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November 2016


Moving Forward


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When Earthquakes Shake the Soul

By Brenda Evans


For almost four years, violent tremors shook Elizabeth Perreault’s life with sudden emotional and physical upheavals: her mother’s death, her own battle with breast cancer, her father’s sudden death, plus the sustained aftermaths of grief and fear that accompanied each of these events. The everyday surface of her life shifted, became displaced, and out of Elizabeth’s control. That’s what earthquakes do.

When fire and flood were added to the quakes, Elizabeth turned to the Lord’s promises from Isaiah 43: “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”

Gradually, the ground beneath Elizabeth’s feet became steady again. She settled into peace that she attributes to the unshakable foundation of her faith—the godly model of her parents and husband—and the help of Free Will Baptist Foundation.

Before her death in 2012, Elizabeth’s mother, Frances Stancill, went through two years of serious physical decline and eventual home health care. Two months after her mother’s death, Elizabeth was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer herself. Treatment eventually included surgery, eight chemotherapy treatments, 30 radiation treatments, 52 immunotherapy treatments, and three reconstructive surgeries. Though the ground shifted beneath her, Elizabeth remained steady. On the first day of chemotherapy, the Lord spoke to her from Psalm 27:14: “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”

“I’m not very good at resting and waiting,” Elizabeth said, “but they were what God was going to use to help me grow in faith. I kept homeschooling our three daughters and experienced minimal side effects from the treatments. When I was tired, the recliner became my best friend. It was the prayers of so many people that gave me strength, especially my father. He had such great faith.”

During the darkest emotional earthquakes, Elizabeth wondered how she could go on. She calls it a “tender” time. The loss of her mother was followed two months later by her own horrific battle with cancer. The load was heavy. She even wondered if God was punishing her. Eventually, Elizabeth found comfort in John 9, and the healing of the blind man. Her husband Paul reminded her that Jesus said the man’s blindness had not been because of sin, “but that the works of God should be made manifest.” God’s work would be exhibited in her, too, Paul assured her. So Elizabeth hung on, dug into the Psalms, and rested in hope.

Several months later, while Elizabeth was still in cancer treatment, her father asked her to sit down with him at the kitchen table for a conversation. He wanted to talk about his estate plan. He had made a list of places he wanted his money to go, places that would “do spiritual good” after his death. He would leave some assets to her and Paul and their three daughters, he told Elizabeth, but not everything. He was planning to make a difference in several ministries.

James and Frances Stancill had a 50-year history of making a difference. After college at Bob Jones University, they became bi-vocational missionaries and church planters, along with their only child Elizabeth. Later, for 30 years, they served the Lord at Bible Book Store in Durham, North Carolina. Until his retirement in 2012, James managed the bookstore where he had a tremendous ministry of encouragement and witness, while Frances ran support services.

“Giving was Dad’s spiritual gift,” Elizabeth said. “When I was in college, he paid one of my friend’s college bills. He told me that the privilege of his lifetime had been giving money to equip men and women for pastorates and missions.” Even as a teenager, James had a will to give. When his prize steer won Reserve Champion at the fair in Ayden, North Carolina, he decided to sell the steer and buy a Farmall tractor. But when missionary Bill Fulcher preached at his church, James sold the steer and instead gave the money to the Fulchers’ missionary account.

By November 2014, James had his new estate plan in place. Through Free Will Baptist Foundation he established a revocable Money Management Trust to earn better interest on his reserve funds and a Living Trust to facilitate distribution of his assets after death.

One year later, November 2015, a startling phone call shook Elizabeth. “I was at home helping my youngest daughter with school work. It was Paul: ‘You’ve got five minutes. Meet me at the hospital.’ I got there just as the emergency vehicle did. ‘That’s my father,’ I told the security guard.”

Looking back, Elizabeth sees that both the Lord and her father prepared her for his death. The Living Trust set up the year before was part of that, of course, but also the last six days of his life. On the Friday night before his heart attack the following Thursday, James and his youngest granddaughter planted pansies in the dark. He held the flashlight; she dug and planted. Also that night, her father told Elizabeth that time was short, and he wanted to talk about his funeral. “He went through everything,” Elizabeth said. “Looking back, I see how the Lord was taking care of me beforehand. When Dad suddenly died the next week, I knew exactly what to do.”

On Saturday, James was stricken with a severe infection, but on Monday stayed up all night typing a paper on Free Will Baptist doctrine for his oldest granddaughter to use in a college class. Tuesday, he went to the bookstore to relieve Paul who had become manager after James’ retirement. Also that night, he had a last dinner with Elizabeth at a Chinese restaurant. “Just me and Dad,” Elizabeth reflects, “not knowing what was coming in two days.”

At 11:00 Thursday morning, Paul received a call: “Your father-in-law is lying in his front yard.” When Paul arrived, James had coded—had no pulse—and a friend, Tony Phillips, was administering CPR. Tony told Paul his mother had recently died, and that James had comforted him and said, “I’m so sorry, Tony. I know you will miss her.” Those were James’ last words on earth. He coded again in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.“God honored Dad for his life of service,” Elizabeth said. “I’m comforted by his not going through a long time in a facility.”

At age 71, James Stancill died of V-Fib, but he died both ready and prepared. “After Dad’s death and burial, we realized what a great gift Dad’s Living Trust was,” Paul said. “We called, and two guys came—Doug Little from the Foundation and Mike Wootton from Cornerstone. They walked us through everything. It was easy.”

“Except Dad’s Camry,” Elizabeth said with a laugh. “Dad had not titled his used Camry to the trust, so it took two trips to the courthouse, three to the DMV, and two to Jiffy Lube for inspections just to get it retitled into our name. The worst was the three trips to the DMV and the lady with those thick glasses and the personality of a porcupine. No, no, no were her favorite words. That kind of hassle makes you really believe in Living Trusts.”

Near the end of the visit with Elizabeth and Paul, Doug Little went to their piano and sang a song he had written many years ago: “He’s Been So Good to Me.” Despite the loss of both parents, despite having no siblings, despite her struggle with cancer, despite other earthquakes large and small, that song is part of Elizabeth’s testimony, too: “the Lord’s been so good to me.”

About the Writer: Brenda Evans is a freelance writer who lives in Ashland, Kentucky. Learn more about planned giving at



©2016 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists