By Ashley Perham
Baptist & Reflector
WATERTOWN — Since 2003, Diane Turpen had served in children’s ministry at Round Lick Baptist Church, Watertown. She worked in Royal Ambassadors and Girls in Action, served as the Vacation Bible School director for 13 years, and went on stateside and foreign mission trips to help with VBS.
When she unexpectedly passed away this March, she left behind a legacy of ministering to hundreds of children.
Even after her death, her ministry continued, with three children getting saved on her birthday during the VBS she was planning to run.
“That’s really what Diane’s legacy is,” said James Turpen, her husband. “Getting kids saved.”
As a small church, Round Lick doesn’t necessarily have the title “Children’s Director,” said John Shearron, executive and education pastor at Round Lick, but Diane would jump in whenever she saw a need.
“If there was some kind of issue that was going on, she would fill in the gap until we got something else going, and it didn’t matter if it was in her skillset or not,” Shearron said.
Even in hard times, Diane was a rock, he said.
“She was going to do what God had called her to do in working with kids, and we depended on her.”
James described her as a servant, “always giving more than she took,” said Bethany Barrett, this year’s VBS director at Round Lick.
James shared stories of Diane’s servant’s heart in Guatemala where she once gave away all the money in her pocket in order to make sure a woman and her baby could take the bus to a children’s hospital.
Diane took several mission trips to Guatemala and Ecuador to help with VBS or eyeglass clinics, along with other stateside mission trips, including to do VBS at Camp Tipton in Maryville.
Diane also went out of her way to help children in her own community. As manager of Family Eye Med in Lebanon, Diane would give away glasses to kids and pay for them out of her own pocket, said James.
This year, Diane had already done most of the “hard work” planning VBS, Barrett said. “I just picked up where she left off and went with it.”
Barrett said after God showed her it was her turn to lead VBS this year, she fought the calling for several days and thought there was no way she could lead VBS like Diane had. But Barrett was reassured by the teaching she had received from Diane over the years.
“She had laid the foundation for VBS for our church over the last 13 plus years, and we just had to pick up and build on that foundation,” Barrett said.
The fact that VBS could continue at Round Lick after Diane’s death, and in the midst of a pandemic, is a strong testimony to Diane’s leadership, said Vicki Hulsey, childhood specialist at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
“Diane always made such an investment in others. She didn’t build these ministries around herself but led in such a way that they didn’t fall apart in her absence,” said Hulsey.
Shearron said this year’s successful VBS was a tribute to Diane’s commitment to constant improvement through training, usually a couple of sessions a year.
“We always found things in training that were beneficial and helpful, and we brought that back to the church,” said Shearron.
Along with her ministry to children, Diane also ministered to those around her through her walk with the Lord.
“She had a connection with God that is just unique,” said Christi Christensen, who worked with Diane at Round Lick for over 10 years. “After everything that [she did] in missions and planning this and that, this woman still had time to study God’s Word all the time.”
Barrett said Diane taught her that one person can impact so many people, just by being a good friend.
“She touched the lives of everyone in the children’s department,” said Shearron. “Whether you were coming for the class or if you were helping to teach or doing something.”
“She enjoyed working for the Lord,” said James. “That’s where her enjoyment was: Working for the Lord.” B&R