for the community we live in. We’re taking it one step at a time.”
Susan Mires is a contributing writer for The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention and online at MBCPathway.com.