At Age 102, A Glorious Homecoming

Posted on May 5, 2010


By David Ettinger

Note: One the great saints of First Orlando, Verna Beaty, went home to be with the Lord on Dec. 5, 2009 at the age of 102. First Orlando’s Real Life magazine did a story on her in the January-February 2008 issue. As a tribute, to Verna, we lovingly reprint the article.

Hers is a testimony that has lasted for almost nine decades.

First Orlando member Verna Beaty became a Christian at the age of 13. That was in 1920, and she has walked with the Lord ever since. To help you with your math, Verna turned 100 back in October 2007, so that puts her Christian pilgrimage at 87 years.

Her walk has always remained strong. “Jesus said, ‘In this world you will have troubles, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,’ ” she said, quoting one of her favorite verses (John 16:33) in the Bible.

Though her life wasn’t been easy, she has certainly been of good cheer. And for good measure, though she claims her memory is slipping, she recites Scripture seamlessly.

A native of Alabama, Verna was born into a Christian home and was the oldest of 10 children, the only ones still living being Verna and the baby of the family, her 82-year-old sister.

Verna’s life changed forever when she made her decision for Christ. “Following dinners, we would sit around the table during our devotionals,” she recalled. “Dad would let us read the Bible verse, and if we were ready, he would let us recite the sinner’s prayer. One night it seemed like the Lord lifted me up, and that’s when I accepted the Lord Jesus.”

It did not take long for Verna to immerse herself in her newfound faith. “One day I was talking to the Lord and I said, ‘Lord, I love You and I want to do something important. Show me what You want me to do.’ ”

The Lord answered Verna’s prayer. “It seems like He said to me, ‘You can teach.’ About two or three weeks later, my church asked me to teach what we at that time called the ‘beginners.’ Pretty much, from that time on, in one church or another, I always taught.”

By the time she finally stopped teaching in 1972, Verna had taught the Bible to hundreds, and possibly thousands, of people ranging from toddlers to senior adults.

When asked what her favorite portion of the Bible is, she enthusiastically identified — and then recited — much of John 14, emphasizing verse 6: “’Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, except by me.’ That is such a great chapter.”

Caption: Verna was so loved at First Orlando that she was given her own parking spot.

Over the course of her long life, Verna has often sought consolation from the Scriptures during difficult times, the first major one coming at the end of high school. She was ready to graduate, had passed all of her classes, then … came down with typhoid fever. “My feet didn’t touch the floor for 96 days,” she recalled of the three months she was restricted to bed. “There was an epidemic of it that year; several of my schoolmates died from it.”

Verna’s recovery was slow, but her youthfulness helped. In the meantime, a number of people would visit the household — part of the custom of the day — one of them a young man who was an acquaintance of Verna’s five brothers. The visitor’s name was William Oliver Posey, and once he caught sight of Verna, he began losing interest in her brothers. “He kept getting after me to get married,” Verna said. “On Christmas Eve [1924], he came over and told me all his plans about what we could do together.”

This is when Verna, just 17 years old, was recuperating. “I said to myself, ‘Why not? I can’t go to school and my parents won’t let me work [because of her health], so I figured I had to do something.’ ”

Not the most romantic of proposal stories, but certainly practical. So, the young couple married and had a son, Bill. The marriage lasted 12 years before tragedy struck. “William worked for the railroad company and was killed in a train accident,” Verna said. “It took me a long time to get over it, but it never weakened my faith. I left it all in the Lord’s hands and trusted Him.”

She was now a 29-year-old widow and single mother. She remained that way for five years before marrying Jess Lee Beaty, whom Verna described as a “strong Christian man.”

The couple remained in Alabama for the next 19 years, then moved to Florida. “Jess had a daughter from another marriage who lived in Sarasota and she was begging him to move down there,” Verna said. “Then, in 1955, my mother died, and that’s when I agreed to move.”

The two made several moves to various Florida cities before settling in Central Florida in 1962. And though she was 55 at the time, she was not too old to learn a new profession. Because Jess had become ill, Verna attended classes and became a nurse. She practiced her profession until her retirement nine years later.

The two remained married until Jess’ death in 1986. Two years later, Verna moved in with her son and daughter-in-law, Vernell, and has lived with them ever since. It was also in 1988 that Verna started attending First Orlando.

Verna has seen the Church in America change drastically — especially regarding teenagers — but has no objections. “I taught young people long before the ‘contemporary’ change came,” she said. “Before that, the young people were always fun and happy-go-lucky. It was not hard to teach them or keep them under control. It was a wonderful experience.”

Caption: Some photos of Verna as they appeared in Real Life magazine.

But those days, Verna says, are gone. “There have been a lot of changes in the Church [when it comes to ministering to teenagers] and the older folks don’t like it,” she said. “But I say that we need to do whatever it takes to hold the young people. They are the ones who are going to be our leaders tomorrow. They are the ones who are going to carry on the Church, and if the Church doesn’t find a way to get their attention, then Satan has plenty of pitfalls waiting for them.”

And he had plenty designed for Verna, but she has overcome them all. Now past the century mark, she doesn’t take a single moment for granted. “Every day when I wake up I say, ‘Oh Lord, I thank You for this great, big beautiful world that You have created for us. And I thank You for this location, this home and for two wonderful people to provide for me.”

Verna says she has no secret to living such a long life. “All I can figure is that the Lord still has a purpose for me. I just try to be an encouragement to everyone I know.”

Just as the Lord has been her encouragement for 87 years. “All my life, He has cared for me and has been Someone I could depend on. He’s always been my great Provider and great Healer. He’s never failed me in any way. He’s the King of kings and Lord of lords and one day He’s coming back to receive us.”

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