In 2003 shortly after my second book, Between Two Worlds, came out, Gladys Hunt asked me to accompany her to a conference and help to manage her book table. In exchange, I could display my books with hers. My books along side those of Gladys Hunt? Wow!
Keith and Gladys Hunt (or “Rusty” as she was known to thousands of students) were old family friends. Along with my parents, they were part of the first generation of Inter-varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) in the United States. Keith and Rusty worked in Christian ministry with university students for many years and were active in developing the IVCF training camp at Cedar Campus where I met my husband. (Old Mill Point in the picture above)
My husband lived with Keith and Rusty for six months before we got married, and their son was one of his close friends.
We learned inductive Bible study through IVCF, and Rusty wrote many of the study guides. She wrote about women in the Bible in an era when gender studies were just beginning to be discussed in the church. Many of us girls went for long walks on the Cedar Campus drive, pouring out our souls to her motherly ear.
Probably the most well-known of Gladys’ 27 books is Honey for a Child's Heart; The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life. Continuously in print since the 1970s, the chapters promote reading good books aloud with children, while the bibliography (updated through four editions) lists hundreds of suggested titles. Generations have fallen in love with reading as a result.
At that conference book table I shared with the author, a woman brought a battered copy of an old edition of Honey to be autographed. “When I found your book,” the woman said, “I was so excited, I had to call my mother. ‘This book has all our favorites from when I was growing up,’ I told her. ‘How do you think I knew about those books?’ my mother said.” Gladys laughed. I think she had heard similar stories before.
Gladys had just brought out a new book at that conference, co-authored with Barbara Hampton: Honey for a Teen's Heart; Using Books to Communicate with Teens Gladys’ chapters talk about discussing books as a means of getting young people to think like Christians, forming a Christian worldview. She encourages parents to read what their teens are reading and discuss it with them rather than limiting their reading to books we agree with. The extensive bibliography by Barbara Hampton includes some books that we Christians may not approve of, but teens are hearing about them at school. Their peers are reading them. Hampton not only describes a bit of the story to help readers decide if this book is for them or not, but she asks questions and suggests issues you will want to discuss with your teen as you read. The authors maintain that discussing ideas openly will shape young people’s thinking more effectively than censoring their reading.
Gladys had heart surgery in February. She was 83 years old and never quite recovered her strength. My husband and I visited her in the hospital about a month ago. She welcomed us warmly and wanted to know about my latest book, but we could see she was fading. She passed away on Sunday morning, July 4, 2010, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Thursday we celebrated her life and laid away her earthly body.
“So we remain in the land of the dying,” writes her husband of 61 years, “but she has entered the land of the living. Praise God!”
At the viewing my husband casually asked a woman, “Are you a friend or a member of the family?”
She stammered, unsure how to answer. “I guess I’m a sort of adopted daughter,” she said, then told us the story of how Rusty had touched her life. When she finished, she looked around the room. “I think we’re all family here,” she said. She was right.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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