On Friday, March 25, 2011, at 5:50 a.m. EST, Chris Ingram took his last breath and entered into the presence of God Almighty.
I believe he was met with: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Only 53 years old, Chris Ingram had spent the past two and a half decades determinedly living out the two commandments issued to all of us by Jesus Christ: Love God, love people.
Ingram grew up in North Carolina, working on a family farm. Perhaps not the most traditional training for a future missionary, but God does not always work traditionally. In a written testimony, Chris expressed his confidence that God would use him and his special expertise:
“Since I was a young boy in my teens, I have always sensed that God had a special plan for my life. Christ can use agriculture to meet the needs of individuals physically and open the doors to meet their spiritual needs.”
In 1987, Chris and his wife Claudia were appointed as missionaries with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board and went to Uruguay. Chris used every skill he had learned on the farmlands of North Carolina to benefit the Uruguayan people. At one time or another, he managed orchards, cattle and chicken operations, gardens, and strawberry fields.
He also fulfilled the more common responsibilities of foreign missionaries in formal preaching and church planting. He reached out to people, speaking at schools, assisting in the growth of many local churches and supporting native pastors.
True to the sage wisdom that if you give a man a fish he eats for one day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime, Chris trained others not only in farming for physical sustenance but in the importance of spiritual sustenance as well. Formally, Chris Ingram was mentoring 11 Uruguayan missionaries at the time of his death, but many calculate the unofficial number to be much higher.
Last year, Claudia began experiencing some health issues, so the Ingrams headed back to the United States to have her examined and treated. While here, Chris underwent his mandatory physical, as required by the self-insured International Mission Board. That examination revealed that Chris, while without symptoms, had a rare form of leukemia.
My family had the privilege of praying for the Ingrams. Their youngest daughter, Maryann, was a college classmate of my daughter Esther. What I see in Maryann is the embodiment of God’s promises fulfilled. The Bible says God honors those who honor him .
Chris Ingram honored God with his life. God honored him in many ways, including a living legacy of faithfulness in his daughters.
Many great life events are transpiring in the Ingram family over the next few months. Maryann is engaged to be married in September. Her older sister Emily expects the Ingrams’ first grandchild in Uruguay this week. Due to Emily’s condition, she was unable to be with her father in his last days or attend his memorial service.
One can’t help but wonder why a man so wholly committed to God’s service would be taken from this world at this time, in this way. In thinking over Chris Ingram’s life, I am reminded of the story of Job and realize it is not my place to question.
I do understand one simple fact: Chris’ work was not about him or for him; it wasn’t even really ‘his’ work. It was always about God, and, because of that, it will continue. Chris Ingram impacted many lives: his daughters, the missionaries and pastors he mentored, his co-laborers, and a multitude of people – in two countries, on two continents, some of whom, like me, he never met.
In his life and in his death, Chris Ingram serves to remind us all of the importance of a life, no matter how short or long lived, devoted purposefully, unashamedly to the glory of God.
God had given Chris a dream, a big dream: the establishment of a Uruguayan missions training center. To that end, the family has requested that memorial contributions be sent in care of: Jessie Crooks Evangelistic Association P.O. Bo 2445, Thomasville, NC 27321, for the purpose of seeing that dream fulfilled.