My father’s younger brother, Ted Pemberton, passed away this past Saturday morning (May 20, 2017) in his sleep at the age of 83. Leaving behind his wife of over fifty years, Cecil Faye, and more children than anyone would ever believe. I knew five best, but not the hundreds (or more) they fostered from a deep place of love and commitment to the most vulnerable among us. They served on the board of Christian Homes of Abilene for many years and more recently devoted their efforts to Sam’s Place, a Christian orphanage for the deaf in Kenya (photo above; sorry for the blur). After he “retired” Ted made several trips to Kenya to work at the school. For years, he invited me to the luncheon sponsored by Sam’s Place during the Bible Lectureship at Abilene Christian University (ACU). Unfortunately, at the time I was chair of the undergraduate Bible Department—which by definition meant I stayed busy in meetings from the beginning to the end of Lectureship.
To be honest, the Pemberton side of the family was not especially close. (I recall only one week spent with the cousins—and the ill-fated construction of a tree house.) I don’t know all the reasons why, nor does it matter—except that when my sister and I spoke last week, we both expressed regret that we did not get to know an aunt an uncle who had such integrity; having a clear set of principles or priorities and living one’s live into those principles, becoming whole or complete. That’s a pretty good descriptor for Ted and Cecil Faye. In addition to her work with foster children, Cecil Faye taught in Johnston elementary school for years (I think she likes loves children). And Ted (in addition to running his own upholstery shop) taught upholstery classes at ACU for years in the Department of Industrial Arts (still thriving while I was a student, but already a parking lot by the time I came back to teach). Over the years when I met someone new in Abilene they would ask me about my relationship to Ted and Cecil Faye. After I told them that Ted was my uncle, I cannot remember a time when the person I just met did not begin to tell me some wonderful story about Ted and Cecil Faye.
I’ve admired Ted and Cecil Faye from afar for most of my life. They’ve been a part of the 11th & Willis Church of Christ for as long as I can remember, and whether in title or only in wisdom, they’ve been leaders in the church. The 11th & Willis Church has always been a unique church in Abilene, consistently deciding to hire ACU Bible professors as their preachers; giving needed support to Bible professors (especially back in the days of low, low salaries) and just as important, if not more, this practice freed them to spend more of their weekly contribution on mission works around the world. And even when it needed to use funds to hire a full-time preaching minister, the 11th and Willis church was still a leader in missions. In recent years, Ted and Cecil Faye served on the Missions Committee together, while Ted has also served as a Deacon with oversight of benevolence. An inside source tells me he would typically spend his full-year’s budget by February and still manage to give away tens of thousands of dollars more to those in need.
It’s unlikely that anyone will be putting up statues or giving an “Outlive Your Life” award to Ted and Cecil Faye. All the same, I’m here to tell you that they have lived their lives in service to those who matter the most, vulnerable children who need someone to love and take care of them – including children on another continent subject to unimaginable cruelties because their disability. Just a thought—if anyone ever really wants to claim the title “Pro-Life” understand that it means becoming like Ted & Cecil Faye: not just legislating birth to unwanted babies but taking care of the mothers, receiving the babies with love, taking care of them, and placing them with families who will love them for a lifetime. Since I’ve been working on this tribute to Ted, a New Testament text has kept coming to mind, a text that makes me think of godly men like my uncle Ted: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27)
Yes, pure and undefiled, a man of integrity. May God’s blessing be on his faithful servant and on the family he loved and who loved him with devotion.
Glenn Pemberton is a minister turned professor turned writer. After serving churches in Texas and Colorado, Glenn completed a Ph.D. (Old Testament). He then taught at Oklahoma Christian University before coming to Abilene Christian University in 2005, retiring as professor emeritus in 2017 due to a severe chronic pain. Glenn now spends his time writing for the church. Along with short essays he has published four books, including The God who Saves: An Introduction to the Message of the Old Testament (2015), and Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms (2012). Glenn and his wife Dana continue to live in Abilene, Texas.