A Tribute to My Mother, Melba Stumbo

by President John Stumbo

Melba Stumbo at 95 with great-grandson Silas

The year A. B. Simpson died, my mother was born. Her lifetime spanned all 12 Alliance presidents. It seemed to give her genuine pleasure that one of them was her own son.

In her final days, after a collapse, ambulance ride, and infusion, Mom rallied enough to answer the classic hospital questions checking for cognizance:

“What is your name?”
“Where do you live?”
“Who is president?”
“Why, John is!”

As the hospital staff looked with suspicion, the family came to her defense: “You didn’t ask who is President of the United States. Her son is president of our denomination.”

Meals and Missions

As a knee-high boy, saddened or frightened, I buried my weepy face in her skirt. She gave me protection.

At her table, I ate thousands of nutritious meals. Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish through my mother’s hands as a pittance of a parson’s pay provided a meal sufficient for the eight of us—and any guest my dad might invite along the way. As surely as Dad could stretch sermons to fill the time allotted, Mom could stretch meals to fill the mouths opened. She served tens of thousands of those meals at Alliance camps and conferences through the decades.

Missions trips to Alliance fields were lifetime highlights for Mom. She remembered them with fondness; they fueled her to pray faithfully; and the favorite items she found in foreign markets furnished her home. She read, prayed over, and personally responded to missionary prayer letters. WMPF (Women’s Missionary Prayer Fellowship) gatherings invited her to share her stories. And she carefully clipped every stamp from the mail she received so the dedicated volunteers at Shell Point Retirement Community could raise money for Alliance missions’ projects.

Getting published in the Alliance magazine gave her great pleasure. I remember how she beamed the day that I, as a high-school student, brought from the mailbox an issue of The Alliance Witness with her article in it.

Pennies and Prayers

Melba could sell anything in sight. Once, at Council, my brother-in-law needed to go to the restroom and asked Mom to momentarily hold an album that he and my sister recorded. In less time than it took him to use the facilities, my mother had sold the album to an unsuspecting and unable-to-say-no-to-Melba Council attendee. The Stanley and Tupperware industries would never be the same after Mom moved on.

Her frugal spending and shrewd saving benefited her family—both biological and denominational—countless times. She preferred giving her money to others rather than spending it on herself. Four-digit checks frequently arrived at the National Office marked for the Great Commission Fund, and she shrewdly invested a portion of her estate in an annuity that now comes to The Alliance in her passing. In heaven she will have eternity to rejoice with the lives she aided through her lifestyle of generosity.

For decades, she finished every day kneeling at her bedside, naming all of her family in prayer—nearly 100 names. Each morning started with a cup of coffee, a piece of toast, a daily devotional, her Bible, and more prayer for the family. All of us in the broader Stumbo clan will feel this loss. I pray that someone will fill this loss.

Mom had amazing resilience. The life-ending car accident taking our father from us threw her under the dashboard and into decades of painful rehabilitation. Yet, she worked at a rescue mission thrift store well into her 80s and kept her own home (playing a competitive game of Scrabble!) well into her 90s.  The entire time she was as faithful a local church member as any in Alliance history.

Life and Love

I’m not saying that the entirety of her life was tied up in The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA). Instead, I observe that her life was tied up in Jesus, and the C&MA became a family—a conduit, an environment—a church to grow in and live out her relationship with the Lord. It was in The Alliance that she first met and married my father. It was through The Alliance that they served together as pastor and district superintendent couple. It was in Alliance churches and at Alliance events that she sang, played saxophone, taught, directed Sunday school, visited the elderly or ill, wrote, led, cleaned, cooked, fed, cleaned some more, prayed, gave, traveled, and encouraged.

The Alliance is the better for her, and she was the better because of The Alliance. But, today, she’s no longer in The Alliance. She’s in heaven, where denominational distinctions disappear. She was ours for a season, and The Alliance was hers. But now a better season—an eternal one—has come.

One life, spanning all 12 presidents. Fascinating. More importantly, one life invested in the Kingdom. Beautiful.

When I was a high-school student, I was regularly asked to sing solos for our Sunday evening service at our Alliance church in Billings, Montana. If I didn’t know what song to choose, Mom would suggest “Only One Life.”

Whether she was actually humming in her close-to-the-back-of-the-church pew or not, I was never sure, but it was obvious that she was savoring every word.

It matters so little
How much you may own
The places you’ve been
Or the people you’ve known
It all comes to nothing
When placed at His feet
It’s nothing to Jesus
Just memories to keep

Only one life, so soon it will pass
Only what’s done for Christ will last
Only one chance to do His will
So give to Jesus all your days
It’s the only life that pays
When you recall you have but one life

Thank you, Mom. This you have done. This life you have lived. At least one Alliance president is the better man for it.

View visitation and funeral service details.


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