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A Mother in Israel – She Loved Little Children

Sis. Juanez and Bro. Ken have played a significant role in the life of our ecclesia and all our lives individually.
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I first met Sis. Juanez (aged 18) and Bro. Kenneth Bearden (aged 20) when they arrived at my parents’ motel in San Saba, Texas. It was early April 1953, and they had just been married. They were on their honeymoon, and our motel was a convenient stop along the way where they might have a room for the night and, at the same time, visit with some other Christadelphians.

After dinner, the four adults all sat in the living room to chat and catch up with the latest news from here and there. Once the conversation slowed, I decided it was my time to help entertain our visitors. Being a precocious five-year-old, I began pulling out all my books and reading each for our visitors’ entertainment. My parents told me I went through half a dozen children’s books, ensuring they saw the illustrations, too.

Finally, Dad, bless his heart, stepped in: “George, I think it’s time for you to put up your books and go to bed. Uncle Ken and Aunt Juanez have driven a long way, and they need to get some rest.” So, my parents sent me to bed while an appreciative young couple made their getaway. 

After all, it was their honeymoon!

During the last 70 years, Sis. Juanez and Bro. Ken have become part of all our lives. In that long time, we have all learned so many things from them, at Bible classes, and certainly by their personal examples, but also from just sitting around and reminiscing about the old days. They have played a significant role in the life of our ecclesia and all our lives individually.

This February 2024, Sis. Juanez died at 88, being survived by her beloved husband, Bro. Ken, along with an extraordinary family of several generations and all those who became a part of their family along the way.

Sis. Juanez was a great organizer of all sorts of activities: Bible camps, gatherings, and Bible Schools, to mention a few. This activity may account for her children, Fred and Cyndee, following in her footsteps in so many ways. 

Juanez was gracious, generous, and supportive

When I think of Juanez, I remember the Bible passage:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. It is the Lord Jesus Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24).1

In the words of Proverbs 31, Juanez has been “a virtuous woman” (KJV), in the NIV, “a wife of noble character.” It is “worth far more than rubies.”

Juanez and Ken always opened their home to numerous guests and ecclesial family from near and far. Over the years, her home hosted Bible classes, New Year’s Eve events, baptisms and CYC picnics. I can think of no better description for Juanez than these words at the end of Proverbs: “She provided food for her family”—and for many others. Many meals were prepared in her kitchen and shared in her dining room. Many birthdays were celebrated, with many candles blown out.

The virtuous woman “opens her arms to the poor, and extends her hands to the needy.” (Proverbs 31:20). Juanez was gracious, generous, and supportive. How many people benefited over the years and decades from her love and dedication, her handiwork and hospitality? The numbers are countless. From hosting weddings and baby showers, many generations can count themselves blessed to have had Juanez involved in the most important moments of their lives.

Solomon writes, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30). Juanez was at every meeting, every ecclesial function, every gathering, every Bible School, for generations, as long as her health permitted. We all have memories of many special events, including Juanez.

“Her children arise and call her blessed.” Not just her children but also her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren, and now her great-great-grandchildren, Charlotte and Julian. And how many others who were not even a part of Juanez’s immediate family would still call her “Mee-maw”?

A few familiar verses from the Gospel of Mark will help to explain the character of Juanez:

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these’… And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16).

Jesus took little children in his arms and blessed them whenever he could. They embodied the hope of the future and the hope of the Kingdom, which he embraced and for which he longed. I feel certain he hugged the little children and kissed them, too. It is an example that we all would do well to follow at every opportunity.

Juanez was a mother. That is not an “occupation” easily undertaken. She had the most wonderful gift of love for children, for everyone, frankly, and she showed it. If you spent time with Juanez, you also saw it on display with older “children.” Even later in life, with her health issues, Juanez would always make time for all of us, even the older ones, with a whispered “I love you” and a hug or a kiss on the cheek.

Juanez was a “mother in Israel,” like Deborah of old.

Juanez was a “mother in Israel,” like Deborah of old. And that too is an important job, and a serious job too. She always cared for her family, her friends, and strangers alike. Everyone who came to know Juanez, came to know her care and compassion.

Also, like Deborah, she led by example. She provided comfort when needed, guidance when necessary, and correction when appropriate. Throughout the years, Juanez supported the ecclesia in good times and challenging times. Good “leaders” are few and far between, but she was more than that: she was a good “leader” who led with a mother’s love.

We pray to our Father in heaven that, one day, our beloved Sis. Juanez shall bloom like the rose, and sing songs of everlasting joy in God’s Kingdom. 

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy will come in the morning for Sis. Juanez, and for all of us.

George Booker,
Austin Leander Ecclesia, TX


  1. All quotations are from the NIV
Suggested Readings
The role of a mother has lately come under attack in secular society, and I suppose it makes sense. If we don’t see the role of a mother as a unique manifestation of God’s character, we probably don’t appreciate the role as we should.
John tries to put into words how awe-inspiring, almost unbelievable, the love of God is.
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:4-5
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