In that moment she was being honored as the city’s “Citizen of the Year,” but in the split seconds between climbing to the stage and giving her acceptance speech she couldn’t help but reflect on the journey that started as a young high school student attending one of CIY’s first-ever summer conferences in the early 1970s. So as the close to 400 people gave her a standing ovation, she knew the credit had to be turned back to God.
That’s what a Kingdom worker does – give glory and honor to the King.
“If people just see me and feed me praise, that doesn’t honor God,” she said. “Anything good that people see in me is only a reflection of Him. It’s only by the grace of God that we can let any light shine for Him. I never knew serving would be so fun. It fills your cup so much to take the focus off yourself and live – even if it’s just for a moment – as Jesus did … as a servant.”
Wendleton, who lives in Carthage, Missouri, recounts many moments when her savior tugged on her heart to be a life-long Kingdom worker. And though there are many moments from her childhood that laid a foundation for her life of faithfulness as a Christian, she often points directly to the call she heard clearly on her life from Christ while attending that first CIY conference.
“It was so many years ago, but I remember the moments when everyone went out to find a spot on the ground to meditate and talk to God and then hear Bob Stacy speak,” she said. “I loved CIY and I love how it’s changed through the years, but the mission has remained the same. It’s good for the youth groups to get away from the distractions of home – focus on the Holy Spirit in not only themselves but in the people around them. I loved it when we came back because I knew the others in my group were with me in the fight. I couldn’t do this life without my brothers and sisters in Christ.”
After high school, Wendleton attended Ozark Christian College but was unable to finish due to health problems. She spent 15 years in the truck driving industry, and then gained several years of experience in secretarial work. She joined Carthage Water & Electric and remained with the organization for 22 years – saying “Yes” to many opportunities God laid before her to serve the community.
“Don’t you love the way He does that?” Wendleton said. “If you obey the promptings, He’ll prompt you more.”
She serves Carthage’s Church of the Nazarene as a connections care staff member, is a member of the Carthage division of Soroptimist International, and volunteers with Carthage Area United Way, the Carthage Chamber of Commerce, St. Luke’s Nursing Center and the school district’s Bright Futures program. She also joined the Innovative Industries board to help the organization that employs people with special needs. There have been countless other acts of kindness throughout her life, including a nine-month stint when she kept her nephew’s two young boys while he was deployed in the military.
This isn’t the first time Wendleton has been honored for her Kingdom work in the community. In previous years she has received the ATHENA award (for empowering women) and the Spirit of Giving award, presented by the United Way.
“My desire is to try to love people by being the hands and feet of Jesus, and to live out Matthew 5:16,” Wendleton said. “When we turn our hearts over to Jesus, He equips us with gifts. I think the greatest joy comes when I’m doing what He equipped me to do. So I really can’t take any credit, it’s His doing. I just get the joy from loving on others through serving.”