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It has been my observation through the years that most influential pastors, evangelists and theologians have had at their side a godly woman who has been crucial to their ministries.
This is true in my own life, as my wife, Macel, has been a trustworthy friend, counselor and adviser.
It was also true of Orelia Rawlings, wife of one of my personal mentors, Dr. John W. Rawlings, who has been designated as “Mr. Baptist of the 20th Century.” She passed away on Feb. 3 at age 94.
If Mrs. Rawlings had lived 10 more days, she and Dr. Rawlings would have been married for an astounding 75 years. Not many couples have the privilege of being together that long. Dr. Rawlings faithfully cared for Mrs. Rawlings over the last four years as her health declined, and was by her side when she passed on to Glory.
Dr. Leland Kennedy and I conducted Mrs. Rawlings’ funeral Feb. 6 at the Landmark Baptist Temple of Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. and Mrs. Rawlings served that church as pastor and first lady for 43 years.
I met Mrs. Rawlings in August 1952 when I had just turned 19 years old, and she had just observed her 40th birthday. She was a beautiful and dignified lady. I am honored to have called her my friend over these many years.
An hour after she died, Dr. Rawlings called me. He told me some wonderful stories about their 75 years together in the Lord’s service. It was a great privilege for me to be able to share those moments with my mentor and friend. Actually, Dr. Rawlings often tells me that I am a member of his family. This is a high honor for me.
Dr. Rawlings told me that his relationship with Orelia began way back in 1917, when he was a lad of 4 and a half years, and she was an “older woman” of 5 and a half. One day, she placed her hand on his hand in the schoolhouse and announced that she planned to marry John. Her declaration proved to be providential, as she did marry him years later.
Dr. Rawlings told me that she was the perfect pastor’s wife. I know from firsthand experience that nobody could melt the Old Lion’s heart like Mrs. Rawlings.
Our mutual friend, Rev. Charlie Harbin, who worked with Dr. and Mrs. Rawlings and today works with me at Thomas Road Baptist Church, said that Mrs. Rawlings was the finest female soul-winner he had ever met.
Like her husband, she placed value on the souls of men and women, and wanted everyone she met to know her Savior.
In this day of multiculturalism, diversity and situational ethics, the Truth of God’s Word remains true, and we must – like Mrs. Rawlings – reach out to people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I ask all my friends to pray for Dr. Rawlings and his four sons, Herb, Harold, Carroll and George and their families. The boys all work with their father in the Rawlings Foundation, which is planting evangelistic Rawlings Youth Centers in nations all over the world.
Dr. Rawlings, at age 93, and his family continue to be pacesetters and innovators in taking the Gospel to the world. May we all be inspired by this family’s legacy.
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