Mordecai Ham and Edward Kimball are names few recognize, but they were used by God to change the course of history especially in the United States. Edward Kimball led a young shoe salesman, D.L. Moody, to Christ. It is estimated that Moody went on to preach to 100 million people and led 1 million to Christ in his lifetime. Mordecai Ham preached Jesus and the Gospel message in 1936 to a crowded tent meeting outside Charlotte, NC. A 16-year-old boy heard and trusted Christ. That young man, Billy Graham, went on to carry that same good news of Jesus’ redemptive power and saving grace around the world to millions, as well. Men and women throughout the ages have passed the good news from one to another thus affecting the next generation often with astounding results.
Fleeta Baldwin had never been more than a wisp of a woman, but as I entered the hospital room, I was struck with how frail and tiny she was. I was, also, struck by the smile that lit her face as she looked up from the book she was reading when she recognized me. That smile brightened the room and immediately lifted my spirit. Before I could even inquire as to how she was doing, she asked about the health of my wife and said she was praying for her regularly.
Fleeta and I spoke of inconsequential things—the weather, the view out her window, the book she was reading. We chuckled at the odd turn of events in the recent presidential election and her son’s joy at finally being able to remove a particular candidate’s sign from her front yard.
Fleeta is a very unusual name, not unlike Mordecai, and certainly nowhere as ordinary as Edward, but Fleeta shares much in common with those relatively unknown, but most uncommon of Christians. Although I had only been with her infrequently over the years, I had heard the stories that made this woman most unique. A native Coloradan whose parents homesteaded in Aspen, she could hike the legs off nearly any mountaineer. She once hiked The Grand Canyon rim to rim—in one day—in sandals—carrying no water!
She passed on her zest of life, her joy of reading, her enthusiasm for the outdoors and her commitment to Jesus to her only child, Jeff. He told me recently that when he was young she would “drag me along to deliver meals on wheels,” and thus she modeled as well as taught him the value of serving others.
Tenacious and focused, Fleeta was a pro-life activist once arrested in Arizona by the famous Sheriff Joe Arpaio who threw her and the other rescuers in an outdoor holding pen with convicted, hardened criminals. He was intent on crushing the pro-life protestors’ spirits to ensure they would not continue. Needless to say, Fleeta persevered and continued to speak for the unborn, the downtrodden and the persecuted even after a four-wheeling accident left her paralyzed and blind in one eye.
Always joyful and ever committed to the cause of Christ, even such a disability did not sideline her activism. After my wife was diagnosed with cancer, Fleeta pledged to pray diligently for her healing, and continued to do so these past seven years. My wife, upon hearing of Fleeta’s death, said, “I have lost a great prayer warrior.”
That is why I say she has much in common with Mordecai Ham and Edward Kimball. The world will not note her passing just as the world did not pay attention to the deaths of Mordecai or Edward. Yet, her life has touched thousands upon thousands just as theirs did. Her influence on Jeff led him to found Worldview Academy and Worldview at the Abbey. He has trained, encouraged and served several thousands of students these past 20 years, who in their turn have reached thousands of others.
That day I saw her for the last time I did not stay long at the hospital, and as I left, in an awkward attempt to encourage her, I said, “Fleeta, the next time we visit will be at your home.” At the time I did not realize the eternal truth of that goodbye.
I do look forward to that visit. It will be a full and lengthy one.
- Bill Jack