Assemblies of God SearchSite GuideStoreContact Us

Mother’s legacy

By Jan Jacques with Scott Harrup

I should write the hardest paragraph first.

When 35 tornadoes touched down across southwest Missouri on Jan. 7 this year, Mother was one of two people killed. Daddy had built their home on the outskirts of Springfield with masterful craftsmanship years before he died in 1999. But nothing short of a bomb shelter can withstand a tornado’s direct hit.

Their house was a short walk from ours on three acres adjoining land my husband and I have called home for most of our marriage. When Daddy and Mother moved back to Missouri in 1991, Don invited them to build.

“You don’t want your father-in-law living next door,” Daddy said.

“Yes, we do,” Don said.

They were wonderful neighbors. Don and I told our three children not to wear out their welcome, but that proved to be impossible. Michael, Janeé and Jason enjoyed innumerable visits and soaked up the kind of love and godly influence that anchor a person for life.

In reality, Daddy and Mother had some level of influence on millions of people. It’s amazing when I think about it today.

In 1953, Daddy was one of seven men at First Assembly of God in Santa Ana, Calif., who met in response to a vision layman Sam Cochran experienced during prayer after a Sunday night revival service. Daddy was the church treasurer and also taught the men in a young married couples’ Sunday School class. That meeting formed what has become Light for the Lost. Since its inception, LFTL has raised more than $200 million to send gospel literature around the world.

My parents, Hollis and Rachel Lawson, were still teens when they married in 1940. Mother’s family had moved to California from Texas to weather the Great Depression. When the Merritt clan of 11 brothers and sisters decided to return to their Lone Star roots, Daddy approached my grandfather.

“You’re not taking Rachel back with you,” he announced. “I’m going to marry her.”

It wasn’t so much a confrontation as a loving promise. A promise of provision, of a godly home that would include my older brother, Mehl, my younger sister, Reneé, and me. A promise Daddy kept for nearly 60 years.

For more than 25 years, Daddy was a poultry farmer with three large ranches totaling 75,000 laying hens in Southern California. He retired from farming to join a group of investors in building and running an extended care facility for the elderly in Santa Ana.

When Daddy again tried to “retire” to Missouri in 1968, he never slowed down. He had been in great demand as a Bible teacher for years. He and Mother ministered in churches that could not afford an evangelist. All the while, Daddy kept promoting Light for the Lost. When they moved to Louisiana for several years, Daddy earned a pastoral license with the Assemblies of God and resurrected a flagging church in the town of Many.

Through every business and ministry project, Mother was a foundation of loving support. She welcomed countless relatives and guests to meals that were feasts even between the holidays. When Daddy built their house next to ours, Mother’s love again washed over our family. Mehl has said if you wanted to understand unconditional love, you only had to look at Mother.

Many times we would come home to find a plate of cookies on our counter. Or the phone would ring, and she’d say, “I fixed dinner. You kids come on over.”

Mother’s “kids” eventually included eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Three generations knew her door was always open, her voice, a phone call away.

“I called your mom just a week ago,” one of Mehl’s lifelong friends from California said to him the week Mother died. “Every time we’d hang up, she’d say, ‘Now, Max, honey, you know I pray for you every day.’” Max’s mother died when he was still in his teens. Mother’s prayers meant the world to him.

As Mother’s death was reported by the press and on television, her life testimony became an inextricable part of the story. We have received e-mails and calls from friends around the world. They have all shared some memory of Mother impacting their life or ministry, often when they were very young.

“Your mother is celebrating Jesus not from the earth, but in His glorious presence,” missionary Steve Graner e-mailed from Colombia a few days after Mother’s death.“Her Bible is not in her hand because she is with Him.Her prayers are not in ascent unto Him because she is with Him. Her hope is not expressed this morning of a soon meeting with Him.It is no longer necessary.”

I reflect on everything I lost when Mother died. But I can’t dwell there. She wouldn’t want me to dwell. She’d want our family to move on and live out the blessings she and Daddy nurtured faithfully.

That’s why our daughter and son-in-law are building their home where Daddy and Mother’s once stood. Brad and Janeé McAtee pastor Peace Chapel in nearby Fair Grove, Mo. They’re raising their children like my parents raised Mehl, Reneé and me. So their home will echo with family Bible readings, prayers around the dinner table and the daily joy of serving Christ.

Mother would be overjoyed. I say “would be,” but I am convinced I can also say she is overjoyed.

That January tornado may have knocked down some timber and mortar, but it could do nothing to erase Mother’s legacy of faith. She and Daddy are with countless people who learned about Christ through their example and through the Light for the Lost gospel literature they helped make possible. Whatever Mother and Daddy’s vantage point is now of our family, it includes panoramic vistas of God’s work in our lives and in so many others.

I can still celebrate this Mother’s Day, even though it is the first one that Rachel Lawson is not with us physically. I can celebrate because the greatest gift any mother can give is a life example of Christ’s love. Mother’s giving in that category was immeasurable.

JAN JACQUES and her husband, Don Jacques, are real estate agents in southwest Missouri. Don has served as national president of Light for the Lost. SCOTT HARRUP is senior associate editor of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel and blogs at Out There (

E-mail your comments to

E-mail this page to a friend.
©1999-2009 General Council of the Assemblies of God