Nearly four years after the passing of renowned American evangelist Dr. William R. Bright, Vonette Bright stepped on stage to receive the Christian Patriarch of the Century award on behalf of her late husband. She was attending the 400th anniversary celebration of the landing of the first English settlers in North America on Sunday, Apr. 29, where 4,000 Christians were renewing their commitment to God.
Vonette Bright and her husband have been dubbed the power couple and "Bill" Bright's ministry has been considered second only to evangelist Billy Graham's, with some saying it outstrips Graham's. Bill Bright's dream was to evangelize the world and spread the gospel to everyone who will listen. Vonette Bright signed a contract with her husband to give everything to the Lord. As she carries on the fulfilling of the Great Commission, she looks at the nation today, hoping America will turn back to God.
CP: We're here rededicating this nation back to God. What values do want to rededicate today?
Bright: I think we have become so wrapped up in our successes in this nation and the wonderful things that have happened. But we've many times forgotten where we've come from, the price that people paid in coming to this country and the foundation that they laid for us to make it such an outstanding country. So I think it's wonderful to be able to recall that Christian heritage and then to be praying together trying to right some of the wrongs of the nation and trusting that we'll all be touched by God in a special way to live a more God-honoring life.
CP: What about the Christians? We talk about how America has become increasingly secularized, but is there anything Christians have lost and they we need to rededicate as well?
Bright: I think Christians have been touched by the world and we've enjoyed many of the prosperity that we've inherited from our forefathers – the free enterprise system, our whole form of government. But along with the good things that we've enjoyed, we've also neglected some very important aspects of our country. For example, this country was founded on the basis of the Ten Commandments. And of course that's Judeo and Christian, but now the Ten Commandments have been removed from our public buildings. When the Ten Commandments were given to us, they were given to us as a guide, not to put us under law or under subjection, but to give us freedom. So I think that's one of the things that we've lost – the real respect for the Ten Commandments.
And then the golden rule – do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
CP: Right now we're in a post-9/11 and a post-Virginia Tech era. But in those tragedies we were able to see an outpouring of prayer and a lot of strength and unity especially with the students on campus. What does that tell you especially in the context of the campus ministry movement?
Bright: I think God is trying to speak to us in terms of these tragedies coming along. With 9/11, it was the first time that we've ever been attacked in this country by a foreign nation and it had been a great tragedy. But I think it's a wake-up call. And then we saw the Columbine incident and others - and of course this one in Virginia was the worst thing that has happened. But we're told that, in times like this, the Bible tells us (I believe the Bible is God's textbook to mankind) how to live and how to respond to each other. But it [also] tells us that before Jesus comes there's going to be greater violence, many more difficulties, storms and earthquakes, disagreements and all kinds of things. So it's probably a sign of the times.
But also it's a wake-up time for us to get back to where we have been in our relationship with God, our dependence upon Him. He's the one who controls the world. We better begin to look to see 'What are we doing that is not really pleasing to Him.' And that's not just as a nation, but we as a people. And I think that's what this helps us to do, to come back to 'Where am I wrong? What is it that God wants to change in my life to make me more pleasing to Him and a better citizen?'
CP: How would you describe this younger generation? Where do you see them going?
Bright: I think this generation is very sensitive. I think they're very intelligent. I think the thinking generation is very deep at analyzing history and I'm very encouraged. For instance, my grandchildren seem to have a great grasp in their studies and my oldest grandson is majoring in history in college along with theater arts. But I believe that they're spiritually sensitive because they have seen the material kinds of things that we (the generation before) have given to them as not satisfying. There's got to be something more to life, more meaning to life than just the material. I'm encouraged by the young generation, I think they're thinking people, unselfish and beginning to turn away from the 'me' concept – everything is for me. That's a little bit different from my children's age. My grandchildren are more concerned with other things than 'just what I want.'
CP: We've been talking about prayer and praying this entire day. What's your one prayer for this nation?
Bright: I had a part in helping the National Day of Prayer become a definite date. I think it's wonderful that this is preceding the National Day of Prayer and will help us. My prayer for this nation is found in Jeremiah 24:7 – I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord and they shall be my people, and I will be their God for they shall return to me with their whole heart. I love that. So that we will come back to God.