Her name was Jolene Forsythe until Friday night, June 9, 2000. It became Mrs. David Sloan as the preacher, Dr. James A. Vineyard, pronounced those much-awaited words: "I now pronounce you husband and wife." With those words, a young couple's dreams had come true, and a multitude of prayers were answered. It is a story that I trust will be an encouragement to every young person that ever felt, for one reason or another, that they had no reason to hope for God's best in their lives.
This story really begins about sixteen years ago, as a young freshman college student at Oklahoma Baptist College named Steve Brogdon started working on a bus route. As Brother Brogdon stated at Jolene and David's wedding that wonderful Friday night in June, little did he know what that little "bus kid" would become one day! As Brother Brogdon returned week after week, Jolene would walk out to the bus, get on board, and go to Sunday School where she would hear once again about the saving grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
There was no mother there for Jolene when she came home from school. There was no father when Jolene needed that male figure in her life. There was a loving grandmother, and praise the Lord for her presence and support. There were many other facts about her youth that Jolene could have used as an excuse for giving up, but Jolene had a realization that there was a God in Heaven that had a greater plan for her life than what she had for herself.
Jolene was about eight years old when Brother Brogdon graduated from Oklahoma Baptist College. He would no longer be there from week to week to see to it that Jolene came to Sunday School on that old yellow bus. By this time, Jolene's grandmother was faithfully attending church herself and saw to it that Jolene was in Sunday School each week.
There were many folks that took an interest in Jolene. It was a great day in my life when I had the opportunity of getting to know this young lady. I am not exactly sure where or when it started, but one day there was the realization that this young lady had potential, as does every young person, and it would be a great blessing to see her attain the very best God had for her life. At this point, it simply became a matter of letting this young lady know that there were those who cared about her, who wanted her to have God's best in her life, and that there was no one who could keep her from it but Jolene herself. One particular turning point in this young lady's life stands out in my mind.
When Jolene was fourteen years old, she had begun to show signs of wanting to take things into her own hands and live life her own way. The next summer at camp, Jolene decided to stop running from the Lord.
We have a Youth Conference each summer here at Windsor Hills Baptist Church. Each year we select what we call Hostesses. Hostesses are young ladies in grades nine through twelve that have maintained a good testimony over the course of the year. There is a pretty stringent selection process through which the final selections are made. When a young lady is selected to serve as a Hostess, she can serve in the assurance that she has earned this privilege. It is intended to be a reward for her good testimony over the course of the past year.
The first time that I spoke with Jolene about being a Hostess, the news was not good. She did not make it, and she was disappointed.
My heart broke for her as I explained to Jolene she could not be selected because of her freshman year. I tried to get Jolene to look to the next Youth Conference and begin right then setting her sights on being a Hostess the next year. Once again, she could have resorted to excuses. Once again, she refused to do so. Instead, Jolene requested that she be allowed to dig in and help in any way possible with the many preparations that lead up to a typical Youth Conference. That year, no one worked harder than Jolene Forsythe. She not only worked until the conference started, but all the way through that busy week she did anything and everything she could do to help. The more menial the task, the more she worked to get it done.
The Youth Conference concluded that year with a parade of people being brought in before the crowd, so that everyone could get a good look at those unsung heroes truly responsible for the success of the week. There were cooks, bus drivers, hallway monitors, and gymnasium supervisors, nurses, coaches, preachers, and then there were the hostesses. The youth choir was sitting in their chairs on the platform that day, and as I turned around to see what Hostesses may have been sitting among the choir members, I spotted Jolene Forsythe sitting right in the front row. She looked exhausted that morning, and I knew why. She had not only thrown herself completely into the Youth Conference, but threw herself into helping in every way possible in addition to merely attending. As I called for those Hostesses to stand, I motioned to Jolene to stand with them. She pointed to herself and said "Me?" I said, "You!" She slowly stood and the applause got louder, as everyone there seemed to sense that recognition was being paid to someone that went above and beyond the call of duty. From that moment in her life, it seemed to be a point of no return.
There were plenty of hurts, disappointments, and setbacks along the way. Dr. Vineyard and Missionary Pat Russell made it possible for Jolene to attend our Christian school. She got right in and appreciated the opportunity. She soon discovered that, even in Christian school, there are decisions to make about the direction you wish to take in life. It has been wisely stated that life is not made up of the things we possess, but of the decisions we make. Jolene soon had to start making some of those decisions about the choice of friends, direction in life, obedience to God's will and so on. To Jolene's credit, she did not forsake the counsel and advice of her pastor.
An opportunity came up for Jolene to accompany some other young people and myself to the mission field of the Ukraine in 1995. On the eve of having to meet the deadline financially to make this trip, Jolene saw the Lord provide. I will never forget the blessing that she was on that trip. She was like a magnet among the young people in the city of Cherkassy, where we conducted camp that summer. There was even a Jolene look-alike at camp that summer, and we had fun seeing the two of these young people get to know each other. When that camp came to a close, it was a time of tears and sad goodbyes between the American young people and their newfound Ukrainian friends. The Lord had truly done a work among hearts on both sides of the ocean. This former bus kid, who could have resorted to a million excuses to quit, stood firmly in a place where God easily moved on her heart to surrender to His call on her life to be a missionary.
In the summer following her high school graduation, Jolene once again went to the mission field. This time, she went to Mexico City to visit a very special missionary in her life, Steve Brogdon and his family! I remember how that Jolene would e-mail whenever she could, and keep me updated on all of the exciting things that she was experiencing there in Mexico City. She loved the Brogdon family, and it was refreshing to think that this was that same little bus kid that was reached for the Lord by the same missionary that she was now visiting in Mexico City! I was so proud of this young lady that did not pursue the excuses in her life, but rather chose to walk through the doors that the Lord was opening for her every step of the way.
Following graduation from high school, Jolene enrolled in Oklahoma Baptist College. She continued to pursue the Lord's call in her life to be a missionary. There were numbers of times when Jolene would just look like she needed a word of encouragement. She was not down or looking like she was feeling sorry for herself. Each time I had occasion to speak with Jolene, it would generally result in being an encouragement to my own heart. It was truly a joy to see this young lady continue to walk with the Lord and to put His will ahead of her own.
Then one day, there was this boy that came by the office. His name was David Sloan. I will not go any further than to say that David was the sixth of eight children born to Dr. and Mrs. Tom Sloan, missionaries to the Indians in San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico. What a family! They can play any instrument and sing any song that glorifies the Lord. They can quote Scripture nonstop from Arlington, Texas, to Gainesville, Texas. I know because I heard them do it! Surely, a girl like Jolene Forsythe, a bus kid from a zero-parent home, could never hope to have a husband from a missionary family. Yes, she could, she would, and she does have now, and he grew up in a missionary home.
Jolene prayed for God's best, and so did David. She waited for God's best, and so did he. God gave Jolene His best, and He gave the same to David when "He gave each to the other, so long as they both shall live."
I have had the privilege of being the Youth Director here at Windsor Hills Baptist Church now for some twenty years. If I ever felt the magnitude of what it is to serve in that capacity, I felt it when Dr. Vineyard first had me rehearse those words on Thursday night, "Her Youth Director does!" All day long on Friday, I thought about that statement. When they finally came forth at the wedding, you talk about a blessing! To see this young lady, a bus kid, now becoming a missionary bride, was enough to fill my heart with joy unspeakable and full of glory!
I have often told our young people that the greatest way to say thank you to those that ever did anything for you in life, is to turn out right. I further challenge them to get to the marriage altar pure. When Jolene Forsythe came to this great day in her life, she was ready. She kept herself pure, as did her husband. Was there any reason that Jolene Forsythe, and young people like her, should not hold out for God's best? Absolutely not!
There may be one young person reading this article that says your life is just like that of Jolene Forsythe, before she decided that she was going to claim God's best. Why not just do what Jolene did and claim God's best, live in a way that honors the Lord by putting Him first in your life, seek counsel from your pastor, follow it, and let God do His perfect work in you? There will be many difficulties. Rise above them. There will be setbacks and disappointments. Claim God's promises in His Word that He will direct thy paths. [Proverbs 3:5-6]
That is what accounts for a bus kid becoming a missionary bride. You say, "Does anyone really believe that God could bless me the way He did Jolene Forsythe?" Her Youth Director does!
Reprinted from the Fundamental Baptist World Missions Newsletter
Windsor Hills Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73127