Verna Birkey, age 94 of Willow Valley entered into the presence of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, whom she loved and served, on November 29, 2022. Born in Fisher, Illinois on March 5, 1928, she was the daughter of loving parents, Joel and Mabel Birkey.
In her teenage years, Verna accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior. Verna’s passion has always been to serve the Lord with all her heart and fulfil His plan for her life. This passion led her to Goshen College for training in elementary education. After teaching several years, she went to Alabama to teach Bible in the public schools. Then on to Columbia International University, Columbia, SC for a Master’s degree in Bible and Missions. Declined for career service on the foreign field, she later became teacher, counselor and Dean of Girls at Ben Lippen High School in Asheville, NC a co-ed Christian boarding school.
One of Verna’s favorite verses for direction in ministry was Psalm 32:8, “
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.”
She continually depended on and took strength from the Lord of that promise.
In response to the Lord’s guidance through His Word, godly counsel and circumstances, Verna moved to Seattle, WA in 1969 to begin a ministry to women trusting her Lord to give strength, direction, and provision for the uncharted journey ahead. While making preparations for the first classes, doubts, fears, and even thoughts of giving up came to mind, but quickly the Lord in His faithfulness reminded her of the Bible verse, “
You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and ordained you that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that
your fruit should remain.”
Resting in that word of encouragement, Verna pressed forward and began teaching biblical seminars to women. Overwhelmed by the large number of women who came, Verna called on her dear friend, Jeanette Turnquist to come help. After much prayer, Jeanette, a dear friend who possessed the perfect giftings for this new ministry, chose to come help establish and direct the pioneering Enriched Living Workshops which lead to teaching seminars all over the States, Canada and in foreign countries. During the 34 years of ministry, Verna had the privilege of traveling to Japan, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa, England, Northern Ireland, Isarel and Moldova to present seminars, sharing God’s saving and redeeming grace.
Being an editor, Jeanette was able to help Verna produce thirteen books, including “Women Connecting with Women” and “TRUST ME” Learning to Trust that God is Good and in Control Even When Life is Difficult.” This all through God’s calling, equipping and giving direction.
All praise to Him!!
Verna’s testimony is expressed in the hymn, “Jesus Led Me All the Way!” and in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
In traveling her journey, Verna says it was wonderful to have Psalm 23 giving courage, strength and sense of God’s presence. Using the main ideas of this Psalm, she has written a tribute to her faithful Shepherd.
My Tribute to the Lord (Psalm 23 modified)
The LORD was my faithful Shepherd; I did not lack any good thing. He made me to lie down in fresh green pastures; He led me beside the still and restful waters. He refreshed my soul-giving me new strength; He led me in the paths of righteousness not for my earning it, but for His name’s sake. Yes, even when I walked through deep, sunless valleys He walked at my side, causing me to know His presence close beside me all the way; His rod to protect and His staff to guide comforted me. He prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies; He anointed my drooping head with oil; My brimming cup of joy and satisfaction ran over. Indeed, his goodness and mercy followed me all the days of my life, I am now dwelling in the house of my LORD and Savior, forever safe in the loving arms of Jesus, my faithful Shepherd.
In 2003, Verna and Jeanette moved to Spring Run at Willow Valley Communities. Verna was a member at Grace Church at Willow Valley. She is survived by two sisters-in-law’s, her eleven nieces and nephews and their children. Her parents and siblings are now greeting her in Heaven.
Verna chose to not have a Celebration of Life here because she is experiencing a much greater celebration as she arrives in Heaven. Verna pleads, “Please come and go with me to eternal bliss with friends and Jesus rather than to that other place of eternal misery and loneliness. How to get there?
Jesus said, “I am the way…no one comes to God but through Me” John 14:6.