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On Wednesday, December 19, 1984, Joy quietly left behind her "earthen vessel" to enter into the presence of her beloved Lord. She was just over 81 years old. Her successor as General Director, Larry Allmon, speaking at the private funeral service, said he felt the verse that seemed to fit Joy's life best was II Corinthians 4:7 "... we have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us." Joy knew and accepted that principle long ago, he said, and it had freed her to be available, and useable, and expendable - always with great rejoicing.
It had freed her to relinquish responsibility when the time came, too, which is sometimes the most difficult thing of all to do. Larry had accepted the leadership of Gospel Recordings in 1978 at the request of the U.S. Board of Directors, and the transition was easy for Joy, who truly welcomed it. From that time on, Joy became known officially as the "Founder" while Larry served as General Director.
Yet for him that appointment had come about suddenly and unexpectedly. He had not even been a staff member, merely the newest Board Member when he was asked to represent them at the international meeting of the six autonomous Gospel Recordings organizations to be held in Bangalore, India, in January of that year. The five former "branches" were now fully autonomous centres - each with its own organizationsl structure, policies, and priorities. Representatives were coming from Sydney, Australia; Gloucester, Great Britain; Bangalore, India; Toronto, Canada; and Cape Town, South Africa. John and Lillian Gray would be there, too, on their way to Hong Kong to oversea the manufacture of the revolutionary handcranked GRIP cassette player which had been developed by the Gospel Recordings - Australia organization. But it was as the plane flew quietly some 40,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean that Larry Allmon was suddenly impressed with a deep, unshakeable conviction that God's plan for him and his family was taking a new, dramatic turn. By the time he reached India he knew what God was calling him to do. He was to make application to join Gospel Recordings as a full-time staff member!
It came as rather a shock, for he was fully engaged as Personnel Director for a large public school district in San Diego County at the time. Before that his main job had been Bible teaching - first in Morocco with the "Voice of Tangier;" then in Madrid, Spain, with The Evangelical Alliance Mission; then he had pastored two churches in California and been involved in teaching and administration in a Christian high school. With that background he wondered what he could do at Gospel Recordings since he was not technically oriented or young enough to be a field recordist.
The U.S.A. Board of Directors and staff at Los Angeles did not wonder. At that June Board meeting in 1978, Larry and his wife were accepted as staff members, and he was asked to assume responsibilities as the next General Director.
Joy was still occupying her tiny flat on the Gospel Recordings compound. Her physical condition was deteriorating and her memory failing, but she was always ready to pray and to rejoice, as everyone who visited her knew. Then, after her birthday in March, 1984, she had to go into the hospital for surgery; and although the operation was successful, it had become apparent that it would no longer be possible for any one person to be responsible to give her the care she needed.
But God was preparing out of His abundant provision for His servant. Just when it became necessary to relocate her, a vacancy occurred in the Health Care Unit at "Quaker Gardens" in Stanton, California, where she had a number of friends.
During those last months it was very difficult for Joy to communicate (her speech was not usually intelligible), except in prayer. Her sweet spirit, however, still blessed those who came in daily contact with her, as well as the visitors who came to see her. Though she was past being able to remember all that the Lord had done through her life, the work which she began out of faithful obedience to God was continuing all around the world.
At the large memorial service held on Sunday, January 13, 1985 there were many present from Joy's past: her sister, Amy Hillis; Ann Sherwood and Sanna Barlow Rossi; Stuart and Molly Mill from Australia; Robertson McQuilkin, President of Columbia Bible College; Bob Bowman of the Far East Broadcasting Company; besides Virginia Miller, Herman Dyk, and many others whose lives had been permanently changed by Joy's ministry during her earthly sojourn. One could only imagine what it was like for her, who had joined the multitudes of redeemed people in heavenly worship of the King of Kings - many who had first heard the Gospel message on those little records and cassettes!
She has passed out of our sight now, but her works follow her.
At the original headquarters of the work she founded in Los Angeles, the Mission was re-examining its principles, which were subsequently identified as the following:
"TO EVERY ONE IN HIS OWN TONGUE" - that is, that every unreached people group (and by extension, every individual) should have the opportunity to hear the recorded Gospel message in its own language or dialect.
"FREELY YE HAVE RECEIVED... FREELY GIVE" - this practice would be maintained in order to reflect the very nature of the Gospel itself. No charge would be made for the priceless, message-bearing recordings and players.
"IN EVERYTHING, BY PRAYER" - a renewed determination to make the work move ahead by prayer, continuing to spend at least one day each week in praising God and intercession.
"PRAY THE LORD OF THE HARVEST FOR LABORERS" - just as the first workers were brought by the Lord to the work in answer to prayer, so the Mission would continue to "recruit" additional staff members by praying them in.
"REJOICE, GIVE THANKS, AND SING!" - the discipline Joy adopted in making it a deliberate choice to rejoice, especially when there was no visible cause for such rejoicing, would be encouraged both within the staff and among the friends of the Mission.
"MAKE KNOWN HIS DEEDS AMONG THE PEOPLE" - the original "two-fold purpose" of the work included this passion for encouraging believers in the churches by sharing with them reports of the constant stream of miracles experienced in this part of the Lord's harvest.
"GOD SHALL SUPPLY ALL OUR NEEDS - BY FAITH" - there was to be no equivocating on this basic means for financing the work; just a simple trust in God to move the hearts of individual believers within His Body without any public mention of financial needs or asking for donations directly or indirectly.
In 1986 there were eleven nationalities (American, Brazilian, British, Colombian, Dutch, French, German, Nepalese, Nigerian, Singaporean, and a former South African) represented on the staff at Gospel Recordings U.S.A. working in Africa, Europe, North and South America and Asia. All had come to the Mission with the same conviction that God had led them to the work, and all had come fully trusting in the Lord's ability to provide all their needs from day to day. And the miracles go on...
Typical of the way the Lord still provides for the work, was the recent account of just one week in Los Angeles. Financially, the work had nearly come to a stand-still. On that Monday morning the General Fund balance was $413.10. This was all the money in hand to pay current bills (amounting to $3,826.63) due to be paid by Friday!
The mail for Monday and Tuesday brought in additional gifts totalling $779.20. That meant there was only $1,192.30 towards the payment of financial obligations which included rents, some overseas base expenses, telephone bills and several other items. To make matters worse, insurance policies were threatened with cancellation as there was not enough on hand to pay the annual premiums. Nor was there any money in the postage meter that week for mailing out those previous packages of Gospel records and cassettes and players (about $1,200 was needed.)
Consistent with the Mission's experience in trusting the Lord day by day, there were no "reserve funds" - only the reassuring awareness that the principal Resource was and is, in fact, God Himself.
The total need? Close to $12,000! On hand? $1,192 in the General Fund, and $3,306 in the insurance premium fund - PLUS the promise of God to supply all the needs of those who trust in Him!
On that Wednesday Prayer Day, the Staff divided into seven small bands, moving periodically to seven different locations around the office and factory where each group was led in a review of each of the basic principles of the Mission. The promises of the Word of God became so fresh and encouraging to the group as they again made it their choice to rejoice, especially difficult in the light of the bleak financial situation.
While opening the morning's mail on Thursday, Marjorie Johnson startled nearby co-workers with a series of loud "hoorays." The reason? A check representing the proceeds from a Living Trust amounting to $9,224.39! God's precise timing was a source of renewed awe at His working, for the donor had passed away in 1981 - four and one half years previously! Yet on the very day following another deep testing of rejoicing faith, the Lord brought in the prayed-for finances! There could be absolutely no mistaking His hand in providing the needed funds on that day!
No appeal for funds had been made (Gospel Recordings - U.S.A.'s 47-year-old commitment!);
No manipulating of bank accounts and balances (there were none to manipulate!);
No mentioning of financial needs to potential donors, not even by hinting!
All together, gifts received on Thursday and Friday came to $10,405.39!
All bills were paid - all needs were met by God! Again!
Here was a fresh, new instance of the faithfulness of the Lord so similar to those experienced many times since the beginning of the work of Gospel Recordings.
And the latest count of languages and dialects in which the life-changing Gospel message has been recorded? 4,377 !
"TO GOD BE THE GLORY, GREAT THINGS HE HATH DONE!"