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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

To My Darling Wife, Ileana, on the 37th Anniversary of Our Wedding

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, September 28, 2019

Before the foundation of the world your name, Ileana Patricia Cuellar, was written in God’s “Book of Life” (Revelation 17:8; p. 1346 Scofield). It was my great privilege to preach John 3:16 to you one evening long ago. And you received Jesus. And you were sealed in the “Book of Life” forever. But the best for you lies ahead, because you are an “overcomer.” Jesus said,

“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment [and] I will confess [Ileana’s] name before my Father, and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5; p. 1333).

You were clothed in a beautiful dress and hat at your first Communion. You were clothed in a beautiful wedding dress on the day we were married. But these dresses were less, far less, important than the “white raiment” you will be clothed in when you stand before the Lord Jesus. Christ shall place “a crown of righteousness” upon your head (cf. II Timothy 4:8). Then the saints and angels will sing to Jesus,

“Thou art worthy...for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed [my sweet Ileana] by thy blood...and [she] shall reign upon the earth” (Revelation 5:9, 10; p. 1335).

The consecrated cross I'll bear
   Till death shall set me free,
And then go home my crown to wear,
   For there's a crown for me.

Upon the crystal pavement, down
   At Jesus' pierced feet,
Joyful, I'll cast my golden crown
   And His dear name repeat!

O precious cross! O glorious crown!
   O resurrection day!
Ye angels, from the stars come down,
   And bear my soul away.
(“Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?” by Thomas Shepherd, 1665-1739).

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When I first knew you you were so beautiful that I knew I didn’t deserve a girl like you! I took you to see Dr. and Mrs. McGowan. I was so proud of you! You have a lovely smile on your face in the picture they took of us that day. That picture is on my desk at home. I look at it every night.

When we were married someone took a picture of you as you waited for the wedding march to begin. That picture hangs in my office at the church. You were stunningly beautiful in your wedding gown. Your face, looking down, is like that of a holy angel. When I see it, I know I did not deserve you. Perhaps you thought you were marrying the pastor of a big and thriving church – because we had over a thousand people then. You did not realize that most of them would leave – and you would have to be married to a struggling pastor – and go through the heartache of one church split after the other – for years on end. I am so sorry I didn’t have a better life prepared for you! May God forgive me!

Next to that photo is another one – a picture of the two of us holding our twin sons. You are smiling a broad and beautiful smile, as always. We didn’t realize that we were about to go into another heartbreaking church split. You were only twenty years old. It brings tears to my eyes that I had nothing to give you but sorrow as we entered yet another church split. I offered you a happy life, but all I could give you was decades of suffering and pain. Please forgive me, sweet Ileana.

Then there is a photograph of us at my sixtieth anniversary in the ministry at the Nixon Library. That night I had a haunting feeling that the worst was yet to come. And it did come. Less than a year later we had a horrible church split, the worst one of all. Your friends all left our church, and you had to trudge on alone, with a terrible sickness that most people never knew about. I wish now that the whole evening at the Nixon Library had been a tribute to you – not me! Please forgive me, Ileana, for taking all the glory and praise, instead of giving it to you!

Now I am an old man, a cancer survivor with arthritis in my knees that keeps me from standing up to preach. I am so ashamed that I haven’t given you a better life. Forgive me.

But then my mother came to live with us. You had to care for her as well as me. But Mother taught us a song she loved,

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
   When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
   And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
   Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
   Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.
(“Count Your Blessings” by Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856-1926).

1.  My mother was saved – mostly because you loved her and took care of her.

2.  Your own mother was saved – for the same reason, your love for her, and care for her.

3.  Both of our sons stayed with us in the church, while nearly everyone else’s children left in the church splits – because of you.

4.  John Wesley graduated from college and is a wonderful Christian man of prayer.

5.  Robert married a wonderful girl, and they gave us two outstanding granddaughters! And Robert is an outstanding businessman and a millionaire at the age of 35.

6.  Dr. Christopher Cagan has suffered greatly to pastor the church, letting me become the pastor emeritus! We would be lost without him. One of his sons called Dr. Cagan “a saint” – and he was right!

7.  God has given us a new Chinese church that we can all be proud of.

8.  Jack Ngann will be the next pastor of that church, when Dr. Cagan and I can no longer lead it.

9.  And you, my outstanding wife, have been our inspiration through it all. You are a woman of prayer. You spend an hour every morning in prayer, in reading the Bible, in reading Spurgeon and Dr. A. W. Tozer.

10. In ways that cannot be described on paper, you, Ileana Cuellar Hymers, have been used by God to heal the mood swings that plagued me from childhood. You are undoubtedly the greatest pastor’s wife in the whole wide world. When you were a young woman in Guatemala you wanted to become a nun. You are far more than a nun. You saved our church. Yes, you, more than any other person, saved it. You have never wavered. You attend every prayer meeting, and every service of our church. I know you better than anyone in the world. And I know you are a saint of God, and you will be given a crown of righteousness by Jesus in that day.

Ileana, I know that you will also be given another crown when you kneel before Jesus. For the Apostle Peter said,

“When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (I Peter 5:4; p. 1315).

I can see you in my mind, beautiful and forever young, in your resurrected body, kneeling before Jesus (the chief Shepherd) with a “crown of glory” on your brow. I wish I could give it to you now. But I am only a man. I gave you a hard life – but Christ Himself will give you a “crown of life” and a “crown of glory.”

I know you admire Queen Elizabeth II. But Jesus admires you even more than that good woman. She has only one jewel encrusted crown. But you, my ever-faithful wife, will have two bejewelled crowns. I can hardly wait to see your coronation on that day!