R.I.P. Mrs. Virginia Province

1522282_10152034398114404_775940759_nSad to report the passing of one of my favorite people, Mrs. Virginia Province, age 99 – who died yesterday morning at her home in Richmond Virginia.

In the 1940’s, Virginia was instrumental in starting the Baptist Student Ministry in Blacksburg at Virginia Tech, as well as the Baptist ministry among international students.

As a pastor, he husband was typically involved in worship gathering in their home church.  Miss Virginia would be responsible for visiting area congregations to raise money and support for the student ministries.

“They use to say that I had come ‘to talk,'” she once told me.  “When I gave a ‘talk,’ I told them what the Bible said and that they ought to do what the Bible said.  That’s not just giving a ‘talk’ is it, pastor?  That’s preaching!”

“Yes ma’a,m,” I replied.  “That’s preaching!”

Miss Virginia was educated at the “Women’s Missionary Training Center” of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  But she just spoke about being a student of the seminary.

Soon after becoming pastor of the Patterson Avenue Baptist Church, she invited our family to a formal dinner in her house.  After dinner, she showed me a copy of the graduation picture for her husband from the seminary.  She spoke with fondness for the professors who taught both she and her husband, men like A.T. Robertson, and Hersey Davis.  She asked if I had ever met any of them.

“No ma’am,” I said.  “But when I was a student they had buildings named after them.

She studied scripture, read veraciously, traveled the globe to engage in mission and ministry.  She attended several gatherings of the Baptist World Alliance and was a faithful supporter of the Baptist Historical Society.

Four years ago, when another senior from our congregation turned 100 years ago, we had a party.  Miss Virginia liked the celebration and took me to lunch to discuss the events of the day.

“You know, many people in my family has lived well past the age of 100.  I fully expect that I will as well.  When I turn 100, here’s what I would like at my party!”  She proceeded to share how she envisioned her life being celebrated at age 100.

Well, Virginia did not make it to age 100.  That would have happened in January, 2016.  But I say it is close enough.  So, will celebrate her life this coming Wednesday at the Patterson Avenue Baptist Church at 11:00AM.

Late in life, she was a Sunday School teacher at Patterson Avenue Baptist.  She continued to teach into her nineties, till her hearing was completely gone.  She was active in worship till about six months ago, till a stroke incapacitated her.  She eventually recovered sufficiently to be able to return home, where she was cared for until her passing by her son and daughter.

In Baptist life, we tend to name special offerings for mission causes after significant women, like the Alma Hunt Offering for Virginia Missions.   Ms. Virginia will probably never have an offering named after her, but it would be appropriate if it happened.  She was cutting edge before anyone knew about the edge.  She was sweet, smart, good natured, focused, and determined.  RIP

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