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,
Memorial services will be held at the following times and locations:
Marshfield Assembly of God
1538 W. Washington St., Marshfield Missouri
Monday, February 26 at 10:30am
New Life Evangelistic Center Headquarters
1411 Locust St., St. Louis Missouri
Saturday, March 3, at 4pm
MidAmerica Care Center
9810 State Road AE
New Bloomfield, Missouri
Sunday, March 4, at 3pm
Sunday, March 18th, 3 PM at
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church,
300 W. Pecan Blvd.,
All Alone by Penny Rice
(Originally published in the New Life Zoa Free Paper)
My body trembled in fear as I heard my mother scream for help from the bathroom. I ran as fast as I could, but being only eight years old, I tripped several times up the steps to my grandparents’ apartment. They rushed back with me and found my mother sprawled on the floor, unconscious. When the ambulance came and she was put on a stretcher I kept calling to her, hoping she’d wake up–but she just lay there white and still. Then several days later I found out why. . . she was dying of cancer. My whole world was shaken. Five years earlier my father had left us to shift for ourselves. Now my mother would be gone, too.
At the funeral, the pastor took my hand and assured me that God would take care of me. I nodded my head, but I couldn’t see how He would take care of me. For the next ten years, I wondered even more if God loved me. I seemed as though He were playing games with me–just when I would settle down to living with one set of relatives, something would happen and I would be sent to live with another set of relatives. I developed a growing fear that no one really understood me. My pillow was often wet with tears of bitter loneliness.
What I did not realize was that God was leading me through these trials and tragedies to make my heart hungry and open to Him. Then when I was broken and felt so alone, He revealed the plan that He had for my life. At a small junior college, He led me to a serious-looking sophomore named Larry Rice. It did not take me long to see how devoted He was to God and how he really cared about people. God had sent me someone who could understand me and the loneliness in my heart began to dissolve. Many of the doubts and fears in my mind about God were answered and I began to trust more and more in Him. Three years later, Larry and I were married and we put our whole future in the Lord’s hands saying, “Send us wherever you want us to go!”
With a few more circumstances at work, He brought us to St. Louis to become founders of New Life Evangelistic Center. Each day is full of reaching out and sharing the love of Christ with people. God could have chosen anyone for this work, but He chose a frustrated, lonely girl from the suburbs of Chicago who had no idea what it meant to serve God. Now the tears that sometimes wet my pillow are tears of happiness and gratitude that God would reach down and give my life a purpose.
You Can Learn a Lot From a Bride by Penny Rice
(Originally published in the Zoa Free Paper, 1988.)
The glow was unmistakable on my friend’s face as she spoke of her forthcoming marriage. As we drove along the highway together, her enthusiasm about the wedding day was highly contagious–and we discovered that even a splitting radial tire on my little Toyota could not cool the fever of our excited plannings. We laughed like silly schoolgirls while we knelt on the wet shoulder of the highway. . . and quickly realized how differently the Japanese think when it comes to designing car jacks
And yet what a difference our mood of excitement made in the way we faced our unexpected car trouble. (Usually I am not the most patient nurse in treating ailing cars.) Needless to say, I was glad there was a happy, bride-to-be with me on this trip.
This little incident has made me wonder how many more brides all over the world right now are brightening the days of family and friends in an otherwise discouraged and lonely world. To be around someone who is happily awaiting the day when her beloved one comes for her. . . to see the sparkling eyes. . . the blooming cheeks. . . the lilt in her walk. . . is a feast for the eyes.
Pondering these thoughts has brought me to another dimension–because I’ve usually found that the simple truths of life always seem to point to some deeper truth that God is trying to reveal to us. Could it be that what God Himself desires is for His people to love and long for Him like a bride longs for her bridegroom?
That idea does not appear too far-fetched according to Hosea 2:19-20: “And I will betroth you to Me forever; yes I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, and in steadfast love, and in mercies. And you will really know Me then as you never have before.” And in Isaiah 54% we find: “For your Maker is your husband–the Lord Almighty is His name–“From Jeremiah 3:3 comes this: “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with lovingkindness.'” THe Apostle Paul even told the Corinthian Christians: “I (Paul) promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” (2 Cor. 11:2)
What really grips my heart about this deeper truth is that I’ve discovered that Jesus behaved just like a bridegroom when He lived on earth! No–Jesus never married–but instead He actually betrothed Himself to all those who believe in Him and give their hearts to Him. It was easy to understand how Jesus became our Bridegroom, when I learned about the following seven steps in the traditional Jewish Wedding:
1. Before the bridegroom could pick a bride, he must have his father’s approval. (John 17:24, 1 Cor. 1:9)
2. At the betrothal (engagement) ceremony, the bridegroom must do three things:
a)drink a cup of covenant (wine) (Matt. 26:27-29)
b)pay the price (1 Peter 1:18-19, 1 Peter 2:24)
c) make this speech: “I am going to leave you for a long time and go back to my father’s house. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2,3)
3. The bridegroom must then begin building the bridal chamber and make provisions for a seven-day honeymoon. It had to be just right to win his father’s approval. If anyone asked him when the chamber would be finished, he was supposed to say, “I don’t know, only my father knows.” (Acts 1:7)
4. Meanwhile, the bride would wear a veil whenever she went out and she was called “set apart,” “consecrated,” or “bought with a price.” She always waited at home every night for the traditional “catching away” by her bridegroom to the bridal chamber. She would be waiting with her bridesmaids who would all have their oil lamps filled and waiting for the important moment. (John 17:16,17; Jude 1:24)
5. When the bridegroom and his party came close to the bride’s house, they would shout. Then the bride and her party knew they were coming. The bridegroom would literally grab his bride and run by the light of the oil lamps to his father’s house. (1 Thess. 4:16,17)
6. As all the wedding guests watched, the bride and groom went into the bridal chamber and would not reappear until the seven days were over. There was feasting going on during the seven days among the wedding guests. (Rev. 5:5-14)
7. The couple then emerged as husband and wife from the bridal chamber and the marriage supper was celebrated. The veil was gone from the new wife and the couple then lived in the place prepared for them beforehand. (Rev. 19:7-9, 1 Cor. 2:9, Isa. 25:6,7,8)
[Source: Zola Levitt, An Israeli Love Story]
The corresponding Scriptures I’ve chosen for these seven steps reveal how Jesus will come to claim His Bride–all those who truly love and obey Him with all their hearts–and we will live with Him forever.
What occurs to me next is that if we are betrothed to the most wonderful Bridegroom in all the universe, Jesus Christ, shouldn’t we be a little excited about it? In fact, just thinking about our Bridegroom coming in the clouds to get us ought to put a sparkle in our eyes, a glow on our faces, and a lilt in our steps as we look up and say “Come quickly, Lord Jesus, come quickly!” Perhaps it is time that the Bride of Christ awakens from her slumber, fills her lamp with the oil of the Holy Spirit, watches and prays for her Beloved One’s soon, and brightens up the darkness all around her as she waits.
I don’t know about you, but even in the midst of a busy schedule, I’m listening for my Beloved Bridegroom’s shout and I can’t wait for Him to sweep me off my feet!