The life of Melissa Wootton Phillips was celebrated July 7 at a memorial service in Springfield, Ill. Melissa, 53, an associate executive director for the Illinois Baptist State Association, died July 2 after a nearly year-long battle with cancer.
“She knew that joy and peace come from loving the Lord,” said her oldest daughter, Laura. That’s what enabled her mother, Laura remembered, to look at a doctor near the end of her life and say, “I’m not scared. I’m not.”
“She wasn’t scared because she knew the Lord,” Laura said, urging those in attendance without a relationship with Jesus not to leave the church before exploring the thing her mother had staked her life on.
“If ever a woman lived for the Lord, it was Melissa,” said Mike Keppler, pastor of Springfield Southern Baptist Church. At her memorial service, Melissa was remembered as an active, dedicated member of that congregation, and an advocate for missions.
Keppler recalled how she promoted Weeks of Prayer for missionaries, crediting her parents, James and Mary Lou Wootton, for passing along that particular gift. The Woottons served as missionaries in South Korea while Melissa was growing up.
“She evidenced a life of missions,” Evelyn Tully, former director of women’s missions for IBSA, told the Illinois Baptist. Melissa served four years as vice president for missions support within Illinois Woman’s Missionary Union, and led a mission team to Kazakhstan during the state’s partnership with that country. She was also active in her church’s missions programs for children, teens and women.
She began working at IBSA at the age of 18, newly graduated from high school and recently married to Doug Phillips. The couple later had two daughters: Laura, married in 2013 to Caleb Adams, and Melinda, married this summer to Adam Holler.
“Her value to IBSA was evident from day one, as was her value as a friend,” IBSA retiree Janet Craynon, who hired Melissa, told the IB. “I saw her through days of juggling her work, a young family and church involvement—all with an amazing ease and dedication to excellence.”
Melissa had recently celebrated 35 years with the Association. “She could help us find anything, do anything, solve anything,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams, whose son is married to the Phillips’ daughter Laura.
“She was the person who did whatever you needed,” Adams said. He also noted that Melissa was Christ-like in special ways. “Her unique light shined on us in a way that reflected God’s glory.”
He read aloud verses from Fanny Crosby’s 1875 hymn “All The Way My Savior Leads Me,” dedicating the third verse to Melissa:
All the way my Savior leads me
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way.
Along with her husband, daughters and sons-in-law, Melissa is survived by her parents, James and Mary Lou, four siblings, and several nieces, nephews and cousins.
Such a nice piece to remember an awesome sister in Christ!
I remember when Melissa was first hired by IBSA. She was special then -helpful and willing to serve – and she remained so through the years I had the privilege of working with her in association responsibilities.
We always kidded Melissa about being the REAL Executive Director! She was a wonderful role-model for us all and her ministry through IBSA has made a tremendous impact on our efforts and will continue to bear fruit for years to come. Praying for her family and the IBSA Staff during your time of godly sorrow.