Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children

 

A Mother's Legacy

Betty Jo Chesher Harper's Gift Will Touch Many Girls' Lives


Betty Jo Chesher Harper lived with a radiant love for Christ and the heart of a servant.

“Her whole purpose in all that she did was to share Christ’s love with others as He shared His love with us,” said Vickie and Gil Wallace, Betty Jo’s daughter and son-in-law of Ardmore.

Betty Jo, who died in 1995, began volunteering in the late 1960s at the Baptist Missions Center in south Oklahoma City and eventually became the director where she served until the 1970s. The BMC provided food, clothing, school supplies, as well as breakfast and preschool classes for the area’s children ages three to kindergarten.

Vickie said that her father Dwayne Harper knew from the first time he met Betty Jo that her purpose was to serve Christ.

“Dad supported her and had a heart for the ministries she was involved in,” Vickie said. “He trusted that God was with her and her faith made his faith in Christ much stronger. We got to see our parents live out their faith together.”

Many times Betty Jo would bring a child home from the BMC or a girl from the Oklahoma Baptist Home for Girls to spend the weekend with Vickie and her two brothers, Aubrey and Bryan. 

“In doing this she taught us that there were people who had needs. My mom had a compassionate way of spreading the good news of Christ with children. My brothers and I, and our friends, got to watch this process of helping and sharing Christ’s love with others,” Vickie said. “She gave us the gift of seeing young children come to know Christ and the hope, grace, and mercy that comes with having Christ in your life.”

She also knew that if she ministered to children, she would eventually have the opportunity to minister to their parents, Vickie said.

It was not out-of-the-ordinary for Betty Jo to pack up a U-Haul truck with Bibles, clothing, and blankets and head to Mexico with her sisters to minister to families or to visit Oklahoma City’s impoverished Mulligan Flats neighborhood to help local children and their parents.

“She’d step into a house made of cardboard and ask if the family needed food or clothing,” Vickie said. “She’d let them know that the gift wasn’t from her but from the Baptist Missions Center and ultimately Jesus Christ.”

Betty Jo was so effective with children because she remained a peer to children, her son-in-law Gil added.

“She never lost the child-like innocence. She was more comfortable around kids and more childlike in the way she thought. She was that way with the children she helped and with her grandchildren,” he said.

In a worn Bible given to Betty Jo one Christmas by her nine grandchildren, each child wrote a note of gratitude to their grandmother thanking her for her strong faith and for teaching them about Christ.

 “She was the steady in the family and held things together and that always came with an altar call,” Gil remembered fondly. “Her example showed us how to study, worship and put faith into practice during times of trials because we saw her do this. When we come to hard places in our lives, we know where to go because of her example and we have tried to pass that on to our kids as well.”

To honor and continue Betty Jo’s legacy, Gil and Vickie, along with their daughters Lauren Summers, 28, and Audrey Edelen, 26, and their families, created The Betty Jo Chesher Harper Endowment Trust.

The family believed the logical beneficiary of the trust, managed by the Foundation, should be a local Baptist organization that serves children and shares the hope of Christ, as Betty Jo had done for so many years, Gil said. The endowment will benefit the Baptist Home for Girls of Madill (for more information about the Baptist Home for Girls, see sidebar).

In the years since Betty Jo died, Vickie’s friends have asked what it was about her mother that made her such a happy person.

“My mom’s desire to be a servant for Christ was obvious and she illuminated Christ’s love. She first shared that Christian faith with her husband, children and grandchildren and then she shared it with others. When you leave that kind of legacy, you are affecting people’s lives,” Vickie said.


The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma | Generosity Magazine | Spring 2009
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