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National Prayer Network

The Noble, Joyful Mother of Alynn Pike:
In Memoriam of Tertia Dunham, 1916-2010

By Rev. Ted Pike
12 Dec 10

Countless lovers of freedom worldwide have watched my beautiful wife, Alynn, co-host our videos. She would not be standing beside me today if not for the remarkable courage and vision of her mother, Tertia.

Tertia Hart Dunham, a direct descendant of the Mayflower’s John Alden, had all the vision and tenacity of her illustrious ancestor. A staunch Christian conservative, Tertia first encountered me in 1979 during a city-wide meeting in Portland, OR. My parents sponsored this meeting to oppose pro-homosexual legislation being promoted in the Oregon legislature. Nearly a hundred homosexuals attended, intent on disruption. Halfway through my speech about the corrosive influence of sodomy, they rioted. Erupting from their seats, they rushed toward the stage. Screaming obscenities, they attempted to disconnect my microphone. With the power of the sound system behind me, I continued my offensive. It took a half hour, with police standing guard, for the riot to subside. Watching from the audience was Tertia and her lovely and admiring, 24-year-old Alynn Dunham. Not a bad position for a 33-year-old bachelor very much in the market for a tall, beautiful, Christian conservative wife!

A week later, Alynn insisted her mother accompany her to a luncheon for a right-wing candidate at our home. There was electricity between Alynn and me. But after getting to know her through prolonged discussion, I told her it was clear she was not yet entirely given to God. As a result of her offended pride, the one who had quickly become the love of my life ricocheted from me. Four years later, however, we met again at another conservative rally. Alynn told me that she had yearned for closeness to God all her life, and my reproof from the Lord had haunted her during the following two years. She had recognized the truth of my assessment and unflaggingly sought the removal of obstacles to the friendship with God she desperately craved. Yet she became both depressed and frustrated in not finding it. Almost despairing of life, one frozen winter night, after screaming to her mother and sister, "Can you tell me one good reason why I should live?" she walked out into the frigid darkness. Suddenly in the night sky, she literally saw the figure of Jesus. Beside Him was a crimson, sneering Satan, filled with malevolence. She finally realized that, short of absolute death to her own desire to have any rights to life apart from God, Satan would conquer. She would be with him in hell eternally. She utterly gave herself to Christ regardless of the consequences. Immediately, she knew the peace that passes all understanding, a peace no human teacher had shown her how to find. Six months after meeting again, we were married.

Memorial Remarks

Here are some memorial thoughts inspired by the one who nurtured and protected my wife before our marriage, often through great hardships.

Tertia was born into upper middle class security yet, before her conversion to Christ, married an unworthy man. She raised three children, usually as their primary breadwinner. Tertia remained submitted at home, believing she was bound to remain with her husband until he broke his vows. Alynn also stayed to protect her mother; and one day, at age 21, she finally defied her father’s treatment. Enraged, he threw both of them homeless onto the street. God faithfully provided for them; and until death, Tertia maintained her joyous spirit of faith despite crippling arthritis and many other great life blows.

As Tertia approached death, she was happy and without fear. Her confidence was based on anticipation of a very great reward: eternal life in the presence of her Savior, Jesus Christ. She believed in a supremely intelligent and moral God with strong feelings of right and wrong. He takes great pleasure in what is right and rewards those who trust and obey Him. God also experiences revulsion, grief and abhorrence at what is done in rebellion against Him. This is the God, the Bible says, who has promised to eternally reward the good and punish the evil.

Tertia’s God is criticized by many for His promise to punish the wicked in hell. Yet, God’s justice also provides the promise of eternal bliss. Some like the prospect of reward but loudly protest the existence of punishment. The Bible says the best way to protest hell is to make sure you don’t go there! How? Through repentance and trust in Jesus and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

There are many at the moment of death who do not share Tertia’s hope. Most, in fact, are absolutely terrified at the thought of non-existence. Others come to death with calm resignation, like a patient about to be anesthetized. They have convinced themselves that non-existence is not to be feared, because fear is a feeling and there are no feelings in non-existence. Yet, despite such stoicism, they have no hope.

I watched a PBS special about aged retirees, none younger than 82, who take part in a traveling chorus performing rock music. Their personal comments revealed many had no hope. One woman was asked if in her recent near-death experience she had seen a bright light. She said she hadn’t because she was not looking; she was looking away from the possibility of light and hope. Together, they lustily sang, “I’m on a road to nowhere!”

Why would any rational person prefer to believe there is no hope of life after death and come to death in hopelessness, especially when God offers to give them the kind of radiant, joyous confidence with which Tertia left this world? There are reasons. Some say science, the theory of evolution, and modern philosophy have disproven immortality. Others believe that a God of love would never have allowed such suffering as exists on this planet. Therefore, they say, God can’t exist.

But most people, confronted with the staggering design of creation and overwhelming evidence of intelligent order, refuse to believe for a very different reason: They simply don’t like the idea of being under the control of an intelligent, just and moral God, One who will sit in judgment on them. They want to exist under their own guidance and ability to be sufficiently good. Having lived their entire lives according to this choice, they are not able to trust their eternal souls to their Maker even at the moment of death.

Jesus said the moment after death is not one of oblivion. It is a moment of wakefulness such as we have never experienced. We will stand naked before our Creator. He gave us everything we possess and could ever hope to gain. His name is the Word of God, Maker of all things. To save us forever, the Father sent His only Son to earth, where He died and ascended back to heaven. He will also judge the wicked. He has watched every action and heard every idle word for our entire lives. How will He respond? Will He say, “Blessed be thou, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of the Lord.” Or, “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

After death, it is too late to change. Scripture makes clear such soul-making must occur on this side of the grave. How is our soul shaped? It is made righteous by the choice to repent and trust the One who created us and love our neighbor as ourselves. Or it is made evil by rejecting His Son's gift of eternal life and deliberately persevering in our own conviction that we, by our own efforts, can be good enough to please a holy God and go to heaven—if there is a God and heaven.

Fortunately, some 60 years ago, Tertia, then a young, strikingly beautiful and energetic woman, did not say, “I have a long life before me. I’ll make a decision for God someday. First, I want to enjoy my life to the fullest.” Instead, as soon as she understood what was required of her, she trusted Jesus absolutely and never looked back. The result was that the last moment I saw her she was smiling as she departed this world.

Will you have that same smile of joy and confidence, that eager anticipation, when your death approaches? You can, regardless of your age or the sins you have committed, if you surrender in trust to the One who created you to become His friend for eternity.

As Tertia would say: Don’t walk…run to Jesus!


Photo:
Tertia Dunham and her daughter, Alynn Pike. Do you see the keen anticipation of heaven in their eyes?

 


Rev. Ted Pike is director of the National Prayer Network, a Christian/conservative watchdog organization. 

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