Extra header image

December 2021

Family's CD release celebrates cancer survival

When Jon Mark and Hillary Hester released their new CD through Regeneration Ministries in early 2021, it didn’t just mark a new chapter in the ministry’s life. It also celebrated the conclusion of a chapter in the life of their young son, Jonathan, as he battled pediatric cancer.

Titled 1,009 Days, the CD features just five songs but packs a powerful punch as the liner notes detail the nearly three-year journey Jonathan and his family endured and the worship music that

Mom and son cuddling
Hillary with Jonathan in the hospital

got them through it all. While Jonathan rang the victory bell in October 2020 and was declared cancer-free, his parents are fully aware that the story could have ended very differently.

“Jonathan’s oncologist said he was the sickest kid he’s had that survived,” said Jon Mark, a 2001 graduate of Wayland. “We agree that this is a miraculous healing.”

The nightmare begins

The Hesters’ life took an amazing turn around Christmas of 2017, when the family was out of town visiting Hillary’s parents. On the night of Dec. 27, Jonathan snuck out of bed to grab a cookie from the kitchen and ran into his mom.

“He tried to pitch a fit and couldn’t get the air for it,” Jon Mark recalls. “He started turning ashy gray, so we ran him to the ER, thinking it might be asthma.”

The local hospital gave him a breathing treatment, but the doctor also ordered a chest x-ray. When the room cleared of medical personnel, Jonathan began getting agitated and again lost his breath. It took more than a minute to resuscitate him, and the family knew this was bigger than asthma.

Dad and son worship
Jon Mark plays music for his son.

Soon, the doctor returned with the x-rays; a grapefruit-sized tumor had crushed one lung and nearly crushed the other, and now it was pushing on his heart.

The doctors transferred Jonathan immediately to the children’s hospital in Lubbock for further testing. Blood tests confirmed t-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma, an aggressive cancer the oncologist told them probably grew to that size in a month. The good news? The oncologist actually had helped write the treatment protocol while at St. Jude’s, and chemotherapy had proven highly effective on that cancer.

Keeping Jonathan breathing was key in his immediate treatment plan, giving the chemo time to make an impact on the tumor. Intubation and a ventilator was required to keep him stable until the tumor began to die back and shrink. It eventually did, but the entire treatment regimen lasted nearly three years. And while Jon Mark and Hillary knew all the details of what their young son was enduring, the patient himself did not.

“He was only 2 ½ when it happened, and he didn’t really understand. He was so incredibly trusting of us. That’s all he knew, that we would take care of him,” Jon Mark said. Jonathan’s initial stay in ICU lasted seven weeks, but was in and out of the hospital and clinics regularly as his lowered immunity meant infections or the risk of them was constant.

Despite the ups and downs, Jonathan was able to celebrate the end of his treatment on October 4, 2020, by ringing the bell at the hospital. He’s six now, attending school at Plainview's Highland Elementary and by all accounts a normal, healthy kid.

Going through the fire

Some of the Hesters’ richest memories include how others rallied around them and how music interwove through the entire story.

“We were absolutely surrounded by community, by church, friends, family and Wayland alumni, and that was amazing and helped us get through so much,” said Jon Mark, noting a local heating and air conditioning company donated an HVAC system so Jonathan could come home with his breathing issues. “It is a shock; it’s trauma and hard to make decisions. There was one family from church whose son had cancer when he was little, and one of the first things they did was come to ICU and just sat and prayed with us.”

The Hesters prayed as well, though Jon Mark admits they were often lost for words. So they turned to something they knew so well as longtime worship leaders: music.

“I’m really glad I knew the stories of Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail, that the worshippers were

Hesters visiting
The siblings visit Jonathan

sent in first. We knew it would be important, but we had trouble singing at first,” notes Jon Mark. “We put on a Spotify list and had an iPad on his bed playing worship music over him almost constantly. We had friends we stayed with in Lubbock, and we once walked into them having a praise night in their living room and we joined in with them.”

Once Jonathan was awake, he wanted to join in the singing. Due to the long-term intubation, he had to relearn how to speak and eat, so his singing was more of a whisper early on. Jon Mark borrowed a guitar from the hospital’s child life specialists and began singing and playing over Jonathan. Some of the songs the family played were from church worship sets and some were sent to them by friends or family. One song, “Sweet Jesus,” became Jonathan’s favorite and he would not go to bed without singing it.

Jon Mark said he felt God leading him to tell the story of Jonathan’s journey and healing, both in words and in music. So the group embarked on a CD project, recording songs in the home of their bass player with keyboard assistance from Jon Mark’s sister Melanie. In the end, five songs made the cut. The Hesters are in agreement on the most special one.

“For me, it’s ‘Raise a Hallelujah,’ written by a worship leader for some friends who had a child in a very similar circumstance. It came around the same time this all started, and we had some friends that heard it and made sure we heard it,” said Hillary, who graduated in 2002 from WBU.

Lasting impacts

Once produced, the Hesters sold the CDs to support their ministry and gave many away to nurses and doctors who became like family during the journey, something Hillary felt was a way to give back to those who did so much. The CD has not only sold well at camps, churches and special events, but it has also provided a vehicle for the family to give God the glory for the healing of their son and the valuable lessons they learned along the way.

“I learned that the temptation is often to mourn things that have not come to pass and be afraid of them, forgetting to celebrate the successes,” Jon Mark said. “If you do that, you’re going to burn out. We learned to celebrate every success no matter how small and to mourn only the losses we already had. We also learned that whether God feels close or not has nothing to do with whether He is, because He is always close.”

Hillary says the ordeal gave her a different perspective on trauma.

“For me, it’s an understanding of cancer and how it affects families. We were ignorant because we had never experienced that before. There are so many situations you really can’t understand if you haven’t gone through it,” she says. “It really takes over your family and your mental clarity and every part of you. This has changed how I think and feel when it comes to other people.”

While his parents may have been front and center, Jonathan’s older siblings were not immune from

Cancer walk crowd

The Hesters at the 2021 Cancer Walk

the impact of his illness. Homeschooled at the time, the three oldest Hester children split time between their grandparents, with Jon Mark’s mother taking on the brunt of teaching duties to keep them on track in their learning. But they missed their brother.

“I was amazed at how our kids handled themselves with the trauma. Keeping their school going was huge to give them something they could do instead of just focusing on their own loss. It gave them some normalcy,” said Hillary. “They did get to visit the hospital as much as they could. Facetime really helped, and it was a huge blessing for him and for me. It truly brightened up the whole day when we had visits and were not totally isolated.”

At the end of the day, the Hesters feel their ministry is even richer as they have honed the art of worship during the hardest time they’ve endured.

“We learned a lot about praising God through any circumstance and about healing. It is no mistake when Jesus healed the paralyzed man that He forgave his sins first. The physical healing is amazing, and we are extremely grateful for that, but that spiritual healing is permanent,” notes Jon Mark.

“A lot of prayers can be for God to change our circumstances, but the 23rd Psalm was huge for me. David gets it. Especially that part of walking through the valley of the shadow of death…. There were kids around Jonathan’s room that died. We saw that. But God was right there walking through it with us.”

Note: Written by Teresa Young, this story was originally published in the Plainview Herald in October.


Alumnus ministers through estate sale business

The saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” may be up for debate. But Judy Williams and her business partner are banking on the truth that has kept antiquers and garage sale hunters going for decades.

Judy, a 1980 graduate of Wayland and former employee, runs an estate sale business with longtime friend Melody Marrow – a former Plainview resident and mom of 2007 WBU grad T.J. Marrow and 2009 grad Allen Marrow. Calling their venture JM Estate Liquidators, the ladies operate in both Plainview and in the Belton area since Melody moved there with husband Tim a few years ago.

“I’ve known Tim since I was a kid, and Melody and I got to be good friends,” explains Judy. “We’d go to estate sales together or just junkin’, basically, and we just loved it. We started talking about doing something like this and all of a sudden, we were doing it.”

The pair hung out their shingle in October 2016, with their first sale held in January 2017.

Preparing for the sale

The process itself is pretty simple: a family reaches out with interest in an estate sale, typically because someone has passed away and left a home full of possessions. Judy goes into the home and assesses how long it might take to organize everything and when a sale might be possible, working with the family’s timeline if necessary. If they contract her to do the job, she begins pretty soon.

“Typically, the family has already been through and pulled anything they want and everything personal. Then we have to go through and pull everything out. Drawers and closets have to be emptied. We have to know what’s there and price everything and organize it,” notes Judy. “A lot of

Judy Williams
Judy examines copperware in a home.

times we do research to find out what something might cost, what’s the history of this jet nose cone, for example. We’ve had some other unique items, like World War II era German items.”

The cleaning and sorting process usually takes 4-6 weeks, though some have taken longer or needed less depending on how many things are being handled. While Judy admits the job is hard work – imagine cleaning EVERY item out of your own home and sorting it all out in a matter of weeks – she does say it is fascinating to uncover treasures and to learn about people.

“The discovery is the most fun for me… discovering treasures and where people come from,” she says. “We don’t disclose ourselves very often, but when you go through someone’s home, you find out a lot about them, and maybe some things you don’t want to know.”

Uncovering the unique

While the cleaning usually reveals the standard items one would expect in someone’s home – clothing, jewelry, furniture, household goods and decorative items – there are also some items that the junker in Judy finds of greater interest.

“It’s very interesting when you go into a military home, because it’s just very different. It can be really fascinating,” Judy says. “In one home, we had one room full of military stuff since the owner was a Marine. His dress blues were there and all kinds of fatigues.”

She notes that they often come across collectible games, like a 1940s era Monopoly game, remote control airplanes and boats and other fun items. Historical things like the military memorabilia are also fun to uncover. Those are the things that get the collectors out to the estate sales once they are announced.

“We are just trying to rid the house of things, so when we open it to the public and they know what’s in there, they come crawling,” she says, noting it would be too time-consuming to contact specific collectors or entities who might like some of the items featured in a sale. “A lot of people are collectors or antique dealers, or people who sell on Ebay. These people just love things, then they go sell them.”

And yes, Judy admits she’s been a customer of her own sales when she’s found some particularly unique things that appeal to her personally.

Ministering to families

But for Judy, the reward comes in helping families who are freshly grieving to get some closure and move past a hard task for many to undertake.

“We really wanted to do this as a ministry to those who are grieving. It’s hard to go through your family’s stuff,” she said. “We had one that was very tough. The mother and son died within a short time of each other, and the sister was left with the home and all that was in it. They had been going through things but it was just hard. She was always on the verge of tears or teary, so that was tough.”

Conversely, estate sale personnel are able to handle the task without the emotions getting in the way, helping the family bring the best prices for their possessions and giving them peace of mind. They can be involved if they wish but typically, Judy says, the families do not make more contact until the sale is over and they are finalizing the paperwork.

JM Sign
Sign marking a sale

What happens to the items that go unsold is up to the families, but typically Judy says they pay them to take them away. She usually calls the Salvation Army since they will come pick up items and they are a ministry themselves. The sale is usually held in the family home, with real estate agents often referring families to Judy and vice versa. They always get questions about the sale of the home but refer those to realtors handling those details.

“The estate sales we do are often people I’ve known or they have been referred to me by people I know. I also pray about it,” Judy says. “You can’t just walk into someone’s house and know what to do. I pray that God leads me to the right place. It’s a ministry, not a job you just walk in and do. For both of us, it’s a ministry.”

For Judy, it’s also a jump back into the work force after some years at home and as a part-time secretary at College Heights Baptist Church. After graduating from Wayland, she headed to seminary, earning a degree in religious education. Finding few open jobs at that time, she returned to Plainview and enrolled in more coursework. At that time, registrar Audrey Boles offered her a job as an evaluator in the external records office, and she held that role for seven years before moving into the position of assistant registrar. She moved into the registrar’s role in November 1994, leaving in January 2000 to stay at home with her children.

“Katie was 2 at the time, and it really was harder with three kids. I needed to be home with her and my other two, Jared and Sarah,” she noted. “We homeschooled for several years, then when Katie went into the seventh grade, I went to work at College Heights. We started the estate sale business shortly after I left there.”

Judy’s husband Ken works in quality assurance at Pioneer Seed. All three children are grown, with Katie (EX'17) a new college graduate, Sarah (BA'14) married and living in Brazil and Jared in Lubbock.

Because of the time it takes to prepare a home and hold the sale, Judy and Melody are not able to do many each year. For 2021, they’ve completed five each (in both locations), but some years have had as many as seven or eight. She has a few employees that help her as they are able while preparing the home for a sale. It can be a lot of long hours and hard work, but she still says it’s enjoyable.

“I hated doing my own garage sales, but I love doing this,” she laughs. “I can leave this here and come back to it. At home it’s still all there.”


Devotional: Advent brings light to the weary

Advent has become a favorite season of mine. I grew up lighting candles in a Methodist Church as a young child. And then I didn't really get acquainted with it again until I became a children's minister. Aside from the slight panic I have as we give children an open flame in church, it is a beautiful season. 

While each week holds special meaning and a special message, the week we celebrate joy is my favorite. If you ask any of kids in my children's ministry what Ms. Abby's favorite word is, they will tell you, "Joy!" And they would be correct. 

As I was reflecting on the joy in Advent, the joy in Christmas, I thought of how much light the birthAdvent wreath of Jesus brought. This is the light that would right all that was wrong, and all that was heavy, and all that caused weariness. 

We are weary. Can I get an, "Amen?" So much of the last two years has been trudging from one thing to the next. The Israelites were no stranger to this feeling. They trudged through life, living in a mess that they mostly created for themselves, all the while looking toward the promised Messiah that would cause them to rejoice. 

In the darkness of Bethlehem, the time came; the promised Messiah was born. The star settled in its place. Everything changed. And a weary world began to rejoice, because a new glorious morning was on the horizon. 

"Oh Holy Night" proclaims this message. The end of the first verse reads: "A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.'" A powerful declaration, rejoicing in the weariness. Perhaps it's the anthem for this time of living in the waiting between two advents, the birth of Jesus and the return of Jesus. 

Joy and hard times can hold the same space. We aren't betraying one when we feel the other. Both are holy. Both bring life. Both point us to Jesus. Both remind us of the hope we find as we begin to look for joy. 

In 1 Peter 1, there is encouragement found in the hope of eternal life, the life that Jesus, the baby in a manger, came to bring. Verse six says this: "Be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while." 

During this season of Advent, might we remember the joy that is ahead. Might we remember that just over there, just ahead of us, there is something new and glorious. Might we dare to hope for the blessing of joy. And might we dare to rejoice as we anticipate what is to come.”

Abby Manes is a 2016 graduate of Wayland and serves as the children's minister at First Baptist Church in Muleshoe, Texas. 


From the History Files

This month's history recap continues a series about some of the historic buildings on the main campus in Plainview, where Wayland was founded in 1908.

Brown Chapel interior
Interior of Brown Chapel in early years

A gift from Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Brown, the Brown Memorial Chapel was dedicated on campus in May 1978 following graduation, located between the Van Howeling Library and the Flores Bible Building on the northeast corner. Initially it was constructed like a small church-life venue, with pews, a small stage with pulpit and chairs. A piano and organ flanked the stage. A restroom suite for men and women just off the main foyer served often as bridal suites. Smaller restrooms and storage areas were housed behind the main chapel area.

Brown Chapel exterior
Brown exterior, early years

Over the decades, the chapel would see use for smaller speaker events, preaching engagements, honor society inductions and many weddings of Wayland students.  Beginning in the 2000s, the use began to wane. So in th early 2010s, the university gained permission from the Brown family descendents to renovate the brick structure into amore usable space. 

Inside the foyer, the chapel area was redesigned to include a new office suite with two offices and a space for administrative assistant. The remaining chapel space was left intact, minus the church pews and stage area, with new carpet and fresh neutral paint added.

The facility is home to the Wayland Mission Center and the Office of Spiritual Life, headed by Donnie Brown. It is often used now for smaller meetings and gatherings, blood drives and more. The Brown Family's generosity lives on in the special, repurposed space.



Meet Your Alumni Board: Sara Perez Silva

Sara Silva is quite familiar with the Wayland family. Not only did she attend, earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1993, but she also married a fellow Pioneer, John, a 1992 graduate. But her exposure to WBU started earlier as the child of a 1975 graduate, the late Manuel Perez, and former student Elizabeth Perez. 

Then Sara and John sent two sons to follow in their footsteps at Wayland. Manny graduated in 2018

Silva couple
John and Sara Silva

and recently moved to San Antonio after completing his graduate degree at Baylor. Jonah is a 2019 graduate and works at the Baptist camp in Floydada. Daughter Savannah is a freshman at Dallas Baptist.

When Sara joined the Alumni Executive Board in August 2021, she became one of the only alumni to serve in that capacity with a family member. Her sister-in-law, Sarah Wallace, is also a new member, and the combined families share many Wayland graduates in common. She wanted to take that legacy a step further.

"For several years now I have been a behind-the-scenes advocate for Wayland by recruiting students, promoting Wayland at several Texas Baptists events and recently promoting the Wayland Hispanic Leadership Scholarship," Sara says. "I am ready to volunteer in the front line."

A resident of Lubbock, Sara is a medical management specialist for Amerigroup and is an avid runner.