By Lonnie Wilkey
CONCORD, N.C. — Tennessee natives Tom and Rachel Roddy have experienced the deep joy of having a child and also the excruciating pain of losing a baby at birth.
According to 2015 statistics reported by Wikipedia, 2.6 million stillbirths were recorded worldwide, about one for every 45 births. In the United States, there is a stillbirth for every 167 births. Stillbirths are typically defined as a fetal death at or after 20 to 28 weeks of pregnancy.
Earlier this year the Roddys lost a son, Elijah David Roddy. They have a 16 month-old daughter, Vivian.
The couple was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and concern they received after their son’s death. In a Facebook post, they wrote, “We take great comfort in knowing that Eli is now with Jesus in heaven, enjoying the riches of God’s promised kingdom.”
In an interview with the Baptist and Reflector, the couple shared that numerous people let them know that they were willing to travel to North Carolina for a memorial service in honor of Eli. “We wondered if there was a better way of using the money that people would spend in order to travel for a memorial service,” the couple said.
“We chose not to do a memorial because we knew that so many people who wanted to be there for us physically could participate in something good in his memory and also for the work of the Lord.”
Because both are lifelong Baptists, they immediately thought of the Cooperative Program. Roddy’s father, Jack was a longtime pastor in Tennessee and is now director of missions for the Watauga Association of Baptists, based in Elizabethton. Rachel was reared in Towering Oaks Baptist Church, Greene-ville, where her parents are still members.
“I grew up seeing the impact of the Cooperative Program because of my dad’s role as a pastor and director of missions,” Roddy said.
His wife agreed, noting their first goal was to honor God with their funds and to help people. The Cooperative Program does both, they agreed, adding that spreading the message of Jesus in North America and around the world is something “that is dear to our hearts.”
The couple set a goal of raising $1,000 for the Cooperative Program. They developed a means to accept donations via Facebook. Within a short amount of time, they had collected $1,750 through Facebook, but others wanted to donate through checks. Before long, they had received $3,000 in memory of their son.
As people continued to learn about their story, the couple decided to continue the effort through the end of December. The Watauga Association of Baptists is accepting donations for the Roddys.
“We have been very humbled and blessed by the response,” they agreed.
Though they now live in North Carolina and are members of West Cabarrus Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Concord, they want to send their Cooperative Program memorial funds through the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. “It makes us feel good that we can donate to causes like the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes as well as missions all over the world at one time,” they concurred.
Rachel Roddy noted that a byproduct of sharing their story and raising funds through Facebook has been the large number of people who shared they had similar experiences.
“Hopefully, as we share our story, people who have been through the same thing that we have been through will have the strength and courage to speak up about their situations and not feel alone,” she said. “We have been immensely encouraged by friends and family who have experienced stillbirths and other pregnancy-related losses who have shared their own stories and empathized with us.”
People interested in making donations in memory of Elijah David Roddy can send checks to Watauga Association of Baptists, 3871 Hwy. 19E, Elizabethton, TN 37643. Make checks payable to Watauga Association of Baptists. For more information, contact the Roddys at firstname.lastname@example.org. B&R