by Karen North
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
I initially met Mary Ann Wheelis over 25 years ago at a homeschool support meeting. Our paths later crossed again when our churches competed at the association level Bible Drill, and then again when she taught Bible Buddies at the same church we attended, preparing the kids for their move to the Bible Drill classes. Through the years, we worked together in Bible Drill at the church, association, region, state, and even national level as teachers, judges, and speakers/teachers at Bible Drill retreats. Our friendship grew even closer as she became my son’s mother-in-love, sharing her daughter with me, as well as being Granny to our shared granddaughter and grandson. We were even camping buddies, enjoying the outdoors on several trips.
Mary Ann quietly devoted over 20 years teaching, judging, and sharing God’s Word with children and youth. She trained many groups of young children from K5-2nd grade in Bible Buddies, teaching them Bible skills, but most importantly, teaching God’s Word in the form of Bible Drill verses. She shared her love of God’s Word by teaching the Books of the Bible classes at the Bible Drill retreats using fun relay races and other learning games. Not only did she teach on her own, but she was almost constantly at her husband Roger’s side as they taught children, youth, and high school classes, substituting when they stopped teaching on a regular basis, and hosting many groups of children in their home for a cookout and a time of fun and games centered around Bible Drill.
Her love of God’s Word was not just reserved for Bible Drill – it was a part of her very life. When I asked Roger what her favorite verse was, he said it was hard to pick just one because she had so very many. He said he was blessed that many of their favorites seemed to be those that she had taught in Bible Drill. If he had to pick one, though, he said that Proverbs 3:5-6 would be at the top of the list because it had provided direction and comfort for them both in every situation and stage of their lives: marriage, raising children, finances, as well as facing difficulties.
Even in the last weeks of her life, her love for God’s Word was evident as she and Roger asked friends to send their favorite verses to encourage them during her time in the hospital and her recovery period. That is why for me, as well as for many others, her homegoing was bittersweet. We thought we were encouraging her while she was looking forward to coming home, never realizing God had plans to take her to her heavenly home. While we rejoice that Mary Ann is with the Lord, we miss her terribly here on earth. Matthew 6:21 has an extra meaning for her family and friends: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Mary Ann laid up treasures for her Lord by being faithful to help little ones to hide God’s Word in their hearts. Now she is with her heart – her Lord Jesus. Now a little of our heart is with her there, also, as she was truly a treasure as a wife, mother, grandmother, and friend.
Karen North is a Georgia Baptist Bible Drill and Speakers, Inc. board member and a Bible Drill Leader at Covenant Baptist Church, Valdosta, GA