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Tuscaloosa widow continues couple’s missions legacycomment (0)

March 30, 2006

By Cheryl Sloan Wray

An enduring love and a common passion for missions-minded activities guided the longtime marriage of one Tuscaloosa Baptist couple, and the wife says that such qualities can help today’s young Christian couples.

Margaret and Tommy Todd, members of First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, in Tuscaloosa Baptist Association, had been married for 40 years when he died in 2004. Throughout their marriage, the Todds were committed to one another in Christian love and to missions in their community and throughout the world.

“Serving the Lord in locations outside of our own ‘comfort zone’ was one of the most meaningful experiences that we had in our 40 years together,” she said. “I cannot imagine anything more meaningful to a marriage or anything that would bring a couple closer together than serving the Lord where you know that you are on duty for Him 24 hours a day.”

According to Gil McKee, senior pastor at First, Tuscaloosa, the Todds exemplified Christian commitment.

“Tommy and Margaret were what I would call an exemplary couple in many ways,” he said. “They were committed to the Lord as a couple. They were committed to one another. They were committed to First Baptist Church. And, finally, they were committed to missions at home and abroad.”

Almost immediately after her husband’s death, Todd traveled to the Dominican Republic on a trip with her church and then soon after to southern Thailand on a tsunami-relief missions trip.

“I went to the Dominican Republic in November after Tommy’s death on Aug. 31, and it was the best thing I could have done for myself,” she said. “God focused my attention on so many needs in this world, and He opened my eyes to what we can do to help Him meet those needs.”

In Thailand, Todd said God taught her to focus solely on the needs of others as she saw how much the people had lost in the tsunami in December 2004. “It was impossible to think of my needs when focusing on helping people who had lost everything in their lives,” she said.

“Margaret has continued to carry on the legacy she and Tommy began as a couple,” McKee said.

The Todds shared a concern for others from the beginning of their relationship. They met when she was a senior at the University of Alabama and he was a prominent Tuscaloosa businessman.

“It was truly love at first sight, and Tommy always liked to say that he ‘chased me until I caught him,’” Todd recalled. After marrying in June 1964, the Todds began establishing their life together.

He ran Radio Parts Inc. and then became a stockbroker with Merrill Lynch until his retirement. She worked for years as a school counselor and today administrates a program at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa to keep students in school. The couple had two children.

In addition to jobs and family, they devoted their lives to the local church and missions work. Through the years, he served as a deacon and led a men’s Sunday School class, which is what many see as one of his most lasting legacies.

“Tommy was loved and respected by the men who knew him because of his love for them and the genuineness and integrity of his life,” Todd said. “He had a very dynamic, outgoing personality, and men loved to be around him, whether it was playing golf or just visiting over lunch.”

The Todds always enjoyed traveling and took international trips almost every year early in their marriage. They traveled to various countries in western Europe, then expanded into Central and South America, the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and, finally, Asia in their later years.

But it was not until they joined First, Tuscaloosa, in 1988 that they took their first official missions trip. Still, Todd said, they understood each of their trips as an extension of their Christian walk. “Every trip we took was a trip to glorify our Lord and witness for Him wherever we were,” she said. “We always tried to find a Christian church to worship in when we traveled and even worshiped in underground churches in some of the communist countries that we visited.”

Some of the last missions trips the couple took together included two to Thailand shortly before Tommy’s death. “[That] trip ... was one of our most gratifying missions trips,” Todd said. “We traveled with a group from FBC to help lead a conference for first-term missionaries in the Buddy Block — the five Buddhist countries in Southeast Asia.

“We were so encouraged as we saw the incredible faith that our missionaries have, often in the midst of very difficult and trying circumstances.”

According to Margaret Jones, a good friend of the Todds and Todd’s Sunday School teacher, the couple’s excitement about missions was contagious. “Margaret and Tommy both were so excited to go and be of help to the missionaries in other countries,” Jones said. “They wanted to go and help in whatever way they could, and they truly admired what missionaries did.”

Todd said that looking back on their years together, she knows that it was their shared commitment to Christ and their freedom to be whom He intended them to be that made their marriage so strong. “We gave each other the freedom to be the person that we felt God wanted us to be,” she said. “We were united in the deep, abiding love we had for each other but were able to serve the Lord in our own unique callings throughout our years together.”

According to her, Christian couples must understand how they fit into God’s picture — both as individuals and as husband and wife. And ministry — including missions — can be a valuable part of this.

Todd also encourages husbands and wives to take the chance today to make memories. “Spend time together; do things together,” she said. “Never put off an opportunity to spend time with someone you love because those are the memories that you will cherish and that will see you through life without your loved one.”

Todd said her memories make it easier to go on with life without her husband. She relies on God to sustain her. “In the beginning, it was what a friend of mine called ‘holy numbness,’ but soon you recognize that God is with you every minute of every day, and you remember from past blessings how He has always got you through,” she said.

Todd also relies on her husband’s legacy when she needs extra strength. Soon after his death, she looked at his clothes and wondered what to do with them.

“I just couldn’t bring myself to just take his clothes and dump them in a collection bin because I saw him in those clothes every time I looked at them,” she said. Then God opened a door and allowed his clothes to be sent to Christian pastors in Ukraine. “What a great way for Tommy’s ministry to continue,” she said. “It will absolutely thrill my heart if I see something that Tommy wore when I go on my missions trip to the Ukraine in April.”

Todd will also be traveling to India in the fall. “It’s planning for such missions trips that keeps my spirit going,” she said.

And it’s something that her late husband would want her to do, Todd said. “I guess I am part gypsy, just like Tommy always said,” she said. “But I’m a gypsy with a purpose.”

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