By Laurie Weatherford
About 75 years ago when Aunt Carolyn was a little girl digging in the dirt in her backyard, my grandfather Rufus Weatherford would say, “Carolee, if you keep digging, you will get all the way to Chinee.” Aunt Carolyn kept digging, and she did get all the way to China. Not only China, but also Africa, Europe, South America, all of the states, and more than a hundred countries.
At 17 years of age, Aunt Carolyn received her calling to the mission field. Her church provided a scholarship for her to go to Ridgecrest, NC, and while there she was told that she could accomplish whatever God had purposed for her life.
The encouragement Aunt Carolyn received as a child and young adult is what she in turn provided to Bill, Anne and I throughout our lives. As we grew up, she always had time for us, and she encouraged us to be everything God had called us to be.
I remember all three of us staying with Aunt Carolyn when she lived in Jacksonville, Florida. During our visit, Aunt Carolyn took us to work with her. We had the opportunity to see the Women's Missionary Union (WMU) up close and personal, to see all of the different ways God used people to reach the world. While there, I remember Aunt Carolyn asking us to walk around the table to help collate a WMU mailing. Even as children, she helped us understand we could play an important part in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.
One spring break while I was a student at the University of Florida, my roommates and I went to Birmingham, Alabama, to visit Aunt Carolyn. During our visit, one of my roommates commented on the fact that Aunt Carolyn had a large collection of silver and china for an unmarried woman. Aunt Carolyn’s response: "So far, I have not met a man that would allow me to put God’s work completely first in my life."
I had the opportunity to live with Aunt Carolyn for three years while I attended law school. I traveled with her to the Baptist World Alliance meeting in 1983, where the message was sent: “Miss Weatherford will be traveling with her adult daughter.” Afterward, my name was “changed” to “My Niece Laurie” and people would call me “My Niece”.
While Aunt Carolyn felt God had called her into international missions, it became apparent due to health concerns that her purpose was to equip others to go, since she was physically unable to go. What she perceived at the time to be a closed door for herself, turned out to be a highway of preparation, education and financial support to enable others to go.
Because Aunt Carolyn was single until she was almost 60 years old, she showed me by example that her gender did not have to be a barrier to fully living out her God-given calling. She also taught me how to be an effective leader, and more importantly, an effective encourager.
In every area of her life, Aunt Carolyn strived to do everything “as unto the Lord”. Throughout her career, she had the opportunity to encourage Christians to keep digging to their own "Chinee." Although Aunt Carolyn and my father came from a humble background, their parents equipped them with the gift of confidence and encouragement. Nothing is impossible with God.
Laurie Weatherford, niece of Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler, lives in Winter Park and is a member of Church on the Drive: A Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Orlando. She is married to Aubrey Ducker and they have two children, Carolyn and James.