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Thoughts of a Friend: Penny Nance Remembers Chuck Colson

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I really got to know Chuck Colson as a twenty-something when I married my husband Will, who served as his Chief of Staff. After Will left working for the ministry, I had the honor of representing Chuck and Justice Fellowship on Capitol Hill, working on the issue of religious freedom. Working with and for Chuck was such an honor. I don’t have the words to adequately describe what that time means to me and how it profoundly shaped both my view of public policy and my role today in leading Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization.

Just one example is that Chuck’s thoughtful approach to any issue was so inspiring. He taught me that advocacy must be communicated in every person’s vocabulary. Our arguments, though shaped by our worldview, must be presented for both the Ivy League academic and the local activist. We can draw from science, social science, philosophy, or even art to craft a winsome message, because we serve the God who created and reigns supreme over all of those.

Everyone knows Chuck was one of the most gifted thinkers and communicators of our time, but I got to see him deliver both soaring rhetoric and the simple message of the Gospel to everyone from Members of Congress to former prisoners with equal respect and enthusiasm. I will never be able to match his ability, but I hope I can always match his passion for truth and love for Christ.

Finally, I was fortunate to know Chuck as a friend. He was unbelievably kind and encouraging to my Will and me. He looked out for us as we were struggling newly weds, and he worked to encourage and mentor us in our careers. Chuck was so kind to make sure he commented on something I had been quoted on in the news or a rally I had spoken at. He wanted to encourage me to stand up for Christian principles and particularly welcomed a woman’s voice to the public square. I always knew he was on my team, and I could reach out to him for advice or guidance. He gave and, in return, received amazing loyalty from those he loved.

A few months ago, Will and I had lunch with Chuck and Patty in Florida. He was, as usual, talking passionately about his latest project for the kingdom and encouraging us in our work.

Chuck’s passage to be home in heaven is a difficult loss for all of us. To Patty, Wendell, Chris, and Emily, I want to say “thank you” for sharing him with the world. His ministry changed individual lives but also changed how the nation viewed and treated the least of these. We acutely feel his loss, but when I am discouraged, I will remember his charge to us in his absence: “Remain at your posts and do your duty – for the glory of God and His kingdom.” I will try to honor Chuck’s memory in just that way, by continuing to fight for the least of these and for the American family until my time comes to join him in Glory with the same passion and dignity that he modeled for me. I am so blessed to have had his example. I will work hard to live up to it.