When I was growing up in small towns in East Texas, I heard many a minister refer to some older man as his “father in the ministry.” It was only as I neared my own retirement that I realized that I had been blessed by having a “mother in the ministry.” If you can have a father, you can certainly have a mother!
Her name was Junette Haley. She was a rather unpresupposing lady who never made any headlines or received much notoriety. She certainly never tried to call attention to herself. However, she had a lasting impact on everyone who knew her.
She was a Lutheran girl from Illinois who fell in love with and married a humble Baptist preacher – she always called him J. A. And she made an awfully good Baptist. She loved her Bible and knew it intimately. She loved young people (and all other ages). She had missions at the center of her heart. I am grateful that she imparted some of these key qualities to the rest of us.
Mrs. Haley did not wear makeup because she tended to take the Bible literally. She was realistic about the world and about people, but she was an optimist at heart. She believed in people and looked for the best in them. I knew her as the wife of our pastor and the mother of two lively boys, Joel and John Mark.
The Haleys came along at a crucial time in my life. I was in high school when they arrived in the little town of Grapeland. I was close to them through college, seminary, several pastorates and eventually years of college and seminary teaching. They seemed to take pride in what I was doing for the Lord, probably without realizing how much of it they were responsible for. They never seemed surprised when I accomplished something.
Both Bro. and Mrs. Haley encouraged me in Bible drills (I can still rattle off the minor prophets in order). It was at a Bible drill contest in a nearby city that Mrs. Haley met my eventual wife, Barbara. She took her to her heart immediately, and added her to her growing list of “children.” She was also a lifelong friend and source of encouragement to my mother.
I sometimes wonder what Mrs. Haley would think of the current discussion of women in ministry. After all, she was definitely from the “old school.” She never did seek recognition, only opportunities for service. Certainly only a small number of people ever heard of her.
However, I do know this: There are I don’t know how many others like me, and whatever we have done, whomever we have touched in the name of Christ, Junette Haley receives much of the credit.
She was definitely my mother in the ministry.
I took the liberty of sending a copy of this article to Mrs. Haley’s son, John Mark, who lives in Alaska. He thanked me and said it brought tears to his eyes. Then he said, “She often thought that no one recognized or valued her life.”
There are many women in CBE whose lives and witnesses for Christ are important and influential, without their ever realizing it.