Pat Underwood: Reflections On a Life Lived for God
[Note from Tim – You will delight to read about the life of Pat Underwood and reflect on how God can use your life! Thank you to David Holder for sharing these thoughts. Take a look at the Bible class curriculum developed by David Holder with the help of Pat Underwood at this link: Shaping Hearts Publications.]
Every now and then a person crosses your path and comes into your life who is different than most. It’s possible that this never happens in a lifetime, but it did in mine in the person of Pat Underwood. And I know several others whose lives and faith were significantly impacted by Pat. She was a unique lady in many ways – full of words and wisdom, fun and faith, life and love. Pat passed away on May 30, 2016. It is my privilege to write some reflections that may inspire and encourage others.
Pat Lee and Jim Underwood met at Florida College and married in 1962. Together they created a marriage and family which were strong and full of love, kindness, and service. Jim and Pat were opposites in many respects, but were drawn together in a wonderful bond marked by fun, laughter, understanding, and love. Their marriage worked because they made it work; both were committed to the Lord and to each other. They worked out whatever had to be worked out, stayed together through the ups and downs of life and love, and loved each other no matter what. Through the years, they served the Lord without interruption and always with determination and zeal.
How Jim and Pat managed their retirement years deserves special attention and appreciation. They retired from their work, but they did not retire from the Lord or the church. In their twilight years, Jim and Pat continued to serve energetically and effectively – delivering Meals-On-Wheels, visiting the sick and shut-ins, attending Bible classes, practicing hospitality, conducting personal Bible studies, writing Bible study guides, encouraging the weak and wayward, teaching and modeling the way of Christ, and otherwise using their time, energy, and resources in a God-centered and faithful way. Please, Lord, raise up others who have and give Jim’s and Pat’s love, faith, and service.
Pat touched the lives and hearts of her own children and many others in teaching Bible classes and in writing curriculum for others to teach. Pat helped teachers understand how children think at different ages and stages of life, and how to teach them effectively where they are. She played a major role in writing and refining Shaping Hearts for God children’s Bible curriculum. She was especially skilled in writing conversationally to draw students into the study, and crafting questions that led students to discover for themselves. She was talented in writing starter paragraphs that help kids connect with the subject and in coming up with effective teaching activities to illustrate and apply the lessons.
While Pat was recovering from cancer-related surgery, she collaborated with Ouida Hargrove, of Stephenville, TX, and with me to write a study guide for women, and the accompanying teacher’s guide entitled Women in Combat Against Sin & Satan. In completing the books, Pat and I met on successive Mondays. We argued about the meaning of Bible passages and discussed how specific questions might be read and answered by students. One day we were toying around with titles for the study, and I mentioned “Women in Combat.” Immediately, Pat loved it and this is the title of what is now her final work in this world.
Most of her life, Pat herself was a woman in combat. She fought for God and good in her own life, in her family, and in the lives of people she impacted. She fought against sin and Satan through teaching and modeling the gospel of Jesus Christ. I can apply the words of the apostle Paul to Pat without hesitation when he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). And the neat and wonderful thing about Pat is that she helped countless people love Jesus’ appearing and be ready when he comes.
Pat did specific and effective work especially with women … with many women. Pat knew women; she understood how they think and behave. She was a woman … you know, she liked her manis and pedis. She certainly acknowledged women’s feminine side – feelings, emotions, and sensitivity. But she didn’t cut women much slack in teaching and counseling, as she focused them on using their minds as well as their hearts, to think as well as feel. Having experienced depression herself at times, Pat helped ladies find the right tools to manage their issues and work through depression. She pressed the point that Scripture is the standard, not culture or personal likes or dislikes or feelings. A major point she always made is that Scripture is the standard for all roles and responsibilities.
Pat did great and significant work with women and children in Ethiopia. In the span of my 16 working trips to Ethiopia, Pat went with me 11 times. She worked diligently during these trips and made a significant impact on women in Ethiopia and on the entire work we do there. She encouraged and empowered Ethiopian women to teach children and to teach each other. Zerihun, an Ethiopian preacher and a fine man, is a key figure in our Ethiopian work. Listen to his words as he describes Pat’s contribution:
Pat’s involvement and interaction in the Ethiopian gospel cause has been very significant. In every trip, Pat taught ladies in many Ethiopian villages; she enlightened and lifted up many ladies and taught lessons relevant to children, which helped to build up children, homes, and churches. The influence of her and other sisters of America brought spiritual revival and difference on Ethiopian ladies. In addition, many ladies have begun to teach ladies and children in their local congregations, being motivated to serve the Lord. This practice was rare prior to her trips to Ethiopia. Pat and her legacy live in our hearts and lives all the time!
I have seen Pat finish teaching a hut full of ladies, sometimes around 100, and then stand at the doorway and hug each one as she came out. The ladies in the Ethiopian countryside nicknamed her “Agape,” because of her wonderful love for God and for them. Pat made a significant impact in the cause of Jesus Christ in Ethiopia. None of us is indispensable, but replacing Pat’s love and labor won’t be easy.
The day of Pat’s memorial service in Fort Worth, TX I received this note from Zerihun: “Though we can’t attend her funeral there, we will do one here. Even though distance parts us, we are together in mind and spirit.” In fact, I learned that on the day of her funeral and other days thereafter, memorial services were held in several villages scattered throughout the central Ethiopian countryside. Quite remarkable, don’t you think?
Words alone hardly seem adequate to express about Pat the love, sadness, hope, exhilaration, conviction, appreciation, motivation, joy, grief, pain, and wonderful anticipation that flood the hearts of many. She not only taught us in her life, but also in her death as she faced it with peace and calm assurance. Pat lived in the world so she could go home and be with the Lord. From our human standpoint, she went home sooner than we wanted, but let me say that from her standpoint she is now with Jesus. Paul wrote that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). He said, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). Pat has now realized this gain and reached this goal. Pat Underwood loved Jesus; she lived her life to honor Jesus; by both her lips and her life she taught many to follow Jesus; now she has gone to be with Jesus forever.
Fort Worth, TX