Ted and Lili Baehr (Photo by Dan Wooding, ASSIST News)
Ted Baehr, the founder of Movieguide, has battled for family-friendly fare in entertainment for years, and frequently has been joined in his efforts by his wife, Lili. But the two also are in another battle, for the future of Lili’s eyesight.
Baehr confirmed some years ago that Lili has both Ocular and Mucous Membrane Cicatricial Pemphigoid, a disease that causes progressive deterioration in the eyes and internal passages, such as the throat. “It takes off the mucous lining in your throat and all your internal passages and eats away at the conjunctiva of the eye,” he said. “Only about 100 people a year get the disease in the U.S.”
“It’s like you have had sulfuric acid thrown in your eyes and poured down your throat and your esophagus. It is very debilitating for her, and she is very brave and doesn’t like to bother people and doesn’t want to be a burden,” Baehr said.
They talked with ASSIST News about their lives, their love and their battles while at the recent World Congress on the Family in Warsaw, Poland, where Baehr was a speaker. She accompanied him despite having lost the sight in one eye and constantly battling pain.
Lili, who was born in Argentina, said she came to America with her family in 1955.
“It was my father’s choice as we were living under the fascist regime of Juan Domingo Per?n, and my father was not happy there. You couldn’t talk against the government even in your own home, and it was a repressive society. My father had studied in England and in Sweden and decided that America was the best country in the world at the time, so he uprooted the whole family, and we came to America,” she said.
Baehr noted that Peron actually served as a military attach? under Mussolini, and was a hardcore national socialist, and tried to implement that in Argentina. Peron’s wife, Evita, played a large role in the developments in that country at the time.
“I was actually in Argentina when Evita died,” Lili said. “There were a lot of people that did love her, but she and her husband persecuted many more and so we left and came to Houston which was a small town at the time.
“I have always felt that I’m a Texan by adoption. I love the state of Texas and I saw all the changes from Houston being a small little town to the large city it is today. When we came from Argentina, we went to see the principal of the school all four of us siblings were to attend and the principal went around and told everybody, ‘We have someone from another country; please be kind to them and help them with their English.'”
Lili eventually went to Rice University in Houston to train as an architect, and not long after, the two met.
“After NYU Law School, I worked for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York,” Baehr said. “Soon, however, I was drawn back into the entertainment industry where I grew up since both of my parents were movie stars and my father was a star in Broadway plays for 40 years. … A friend of mine who became the vice president of Warner Brothers and I started canvassing the country to produce a feature film. Later, several friends in the movie industry asked for help to put together the legal work for the financing for some feature films.
“We were on the road for about a year preparing this film and, every once in a while, I’d get this strange dream about this woman although I was dating other women. It was odd because she didn’t fit the bill; she was a great conversationalist and beautiful and brilliant. When I got to Houston, my partner said, ‘I just met the girl who looks exactly like this girl you have described in your dream.’ … When I saw her, suddenly it was love at first sight.”
“The truth is that [Ted’s friend] met me first at the architecture office where I was working as an architect, and he went back to Ted and said, ‘I met the girl you told me about from your dreams’ and here we are 32 years later,” Lili said.
It was a short time later when they got married, and Ted gave his life to Christ after being challenged by a friend to do so. Lili’s decision followed a little later.
“We have four beautiful children,” Baehr said. “Each one of them is a very committed Christian. Two of them went to Wheaton College, one went to my alma mater Dartmouth and is now at University of Virginia Law School, and another one is an art student at a very fine college, Belhaven College. One of them was in Papua New Guinea translating the Bible and is now marrying a woman from Tasmania. They’re going to go pursue their doctorates at the University of Geneva. Another one is in China studying now at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“God has blessed us tremendously. More than that, I’m happy that He’s blessed the ministry and we’ve not only been able to teach our children media wisdom so that they’re really solid but that He’s allowed me to speak around the world whether it’s Cambodia or Thailand or Europe on media wisdom,” he said.
“When Ted accepted Jesus, the woman asked him, ‘Would you like to be a Christian?’ She then turned to me and said, ‘You don’t think being a Christian is going to be any fun?’ And I said, ‘You’re right.’ The truth is that it’s been an interesting time for both of us. Ted always says. ‘She thought she was marrying a producer and I ended up a pastor.’ God has had to deal with me, and I really thank him for my husband that he got me on the right track so I’m very grateful for that,” Lili said.
But tests did come.
“I was diagnosed about 12 years ago with this auto-immune disease that is destroying all the mucus membranes of my body but it is concentrated on the eyes and also in the throat,” Lili said. “I’ve already lost the sight in one eye so I take a lot of chemo drugs and other drugs to try to stabilize me. So the good news is that I’m still seeing out of one eye; in fact I’m doing quite well for all those wonderful people around the world who have been praying for me.
“A few years ago, I was very ill because everything was affected. I couldn’t even swallow. I couldn’t eat anything. It was like everything was so raw in my throat. I would be on the couch, just barely moving, and my husband would come in with a stack of e-mails and letters from around the world from people who said praying for me and that really kept me going. These were total strangers from all over the world who were praying for me. What’s good about being a Christian is that you have these brothers and sisters all over the world. They’re not your blood brothers and sisters, but they are in the same family of God and they really kept me going.
“I still get e-mails people are still praying for me,” she said.
She said those prayers are much appreciated, but she also appreciates the fact she was able to travel to the conference on the family. “Being at this conference on the family, I think, has been so important because it is one issue that is so crucial to our world today because of the disintegration of the family,” she said.
Their secret of staying together and staying in the fight is simple.
“Well,” Lili replied, “a couple of things that are probably obvious to everybody, but you know there’s that Scripture verse that says, ‘Never let the sun go down on your anger.’ So we always try to resolve our issues by the end of the day. The other one that, ‘I live in all things to be joyous because that is the will of God for all of us in our lives,’ so we try to keep a spirit of joy because that will keep you through your ups and downs.”
“The secret to a good marriage is that God has brought you together, and God has ordained it. We marry somebody not for just health but in ‘sickness and in health,’ and the more you love your spouse the more you grow in grace,” Baehr said. “There’s something that God does in you through the trials and tribulations that helps forge us and makes us closer to Jesus. And I can’t think of anything nicer than growing closer to Jesus. We need to love our spouses. When people don’t have the memories and don’t stick together, they lose something tremendous in their lives. So there’s something deep and loving, and every day I love Lili even more.”
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