Words of Influence

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by Joyce Herron

Founder of Trinity Christian School, Lubbock, Texas

Recently, I spent four days at a ranch for a short vacation. Fourteen others were there, too, but I only knew three of them. Among the group were business owners, doctors, nurses, teachers, and parents whose ages ranged from 50-something to 90-something. 

 We met each morning for breakfast around a long table where we had devotions, read scriptures, and prayed together. The large room and the easy schedule encouraged board games. Some shared books they were reading, and others shared books they had written. As the days progressed, we got to know each other better and became friends as we shared our life stories. We exchanged addresses and phone numbers. 

As these new friends opened up to each other, I could not help but think about the influence of spoken and written words. I considered the years of knowledge and experience accumulated just by these few individuals, and I thought about the result they will leave behind. Words have such an impact on us. 

 I shared about my Grandmother, Emma Dora Lee Donaldson, who died in 1933. She left behind a letter describing how to be saved. The note was given to my father along with the family Bible. She told him to make sure all nine of his siblings were saved. With my dad present, I had the privilege of leading the last of those nine siblings to the Lord. That family Bible and the letter were given to me with the same directive the week before my dad died. 

I was two years old when Grandmother Donaldson gave my father the letter. I am now 91. I have distributed my grandmother’s letter at every family reunion since my father gave it to me. Presently, I am preparing to attend another reunion in July and will again make sure each family member receives the letter. I am honored with this responsibility and look forward to reading it aloud at the reunion. I was only two years old when my grandmother died, but she influenced me with her words throughout my life. Now I pass her influence on to others.

Grandmother Donaldson still influences her family with that letter. Even now, four generations later, family members say, “Emma Dora Lee Donaldson rules the Donaldson clan from her grave.” 

But Grandmother Donaldson’s words aren’t the only ones influencing my life. Several letters from World War II have been passed down to me. The words contained in those letters have tremendous meaning because of their historical context. I have many stories of Grandfather Thompson, who passed six months before my mother, Seba Lee, was born. I know much about this teacher and farmer, even though I never met him. I know him through words

Each year, I choose a scripture for my children. I add it to letters, messages, and cards on birthdays and holidays. This year, I chose Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Because my father was influenced by the written Word of God and the spoken and written word of his godly mother, he dramatically impacted my life by sharing that love with our family.

What words, written or spoken, are you leaving? Have you any instructions for your children to pass on to the next generation? Consider how the following ways can leave a lasting impression on your children, grandchildren, and beyond:

God’s written Word

Church sermons



Good books, CDs, podcasts 

Christian schools

Prayer groups

Sunday School classes

Bible studies

Counsel in difficult situations

Everyday conversation about life 


Favorite Scriptures

Memories of your grandparents

Your testimony

Your heroes

Wisdom for difficult situations

Just like Emma Donaldson was uniquely qualified to speak to her progeny, you are unique, and your words are uniquely important. Use them to make a difference in the family God has given you.