Tomorrow I will drive to Greenville, South Carolina to assist with the funeral of Rev. Faye Whitten. Faye is a retired missionary educator/evangelist in the Church of God. For the past several years she has been a member of our church.
I first met Faye in 1979. We were both students at the Church of God School of Theology as it was then known. I did not know her well. Our paths seldom crossed. She was one of the first female Master of Divinity graduates of the seminary.
It was eighteen or twenty years ago that I got to know her well. We had Faye come to New Covenant as an evangelist. As is typical with our guest ministers, I spent some time with her discussing the Bible, theology, and New Covenant. I discovered her to be an outstanding student of the Scriptures. I also discovered her to be a person of a meek and quiet spirit.
We had Faye and Dot back for four or five revivals over the next decade or so. Her ministry was powerful and effective at our church. And we are not an easy church with whom to be an evangelist. We have the highest concentration of doctorates in religion in the Church of God; our people expect preaching that is well grounded in the Scriptures. We also have one of the highest concentrations of G.E.D.’s of any church I know; our people expect sincerity, clarity, practicality in presentation. She was able to speak in a way that connected with the entire congregation.
Most people who have sat under her ministry are impacted by her special gift in giving personal prophecies. During the altar service she would tarry a long time praying with individuals. Her prayers frequently shifted into personal words from the Lord. God used her mightily in this manner especially to speak to the issues and concerns people were facing.
I believe it was during her second revival that we had a van load of out of town guests. They were students from Columbia Theological Seminary just beginning an intensive travel class as an immersion into Appalachia. Most of these students were Presbyterians. As Faye was ministering she called out to two of them; they were non-traditional students, i.e., older, second career types. She got their attention and began, “Sirs, yes, you two there in the back. The Lord wants you to know…” As she spoke I was nervous; the professor was a friend/acquaintance of mine and I knew these students had not been in a Pentecostal service. Then, I noticed both men had an expression of amazement and one began to cry.
The one who cried sought me out after the service to give me a report. He had never been to a Pentecostal or Charismatic service or witnessed anything like he saw that day. He had come very skeptical. But Faye’s prophetic words spoke directly to them in response to a conversation they had with each other on the ride up from Atlanta. “The words were exact,” he said.
Typically, Faye’s personal prophesies were assurances of God’s attention to the individual’s trials with a promise of deliverance. Near the end of every revival she would ask to pray for me. I would silently ask for a word of coming blessing. What I invariable got were words like, “The Lord says to you, despise not the day of little things. I have placed you here. Do not look for numbers. I have raised this church up to be a place of healing and sending.” In other words, keep being faithful and be content with small attendance and finances. I always hoped for something different, but always knew it was a word from God. It wasn’t until she retired that she gave me a word with the promise of change.
In the last couple of years she has developed short term memory loss and other indicators of dementia. She remained a blessing to us all. For me personally, she bragged on my sermons. Actually, she would linger around the front to tell me the message was a special blessing. Then having forgotten she had had spoken to me, she would tell me two or three more times before she left.
In spite of her mental challenges, she remained on our prayer team and ministered to people every Sunday she was present. Her prayers were as anointed as ever.
What I have not yet written about are her physical challenges. Faye was born crippled; her legs were folded behind her and could not be straightened. As a young girl, God instantly healed her. Then in mid-life she broke her hip and gradually became handicapped in her legs. She had multiple hip replacements and other surgeries over the years. We have journeyed with her as she digressed from a cane to a walker and finally to a wheel chair.
In the face of her own suffering, God often used Faye to minister healing to others. She was always smiling, always positive, and always giving. She embodied the Christian graces of faith, hope, and love. We will miss her greatly. I already sense the loss of her prayers, at least the closeness of her prayers for me as her pastor. I am convinced she is still praying for me and in that I take courage.
December 28, 2010