Kingdom Women: Vonette Bright—Her Surprising Path

One of the great privileges of my life has been to know and work with and do life with Vonette Bright. I could tell you her whole story, but you can read that via pages and pages of Google references. I will give some important background, but mostly I hope to introduce her through my eyes.“I never expected to be doing the things I’m doing.”

An understatement for sure. From shepherding legislation for the National Day of Prayer through Congress to being an honorary member of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, Vonette Bright’s life has been filled with surprises.

Such as marrying Bill Bright.She and William (as he was known back home) grew up in Coweta, Oklahoma. Their families were friends; they went to the same church. He was five years older though, and she admired him from afar.

He finished college and left for California. And he left any faith in God he had. He reached success in the candy business—and found new friends at Hollywood Presbyterian Church. There he committed his life to Christ under the tutelage of Dr. Henrietta Mears, the college/career Bible teacher. She challenged him to devote his life to serving God.

Vonette was working on her Home Economics degree when she received a letter from Bill asking if he could call her. Then he came to visit. On their first date he proposed. She surprised herself by saying yes. A three-year engagement followed.

The marriage almost didn’t happen. Vonette became alarmed at Bill’s growing fanaticism and headed to California to save him from it. Instead a conversation with Henrietta Mears brought her to a personal relationship with Jesus—and a recommitment to marrying Bill.

Vonette and Bill Bright at Arrowhead Springs

Vonette and Bill Bright at Arrowhead Springs

Living by Faith

More surprises awaited.

Vonette began to teach in the Los Angeles school system, happily helping girls grow into proper young ladies, working on her master’s degree and being married to a successful businessman, But God intervened.

As Bill, who was taking seminary classes, studied for an exam late one evening, he received a vision and call from God: a broad picture of everyone everywhere given a chance to know Jesus, beginning with the college campus. Campus Crusade for Christ was born.Suddenly she and Bill were missionaries to students, living by faith. After her initial response—“I didn’t know anyone living by faith in the manner I was expecting to live”—Vonette decided to leave teaching to partner with her husband in this grand God adventure.

At first that meant talking with college coeds, telling them about Jesus—something she was a complete novice at. But Bill and God guided her and she saw many young women come to know Jesus.

It also meant managing Miss Mears’ large home as they moved in with her to begin the ministry. The home was near campus, so regular gatherings and Bible studies met there. Vonette prepared refreshments, arranged flowers, kept the house clean and managed Zach and Brad, her two young boys, all under the watchful tutelage of Miss Mears.

The ministry grew and outgrew its office and training facilities, and the Brights moved to Arrowhead Springs, a former resort favored by Hollywood celebrities, where they established a headquarters and training center in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains. Suddenly Vonette was managing much more than a large home—she was in charge of a conference center, choosing décor, overseeing the kitchen and dining room, maintaining quality control.

God's Spot Marked XI arrived as a young journalist shortly after that, working closely with Dr. Bright on the Collegiate Challenge Magazine and his own writing efforts. And often helping Vonette. Sometimes I took Zach and Brad to music lessons. Or ran errands. Or helped serve tea at her home.

Again the ministry grew, and staff came to manage the hotel and conference affairs. Bill was often traveling across the country and to new ministries in other nations. Vonette says that was a hard time—she felt she no longer was contributing to the mission. She didn’t see where she fit.

At first she was content to care for her children and her home—and keep Bill’s shirts ironed. After all, she felt her best title was Mrs. Bill Bright.

Still she sensed once again she needed to discover what Miss Mears called “God’s spot marked X for you.” With Bill’s encouragement she began what became her consistent approach: “Find a need and fill it.”

The need she observed was the deterioration of the moral values in our country. As she asked God what she could do, she heard: Women. Prayer. Get women together to pray.

So she did. She called some leading Christian women. They met and talked and planned. And they prayed. That led to the Great Commission Prayer Crusade, the National Prayer Committee and to successful cooperative efforts to have the National Day of Prayer officially designated on the first Thursday of May every year.

Vonette was always amazed at the opportunities God opened up for her and often felt inadequate for the tasks she undertook. So she gathered around her people to share the work, to fill the needs she saw and eventually to take over the responsibility.

As she handed the leadership of the National Prayer Committee to Shirley Dobson, she felt God leading her back to a focus on encouraging and developing women through Campus Crusade (Cru).

Women Will Change the World

Once again she found herself in a new place, developing the Women Today ministry, which is still touching lives of women on several continents as our staff reach women for Christ and help them grow into multiplying disciples.

From that emerged Women Today Radio, a daily conversation with a woman telling the story of how God has led her and is using her. Vonette is still surprised that she has become a radio personality.

And the many other things she is surprised she is doing? Author of many books, global speaker, founder of Pastor’s Wives Network, member of numerous Boards of directors…and others.  Such as speaking several times to the Christian Motorcyclists Association.

Vonette “riding” with the Christian Motorcyclists Association

Vonette “riding” with the Christian Motorcyclists Association

But some of her other surprising opportunities are my favorites.

She has become a stateswoman and ambassador, first for the ministry she co-founded with her husband and to the broader Christian community. I love to see her shine in this role, and I also love that, as long as she can do those things, I don’t have to. She’s a beautiful extrovert and she loves attending functions, gatherings, galas. I prefer smaller events and conversations.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard her say, “Women will change the world.” Then she would correct herself: “God will change the world, and He will use women.” One of my major ministry emphases has been encouraging, equipping and empowering our staff women to make their best contributions to our ministry efforts for God’s Kingdom. She led the way and encouraged me in those efforts.

Bill Bright receiving Templeton Prize

Bill Bright receiving Templeton Prize

I have loved how she has partnered with her husband, giving me a great model. Bill was always urging her to spread her wings, to try new ideas, to step out in faith. And she has. Together Bill and Vonette gave their lives wholly to the Lord, signing a contract to that effect. Though the work was demanding, exhausting, sometimes filled with uncertainty and occasionally disappointment, they never faltered. That has been an excellent model for me and so many others.And in these latter years, she has stayed the course. As Bill was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, she pulled back from her responsibilities, walking the difficult path of worsening illness with her husband—who always greeted her with “My love!” She was by his side, with tears and joy, to usher him into the presence of the Lord He loved so much.

And now, after a year of rehab from a fall and growing health issues, she is planning to travel to Colorado for our biannual U.S. staff conference. She loves and treasures our staff—the feeling is mutual.

If she sounds amazing as you read all this, I would agree.  She would assure you she isn’t. But she knows God. Well. She talks to Him all the time. She is still saying, “Lord, where is Your spot marked X for me now.”

She knows the secret is that she can do nothing by herself, but as she walks in the love and power of God’s Spirit, she can do whatever He asks her to do. No matter how surprising it is.

What about you?  How has God surprised you?

c2015 Judy Douglass