In Memoriam: Vonette Bright, Co-Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ

Vonette BrightVonette Zachary Bright, Co-Founder of the world’s largest Christian ministry, Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru in the U.S.), slipped into eternity December 23, 2015, about a month after being diagnosed with acute leukemia.

“Mother is singing and hugging and worshipping and celebrating in Heaven!” Brad and Kathy Bright announced on the day of Vonette’s homegoing. “Our hearts are overflowing with tears and joy. She was influencing lives to the end. As one of her caregivers left, she told us that Mother changed her life, got her back on track and right with Jesus. She ran well to the end.”

Fueled by a desire to help others meet Christ and learn to follow Him, Vonette and her late husband, Dr. William “Bill” R. Bright, spent more than half a century leading and building Campus Crusade for Christ to its current size of more than 25,000 staff members and 300,000 volunteers working in 173 countries.

“Vonette and Bill founded this ministry on prayer and faith in God,” recalled Steve Douglass, President of Cru. “And she has led us very well by her example and encouragement. She was always so enthusiastic and positive. Judy and I and all of us as staff around the world have been so blessed by her.”

In 1951, the Brights launched Campus Crusade for Christ at UCLA with the goal to “win the campus today, win the world tomorrow.” Though the Campus Ministry is still the largest branch of Campus Crusade, it is joined by other ministries like Athletes in Action, The JESUS Film Project, The Josh McDowell Ministry, and FamilyLife.

Moreover, Vonette’s influence reached far beyond Campus Crusade for Christ. Her commitment to prayer led to the founding of the National Prayer Committee, a group of leaders who seek to motivate other Christians to unite in prayer for spiritual awakening in America. In 1988, she successfully petitioned Congress to designate the first Thursday of every May as the permanent day for the National Day of Prayer. Unanimously approved by both houses of Congress, President Ronald Reagan signed the legislation into law. She then served for nine years as Chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. The movement today includes more than 2 million people in 30,000 observances around the country.

“Today, I have lost a dear friend and we will miss her,” remarked Shirley Dobson, Chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. “What an impact she has made for the kingdom. She is a great saint and I know she is hearing those words ‘well done, thy good and faithful servant.’”

In a 2011 letter to Vonette, Rev. Billy Graham wrote, “Your single-minded focus on the power of intercessory prayer has been both an encouragement to my life and a model for the church. Heavenly records will one day reveal the full impact of your prayer life and the teaching ministry in the lives of countless persons who have come to faith in Christ.”

In 1993, Vonette launched Women Today International, a ministry responding to the needs of women as they grow in their relationships with Jesus Christ.

Vonette served as Chairwoman of Bright Media Foundation, which strives to make the writings and teachings of the Brights available to each generation. She authored more than a dozen books, most highlighting the themes of prayer, evangelism, walking with God, and hospitality.

Vonette was named "Churchwoman of the Year" by Religious Heritage of America in 1973; honored as "International Church Woman of the Year" by Religion in America and named distinguished alumna of Texas Woman's University in 1982; and named Christian Woman of the Year in 1995.

Most recently, Vonette was named the recipient of the National Religious Broadcasters’ 2016 Board of Directors Award.

Vonette is survived by her brother, Roy Curtis Zachary; her sister, Deanne Rice; her sons, Zachary Dale and Bradley Randolph; her “daughters-in-love,” Terry and Katherine; and four grandchildren.

A Celebration of Life service for Vonette will be held on Friday, January 8, 2016, at First Presbyterian Church in Orlando.

In lieu of flowers, the Bright children have requested that friends honor Vonette’s memory through the Bill and Vonette Bright Legacy Trust to further the work to which she gave her life. For more information about her life and legacy, go to VonetteBright.com.

By NRB Staff

Published: January 7, 2016

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