My dear friends,
How I thank God for your faithful prayers and support for New Life Evangelistic Center. Now I want to ask for you to please keep my children, grandchildren, the NLEC staff, and myself in your special prayers. On Feb. 21, 2007 at 8:15am my beloved wife and NLEC co-founder, Penny Rice went into the everlasting arms of our precious Savior.
In the hours leading up to Penny’s departure the children and I took turns sitting at Penny’s bedside reading to her from her favorite book Hinds Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard. At approximately 2:30am on the morning she was to leave us I was awakened as I slept on a cot next to her bed. I got up and read the following to her from this book. As I read I knew the Lord was speaking to me in preparation for what was about to take place. The book is a story about one called Much-Afraid and her journey to the High Places.
“’I can’t go with them,’ she gasped. ‘I can’t! I can’t! O my Lord Shepherd, why do you do this to me? How can I travel in their company? It is more than I can bear. You tell me that the mountain way itself is so steep and difficult that I cannot climb it alone. Then why, oh why, must you make Sorrow and Suffering my companions? Couldn’t you have given Joy and Peace to go with me, to strengthen me and encourage me and help me on the difficult way? I never thought you would do this to me!’ And she burst into tears.”
“A strange look passed over the Shepherd’s face as he listened to this outburst, then looking at the veiled figures as he spoke, he answered very gently, ‘Joy and Peace. Are those the companions you would choose for yourself? You remember your promise, to accept the helpers that I would give, because you believed that I would choose the very best possible guides for you. Will you still trust me, Much-Afraid? Will you go with them, or do you wish to turn back to the valley, and to all your Fearing relatives to Craven Fear himself?’”
“Much-Afraid shuddered. The choice seemed terrible. Fear she knew only too well, but Sorrow and Suffering had always seemed to her the two most terrifying things which she could encounter. How could she go with them and abandon herself to their power and control? It was impossible. Then she looked at the shepherd and suddenly knew she could not doubt him, could not possibly turn back from following him; that if she were unfit and unable to love anyone else in the world, yet in her trembling, miserable little heart, she did love him. Even if he asked the impossible, she could not refuse.
“She looked at him piteously, then said, ‘Do I wish to turn back? O Shepherd, to whom should I go? In all the world I have no one but you. Help me to follow you, even though it seems impossible. Help me to trust you as much as I long to love you.’” (Hinds Feet On High Places, Tyndale House, 1975, pgs. 66-67)
Penny faithfully followed the Good Shepherd, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Now as she has gone to the high places her life has left us a challenge to also move forward even when our guides are suffering, sorrow and now loneliness. If you would like to post how Penny’s life has touched yours please leave a comment here. Enjoy Penny’s writings here. One which really touched me is entitled, “All Alone,” where Penny shares how the hurt she suffered at eight years of age, when her mother died from cancer, went on to empower her to do the work God had called her to do at New Life Evangelistic Center.
While my daughter Stephanie has been such a help in making memorial arrangements and completing other business following Penny’s death, my other daughter Jennifer has created a special page dedicated to celebrating Penny’s life on the world wide web. You can access this special site by going to www.newlifeevangelisticcenter.org. While you are at that site you can also give a special memorial gift to the work of New Life Evangelistic Center or Consider the Lilies Foundation. Consider the Lilies is a special ministry Penny developed at NLEC to reach out to cancer victims and their families. There is a link on the NLEC site to the Consider the Lilies site if you desire further information. You can also share your thoughts and gifts by writing NLEC at PO BOX 473, St. Louis, MO 63166.
In behalf of my family and all the staff at New Life Evangelistic Center, I want to deeply thank each and every one of you for your prayers, cards, gifts and love that you have showered on Penny during her time of illness. We also want to thank you for your support during this difficult time. What a blessing you are. As we continue to work side by side with so many who are in sorrow, suffering, and alone, we must never forget that the Good Shepherd has promised, I will never leave you nor forsake you” and that the scriptures have promised that “all things work for good to them who love God and are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) This may be difficult to see now in our journey to the High Places, but I know from many years of experience that God is Faithful and His Word is True.
Yours in Christ,