LA VERGNE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptist missionary Evelyn Woolridge was remembered as a generous, loving wife and mother during her memorial service at Miracle Baptist Church in La Vergne, Tenn., June 29.
Woolridge, 41, died in Nairobi, Kenya, May 26 of pneumonia following elective gall bladder surgery. She is survived by her husband, Michael, and five daughters, Patricia, 12; Judith, 10; Michaela, 8; Rebekkah, 6; and Mary-Ruth, 4.
Serving in Kenya since 1999, the Woolridge family ministered in a unique role as international consultants for LifeWay Christian Resources through the International Mission Board.
Evelyn’s husband, Michael, shared expressions of appreciation during the memorial ceremony.
“We are so grateful for the support you have given to us,” Michael told the crowd of close friends and family.
The Woolridge family was scheduled to return to the United States May 30 so Michael could continue working at LifeWay in Nashville, Tenn.
“It was difficult coming home without her, but God will get us through because our faith is strong,” he said.
Michael expressed that the last four and a half weeks have been extremely difficult and “without the grace of God, we would not have been able to make it.”
Evelyn received the best possible medical care in Kenya, Michael said, while encouraging bereaved family and friends to “just believe that God had His plan and His reason. We have to look, to seek, to find that plan for ourselves.”
During the final days of Evelyn’s hospitalization, Michael said he and his family prayed that God’s will be done. “Whether it was for healing or for Him to take her. But through it all, God was with us,” he said.
During their missionary assignment in Africa, Michael said Evelyn would find a challenge, take hold of it and give it her all.
“She worked in an orphanage. She worked in the offices doing whatever she could because that made her feel like she was part of the total ministry,” he said. “She fell in love with Africa and the people. She fell in love with the children that she ministered to and worked with.”
Asking for prayer for his family, Michael told the attendees, “We don’t understand how or why or where but if we keep our eyes on Him, He will take us to the place we need to be.”
Michael and Evelyn’s 8-year-old daughter, Michaela, read a poem in honor of her mother and sang, “I Love You, Lord” during the service.
Brad Veitch of the International Mission Board office of mission personnel, offered personal remarks about Evelyn during the memorial ceremony. “The best gifts from God are people,” Veitch said. “I am grateful to God that the Woolridges had a heart that said, ‘Yes, we will go.'”
Veitch said that many in Kenya would remember Evelyn’s contribution to the Kingdom of God.
“She will most be remembered in Kenya for her generous spirit. Whether that was when she took vegetables out of her garden and gave to people on the street or whether that was taking gifts to the orphanages or giving herself to others,” he said.
LifeWay President Jimmy Draper also spoke about how the partnership between the International Mission Board and LifeWay fulfilled a dream he had of sending LifeWay representatives around the globe.
“When I came to LifeWay, one of my dreams was that LifeWay would be represented around the world. When The Woolridges went to Nairobi, they fulfilled a dream that God put in my heart and that is why I felt so deeply about the loss of Evelyn in the last weeks.
“I am so grateful to God for the contribution they have made,” Draper added.
Draper read from John 11:28, where Mary and Martha came to Jesus to tell Him about the death of Lazarus. In verse 28, Martha approached Mary and said, “The Master is here and is calling for you.”
“I just feel on that Sunday last month, that an angel whispered in her ear, ‘The Master is coming and He is calling for you,'” he said.
“This means that Evelyn belonged to Him. His call made her death a victory. A great exchange took place when the Master called to her. She exchanged the cross of physical limitation and, at the last, physical suffering that she had known for the crown of life and the glorious liberty God’s children have when they are with Him,” Draper said.
Carl Scarlett, pastor of Miracle Baptist Church in La Vergne, Tenn., delivered the memorial message.
Scarlett, a close family friend of the Woolridges, shared from Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
“For her to live was for Jesus and for her to die was gain,” Scarlett said.
“The truth at death is that you don’t leave home, you just go home. Evelyn went to her eternal home to be with Jesus,” he said.
Encouraging the loved ones at the service, Scarlett said that this valley would cause them to realize that God has walked through the valley with them.
“Our hearts break, our spirits are heavy but the Lord carries it all,” he said.
Scarlett commented that when he heard of Evelyn’s passing, the Lord “said to me in a still small voice, ‘There are a lot of people in Africa who know Jesus because of Michael and Evelyn, who might not otherwise have known Him.'”
Scarlett said that Evelyn lived for Jesus and she cared greatly for her family.
“She loved Michael, she loved her little ones, and she loved her family and her church family. When we love the Lord with all our hearts and we love our family, we have the greatest life,” he said.
Evelyn was born in London, England, on Feb. 5, 1962. She immigrated to the United States in 1982 to join her mother and brothers. She married Michael in 1988.
She also is survived by her mother, Agatha LaTouch, who lived with the family in Nairobi; her father, Cutthbert Leo; six brothers and one sister.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: FULFILLMENT OF A DREAM, CARRYING ON, A POEM FOR MOM, GOD’S BEST GIFTS and A FAREWELL FROM FRIENDS.