My Tribute to a 97-year-old (almost 98) Christian Sister in Idaho Falls

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My relationship with “Grandma” Neva Mortensen stretches back to my days as a kid growing up at Gethsemane Baptist Church in Idaho Falls.  Practically 40 years ago, in the fall of 1974, my parents enrolled me in 4-year-old kindergarten.  Sue Lovegrove became my Christian school teacher.  John Lovegrove was my pastor.  When I was four years old in Idaho Falls, Neva was 56.  So in age and relationship, Neva has been a precious “grandma” to me in the Church.

Neva has had a life full of challenges: her birth in Nebraska, hard work on farms, and marriages to three husbands—Floyd Cole, Floyd Mortensen, and Arthur Adams.

In my adult years, my relationship with Grandma Neva took on a new turn twenty years ago in 1995 with the birth of Berean Baptist Church in Jim and Janean Deatherage’s living room on the western outskirts of Idaho Falls.  In that year, I was 25; and Neva had turned 77.  Can you believe that?  At the age of 77, Neva Mortensen had committed herself to serving in the start of a new church.  And for the last 20 years among the Berean Baptist church family, she has been a wonderful Christian example to those around her.

What is it that made Grandma Neva Mortensen so special?  Here are six highlights that come to my mind when I think of this beautiful woman.

  1. Bright Gardener

Neva appreciated well-kept yards.  It was a priority for her.  And it happened to be the first thing that you noticed when you drove up to her house.  She enjoyed big, shady trees and loved thick, green grass which had been mowed and edged.

She relished the time working in her garden.  And it didn’t matter even when she was in her nineties, she would be out there in the spring and summer, pulling weeds and checking on the status of her vegetables.  Full of gardening wisdom, at any time she could share pithy proverbs and tips for helping you along with your own outdoor yard work.

Neva planted lots of flowers.  Irises and tulips bloomed in abundance in front her house.  Carnations colored the flower boxes.  Roses lined the back of her fence line.  And during the early years of Berean Baptist Church, she would gather flowers from her yard and make bouquets for the church family to enjoy.  She wanted a church gathering place to look nice and to reflect the beauty of the Lord.  It reminds me of the beautiful design for the temple in the Old Testament.  “The inside of the temple was cedar, carved with ornamental buds and open flowers” – I Kings 6:18.

  1. Spotless Homemaker

Proverbs 14: 1 shares, “The wise woman builds her house”.  Over the years, I observed Neva’s practical skills in connection to her home.  She kept things orderly and neat.  Look at the car that she drove.  See how she had a place for all her garden tools in the garage.  Walk into her house and you will note that everything (i.e. plants, dishes, magazines, pictures, and all the way down to containers, buttons, and screws) had an arrangement.

Proverbs 24:3-4 states, “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”

Neva was not a lazy woman in her home.  Years ago, she used her home for ladies’ Bible studies.  She pursued hospitality among her neighbors and friends. She worked on quilts.  She canned her garden food.  Among the many descriptions of the godly woman in Proverbs 31 is verse 27, “She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.”  This is an apt description of Grandma Neva.  Always working.  Always thinking of some project to be done.  And Neva was blessed to live in her home all the way to the end.

  1. Fun Fisherwoman

Neva liked to fish.  Her brother, Fred Woolsey, had moved to Southeastern Idaho a while back.  He got himself a little apartment in the area, but he would go over to his sister’s house for a home cooked meal.  And he knew that his sister enjoyed to fish.

Neva might have been more skilled at catching fish than Fred.  She knew how to catch fish!  And of course, there is nothing better than having trout sizzling in the frying pan.

  1. Curious Learner

Neva had a curious mind.  She read magazines and books.  She travelled all over the world through educational programs on television.  She had an interest in national and local events.  She eagerly strived to grow in her relationship with the Lord.  She went to Sunday school, morning worship services, and small group Bible studies.

Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:14-16, “Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.  Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.” Neva took this exhortation seriously.  She read her Bible.  She studied her Bible.

I would chuckle over the fact that Neva was the oldest among us, and yet she carried the smallest print Bible.  Amazing.

  1. Gracious Peacemaker

Neva had strong beliefs about how things ought to be, in our United States government, in our city of Idaho Falls, and in a family.  She had her strong opinions about current events, and she was not afraid to share her opinions.  But in my experiences with her, if she ever felt bad over how she said things, she would seek to communicate that.  She displayed a humble attitude with others.  Neva was very sensitive to disharmony and conflict in relationships.  In the Old Testament, David wrote, “Seek peace and pursue it.”  Neva sought to live by that rule.

My wife and I were commenting to each other that as we grow older, we would like to age like Grandma Neva.

  1. Forgiven Christian

Most of all, Neva expressed her thankfulness over Jesus dying on the cross for her sins.  She knew she was a sinner.  She believed what Paul said in Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  But she also clung to the truth, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Forgiveness. Redemption.  It is amazing grace.

And now, she is home in heaven.

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About Todd Wood

I am a servant of Jesus in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Join me in seeking Jesus in this city.
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