My mother, Bessie Beatrice (Wood) Graham was my aunt Zelma’s older sister. My mother used Aunt Zelma’s name frequently when trying to encourage me to continue on the straight and narrow. This was not a rare event. I will mention a few of the occasions when this occurred.
After graduating Morton High School, it was my intent to become a preacher. This pleased my mother (and aunt Zelma). There was some difficulty in staying in college because of finances and at age 17, I left college and went to Ruidoso, New Mexico to get my parents to sign so I could enlist in the army. Mother was opposed to this and used aunt Zelma’s name in trying to discourage me from joining the military. I just needed one signature, therefore my Dad obliged me. Off to Fort Ord, California I went.
Four years later when I was discharged from the service and getting ready to enroll in college in the pre-med field, Mother invoked aunt Zelma’s name again. She even asked me to read aunt Zelma’s book “I Married a Missionary” and loaned me her copy of the book. She said aunt Zelma would be displeased if I did not continue in the previous field of preaching the Word of God.
I did read aunt Zelma’s book and must admit that I was a little disappointed. She had a very good story to tell and yet she fictionalized portions of the book. She changed names and did not have the name of Ray or Zelma Lawyer in the book. She use the name “Roberts” for the family name. She did not talk about her oldest child, Jeanne who was about 3 years old when they left the states for Africa. She did mention her second child, George, and indicated he was born shortly after they reached Cape Town. Jeanne (Lawyer) Stinson, in her book, “I Dream of Jeanne” does set the record straight so to speak in the sense that George at age two did have a bad case of dysentery and died. Zelma, on the other hand keeps him alive in her book after a frightening illness.
Aunt Zelma did have a severe depressive episode after returning home after her husband, Ray Lawyer died. Perhaps she could not tell the true story because it was too painful to bare. This was intimated when she was describing the incident that lead to Ray Lawyer’s (Mr. Roberts) death. She deserves a lot of credit for what she accomplished in Africa and is worthy to have an endowed scholarship established in her name. This scholarship has been initiated at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas and will be called The Ray and Zelma Lawyer Endowed Scholarship for missionary students.
Check out her book at Digital Commons @ ACU and look up “I Married a Missionary” by Zelma Wood Lawyer. It is free. It has a soul saving message.