ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)--Bobbye Rankin offered the Pastors' Wives Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention's Pastors' Conference the same source of help she's shared for the past 17 years to encourage missionaries on international fields: strength from the Word of God.
Quoting from memory the entire 84th Psalm, Rankin affirmed the writer's desire to dwell in God's presence. From Exodus 15 she applied the benefits of that relationship as demonstrated in the lives of the Israelites whether in a time of celebration or despair.
Citing God's miraculous intervention at the Red Sea, Rankin challenged the wives of ministers to recall those things that only God could have done. "Would you not say, like we say in Mississippi, 'There ain't nothin' my God can't do,'" she said.
And yet, Rankin said, "For Him to make us into the women we need to be, the wives and helpmeets to our husbands, through that ministry He has given us, the Lord, of necessity, I believe, has to bring into our lives those trials, those things that we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we cannot control ourselves. That's what happened to the Israelites."
That crisis came early in her ministry alongside her husband Jerry as they saw little response while serving as Southern Baptist missionaries in Indonesia to a people group she described as closed to the Gospel message. After their son survived a near-death experience, she underwent an unexpected surgery, then learned her father had died in an automobile accident and her mother was crippled.
As she knelt at her mother's bedside, she was overwhelmed with God's presence and comfort.
"Those were what we considered some bitter times," she said. "As we go through those times the heavenly Father and His Holy Spirit does not depart from us for one split second. He is with us yesterday, today and forever."
Rankin asked the women, "How is God changing you as you persevere through your journey of intimate communication with Him, as you encourage others to join in that joy and that valley of the journey of His presence?"
Returning to Psalm 84, she urged them to become women of praise.
"Keep that passion for the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep your faith strong that greater things are yet to come. He has prepared the path before you and He will not leave for even one split second."
Sherry Blakenship, a hospital chaplain, pastor's wife and author from St. Louis, shared her testimony of God's provision through the loss of a child.
"As I sat by Anna's bed and saw her little body being manipulated electronically, I considered our situation in comparison to God's and what He had done," she said, referencing the sacrifice of God's only Son on the cross. "How can I raise my fist to a God who would love us enough to do that?"
Barbara O'Chester of Wake Forest, N.C., guided the audience through a prayer that included adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.
"God who does not change says to us, 'I see where you are, hear your cry, know what you're going through, and I have come to deliver you,'" O'Chester said.
Rankin and Blankenship joined a panel led by Susie Hawkins of Dallas in addressing concerns of ministers' wives. Other participants included Jennifer Landrith of Hendersonville, Tenn., Iva May of Olive Branch, Miss., and Heather Platt of Birmingham, Ala.
Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
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