January 20, 1901 - October 24, 1983
|She was a pilgrim!
Vera Evelyn Martin was born in Rutherford County, North Carolina, January 20, 1901. She died in Wood County, Texas, October 24, 1983. Her lifetime encompassed over 82 years of movement from place to place, by her own conviction, in the service of God.
In the 50 years of her marriage to Edwin Sylvest, she lived in, and made livable, parsonages all over the state of Louisiana. Moves were hard; they never came at the right time; they were frequently to the “wrong” place. But with Vera’s confidence that it was the Lord’s call that had brought us there, there was never any place that did not become home, that was not loved, that was not the right place. Her last move was such a move. Quitman, the Heritage, was the right place.
Though she was devoted to Edwin, loved him and honored his calling to the ministry, she was never merely a preacher’s wife. Marriage vows may have led her to where she was, but her’s was not a derived calling. It was her unique vocation to love and care for the people of God wherever she was. Her concern for children was always paramount. From her ministry as a young woman in the mountains of the Carolinas to the pre-teen youth fellowship that she counseled after Edwin’s retirement to Bogalusa, she gave her careful attention to the needs of the young. That same care was extended to her son, Edwin, his children, Evelyn and Matthew and to her son Vernon, his children, Natalie, Rebecca, and Vivian. Besides her children and grandchildren her surviving family included: her husband Edwin, her daughter-in-law Compton Spencer Sylvest, a sister and three brothers. She extended herself! She gave herself! She grew!
Mother’s passion for the worldwide mission of the Church led her to years of devoted service through the WSCS — the UMW. She scrimped on things she would have done for herself to pledge to projects all over the globe, so that the gospel might be proclaimed to all people and that all might know health and fullness of life through God’s love and through her love. The world was always in our home through Vera’s concern, and through the World Outlook. It was her vocation to be a pilgrim servant of God. The world was her parish as surely as it was John Wesley’s. She responded to the call with a mother’s deep love for her own and for all others.
Mother was a pilgrim, not because she moved from place to place. Vagabonds and wanderers do that. She was a pilgrim because she was going somewhere. She was a pilgrim because she had a vocation, a mission to fulfill. Vera’s journey has been uniquely hers. But it has not been a solitary journey. She has traveled in company with all those who, since Abraham and Sarah, responded to God’s call, have been moving toward the Land of Promise. We have been her companions. She shared herself with us and we have seen her vision of a world in which all persons are precious in God’s sight and therefore in ours. She and we are they through whom all peoples shall be blessed.
Mother’s body lies in a place called Pilgrim’s Rest on the old Sylvest place in Louisiana. She has fulfilled her vocation, but the pilgrimage goes on, because ultimately it is not Vera’s journey, nor ours, but God’s loving effort to fulfill the creation that carries us all to our final resting place in God.
The same love that sustained Vera in her life is the love that sustains her in death. it is the love that will sustain us in our life and in our death. It is a love that is not limited by any circumstances whatsoever, not even death itself. Therein is our hope. Therein is the call to join the pilgrimage. None of us may ever see the Promised Land, but all of us who live, as Vera did, with absolute fidelity to that promise will know the fullness of the Love that is itself the essence of the promise.
|Source: Journal Louisiana Conference, 1984; p. 206-207 By Edwin E. Sylvest, Jr.|