The Pathway, Missouri Baptists lose a dear friend

ST. LOUIS – Whoever coined the phrase “Charge the gates of Hell with a water pistol” must have known Cindy Province.

The physically diminutive, but intellectually dynamic 50-year-old powder keg of determination, who was the wife of a beloved St. Louis Life Flight trauma surgeon and mother of four of the sweetest boys – ages 7 to 19 – one could ever imagine, died Feb. 12. Her passing came exactly one month and one day following her one-vehicle-accident in her nearby hometown appropriately named Defiance. If there was ever anyone who kept her Lord’s command and doggedly defied the work of the Evil One and his minions, it was this grand lady.

Cindy Lyn Province should go down in history as one of the most influential conservative women – and leaders – to ever serve Missouri Southern Baptists. Yet the scope of her influence reached far beyond Missouri Baptist life. Fittingly, hundreds paid their respects over a three-day period that included her Feb. 18 funeral in Potosi, followed by burial in a rural Caledonia cemetery and a Feb. 19 memorial service in St. Louis that drew family and friends, including political, medical and theological luminaries. A nurse, scholar, bio-ethicist, writer, teacher, lobbyist, homespun chef, needlepoint aficionado, homeschooler and a leader in the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) conservative resurgence movement known as Project 1000, Cindy was complex as much as she was talented. That said, let it be stated foremost that she was a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and a loving, devoted wife and mother. And she was my friend.

“She lived like she was part of the family of God, never like she was better than anyone else,” said Hubert Newman, retired pastor of Dardenne Baptist Church where Cindy held membership. “I never saw Cindy when she did not hold her head high for Jesus.”

Born the daughter of John and Jimmye Lou Province on May 16, 1959, in Santa Ana, Calif., Cindy and the family soon moved to Flat River, Mo., where she was saved and baptized at age 8 at First Baptist Church. Cindy and her family have lived for the most part in east-central Missouri except for a period of time when her husband, Stan, was finishing his medical training in San Diego (he is now in private practice in the St. Louis area).

At Cindy’s funeral we were blessed with the singing of several hymns. A guest soloist offered a beautiful rendition of C. Austin Miles’ classic “In the Garden.” I thought that was most fitting for a woman who was a Master Gardener who walked with Jesus.

There were many flowers and personal belongings displayed for friends and family to view. I was struck by Cindy and Stan’s wedding picture. Stan is holding her while Cindy is laying her head against his chest. What I found so striking was that her eyes were not trained on the camera, but on him. It brought tears to my eyes because the mutual love each had for the other was so obvious from that the first day. For nearly 24 years Cindy and Stan have been together. Please pray for Stan and the boys during these difficult days.

Cindy was blessed with the extraordinary ability to collect, process and maintain voluminous amounts of information, making her a respected – and sometimes – feared intellect, especially at the State Capitol where she lobbied relentlessly for pro-life and pro-home school policies. It came to no one’s surprise when former Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt named Cindy to a blue-ribbon panel tasked with studying abortion in the state, a panel she would chair with distinction.

Cindy’s physical stature served as an effective camouflage for a person who was absolutely fearless. She is one of the few women I have known who could walk into a room of men and scare half of them to death. I have referred to her as “The Margaret Thatcher” or “The Iron Lady” of Missouri Baptists to friends because her graciousness, courage, conservative views and determination reminded me of the former British prime minister (whom Cindy deeply admired). Long-time friend and fellow lobbyist Kerry Messer tells the story about being in a lawmaker’s office when the phone rings. The lawmaker, who is in a meeting, motions for his assistant to take a message. The assistant replies, “But it’s Cindy Province.” He took the call.

“She was absolutely fearless,” Messer shared with those attending her funeral. “Not many have the courage and the guts to do many of the things she did when the General Assembly was in session. She always knew where to find her courage – she would always go to her Savior.”

Her scholarship was vast

Cindy was not all things to all people at all times, but she tried. The woman held three college degrees in nursing and psychology and was working on a PhD in bioethics at the time of her accident. She was a first lieutenant in the Missouri Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, the chief lobbyist for Families for Home Education, co-founder and associate director of The Center for Bioethics and Culture headquartered in St. Louis, and served on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (the committee responsible for formulating the annual flu shots given nationally). Her writings on brain injuries and patients in vegetative states have been published in numerous scholarly journals. She is the only woman I know who studied at The Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in London, England, and once joined 200 neurologists, psychologists, nurses and therapists participating in a conference on the treatment of patients in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS) with Pope John Paul II at The Vatican. (By the way, she did not just attend – she delivered a paper on the subject.) PVS patients are people who suffered an injury to the upper part of the brain. They are awake, but thought to be unaware – something Cindy felt research was disproving. Generally, she said, human brains are not light bulbs with an “on” and “off” switch, but rather are like irons, with “warm” settings all the way up to “hot.”

“The Pope said we can’t (morally) withhold food and water,” Cindy told The Pathway in May 2004. “He also said a human being can never become a vegetable or an animal. A human being is always going to be a human being.”

Cindy believed PVS patients should retain their human dignity in all its fullness and rejected the man-centered view that a person’s functions are what make them a person, and when those functions diminish, the person diminishes as well. Cindy knew evil when she saw it and was never afraid to call it by its name.

“I believe the Biblical view,” she continued. “Human beings are persons, and a person is something that’s part of the essence of a person. It isn’t some function. The functions of a pre-born infant are very different than the functions of an adult in mid-life like me, and yet we’re both persons. So function can’t determine personhood.”

Cindy was deeply concerned about American society traveling down a slippery slope where the removal of food and water from such patients has become routine “medical treatment.” Other countries require a judge to authorize such killing, commonly called euthanasia. Cindy felt strongly that America was rapidly becoming a “culture of death.”

“Even though she’s involved in a lot of different arenas, I think she’s pretty single-minded in terms of what she wants to see happen,” said colleague Barbara Quigley, executive director of The Center for Bioethics and Culture. “She really wants to see the care of people with severe brain injury changed. That’s a real passion of hers which is what got her into bioethics She’s got her hands in more activities than anybody I know,” Quigley went on to tell The Pathway’s Barbara Shoun, who wrote a feature story about Cindy for the newspaper’s April 13, 2007 edition aptly headlined “She’s more than a mom.”

She certainly was, but she still delighted in housekeeping and being a mother.

She loved cooking and was good at it. It was not unusual for her to whip-up a massive spread for all the members of a church plant she and Stan started in their home a few years back. She once told a friend that she wanted to write a cookbook about Sunday dinners. It would have been a bestseller.

Growing up in a Christian home Cindy recalled to The Pathway in that April 2007 story about how much she enjoyed the people in her church fellowshipping after services, often with dinner on the grounds. “I think we’ve lost that sense of fellowship on Sunday,” she noted. “Isn’t there a place for a post-worship fellowship anymore?”

Cindy somehow got her hands on the Olympic torch in 1996 as it made its way through eastern Missouri. How appropriate for someone whose name means “bearer of light.”

She was never timid about throwing a little “salt” in along with that “light.” Cindy felt strongly about her Christian witness and faithfully obeyed Christ’s command to be “salt and light.” She had a particular burden for those who work in government. When Cindy would walk into the State Capitol, everyone knew she served but one king – King Jesus.

Cindy not only understood a Christian worldview, but lived it daily, bringing to bear the Word of God on every facet of reality. She often attended The Founders Conference, an annual event at First Baptist Church, St. Peters that is known for attracting some pretty “heady” theologians and Christian thinkers. Her high view of Scripture led her to become a leader in Project 1000 – the MBC’s version of the Southern Baptist Convention’s so-called “Conservative Resurgence.” It was because of her leadership and that of others that led to the MBC’s rescue from the rank liberalism that has wreaked havoc on Mainline Protestant denominations for more than a century.

When concern grew about a new state convention perhaps taking a name similar to the MBC, a move that could confuse churches and lead to mischief, Cindy jumped into action. Creatively she went to the Secretary of State’s office and copyrighted every name containing the words “Missouri, Baptist and convention” that she could think of, thus preventing any new convention from taking a name similar to the MBC. To this day former Project 1000 leaders marvel – and chuckle – at what she did. It was a stroke of brilliance.

The naming of a newspaper

To say Cindy was my friend does not entail all that our relationship became. She was one of my chief counselors. There was very little gray with Cindy. It was black or white, right or wrong. I always appreciated that about her because it was easy to know where she stood. I always found it rewarding to be wherever she was standing.

Our friendship began on an April afternoon in 2002. I returned from the Boyce Library to our tiny on-campus apartment at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., to take a break from doctoral studies. As soon as I walked in my wife, Bernadette, said, “Honey, some lady from Missouri named Cindy Province called and wants you to call her.” I learned during our phone conversation that she was on the MBC Editor’s Search Committee. She asked if I would meet with the committee at Ballwin Baptist Church in Ballwin because the MBC wanted to start a new newspaper – one to to replace a discredited Word & Way. A few days later I met with the committee and as the saying goes – the rest is history.

However, something else important – besides my hiring – happened that day. I asked the committee what they wanted to call the new publication. I believe with all my heart that Cindy came to that meeting convinced that God had told her what He wanted the newspaper to be named. She immediately grabbed her Bible and instructed all of us to turn to Jeremiah 6:16. She read it and then urged the committee to approve The Pathway as the name of the new newspaper. It was agreed upon with little discussion and finalized with a unanimous vote. Cindy loved The Pathway and it will always be in debt to her.

Her involvement with The Pathway was but a portion of her work in Missouri Baptist life. She served on the MBC Christian Life Commission, the MBC Executive Board and just before the accident that would claim her life, she was appointed by MBC Executive Director David Tolliver to serve on the new MBC Organizational Study Group.

Her contributions to the SBC were significant as well. She served as a trustee at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. One of the many things we had in common was our love and respect for Paige Patterson, now the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Patterson served as president of Southeastern during most of Cindy’s tenure there as a trustee. It should be noted that Southeastern experienced one of its greatest periods of growth under Patterson’s leadership and while Cindy served there as a trustee.

But her love for the SBC did not end with Southeastern. She also served on the Board of Regents at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. Her devotion to Midwestern is well known.

A few weeks ago I discovered a message on my office voicemail. It was Cindy. “Don,” she said, “I just wanted to tell you that I just finished reading the latest Pathway. It was great. I am so pleased with how Pathway has turned out. It is amazing how far it has come. I just wanted to let you know.”

That was typical of my friend, Cindy.

Cindy is survived by her husband Stan, and four boys, Clay, 19; Jimmy 11; John, 9; and Tommy, 7.

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