Less than 24 hours after his wife died as a result of COVID-19 complications, Ronnie Sivells stepped into the church he pastors for the Wednesday night prayer meeting and Bible study.
He didn’t conduct the service — instead he asked church member Bobby Sellers, associational mission strategist for the Little River Association, to take over the duties that night. But, in the midst of his grief, he wanted to be in church.
That mindset of being faithful to your church, regardless of the circumstances, has marked the lives of Ronnie and his wife, Sandy. She died at 3:15 a.m. Wednesday at age 71.
Last week, Kentucky Today featured a story on Sandy’s fight for life as she lay in an ICU bed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Her husband of 53 years asked people to pray for her — now that prayer request focuses on Blue Spring Baptist Church, located halfway between Princeton and Cadiz.
“We had prayed for her healing, but that was not the will of the Lord,” Sivells said. “She is with the Lord now, and you can’t beat that.
“We appreciate the people’s prayers during this time,” he added. “Sandy had a lot of underlying health problems, then COVID-19 came. Our family has gotten a lot of texts, phone calls and emails — we appreciate all those, they have meant a lot to us.”
He asks that people continue to pray — this time for Blue Spring Baptist. “Please pray for our church — it’s heartbreaking. The church has had to say goodbye to her for a while.”
Sivells, who surrendered to ministry in 1974, has served as an evangelist, regional consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention and as a pastor — twice at Canton Baptist, then at Southside Baptist in Princeton and Nortonville Baptist.
Todd Gray, KBC executive director-treasurer, has maintained a close friendship with the Sivells couple over the years.
“Sandy Sivells will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved her,” Gray said. “It is hard to imagine a more faithful church member than Sandy. Even though she battled sickness from the time she was 4 years old, it did not stop her from pouring out her life in service to Christ and the local church.
“It is possible that one of the toughest jobs in the local church, if not the toughest, is that of the pastor’s wife. A pastor’s wife is often aware of some of the most difficult matters of congregational life, but not in a position to share those matters with anyone except the Lord in prayer.
“Ms. Sandy served her Lord, her husband and the churches where they ministered well on this front. She was fully supportive of Bro Ronnie’s ministry and loved ever church member they graciously served. Today she is at home with her Savior and delivered from all human pain and suffering.”
Larry Purcell, KBC’s regional consultant for west Kentucky, echoed those observations.
“Dr. Gray said it all when he identified the challenging role of the pastor’s wife,” Purcell said. “Sandy excelled at this role despite the physical challenges she may have faced.
“Bro. Ronnie is known and identified as one of the greatest expository preachers and evangelists in western Kentucky. He displayed a servant’s heart while having a demanding schedule of revivals and preaching. This was only possible because Sandy provided the support as a ‘help mate,’ essential for ministry. Sandy was the completer of Ronnie and greatly loved by all who knew her. She will be missed, but she is with her Lord and Savior.”
Sandy frequently drove her golf cart, accompanied by their dog Snoopy, around the neighborhood — she often was the first person to welcome a newcomer to the subdivision.
Morgan’s Funeral Home will be the site of visitation Friday from 4-8 p.m. and the funeral Saturday at 1 p.m.