Every time a boy is abandoned by his father it’s a tragedy. For Evelyn’s son, Matthew, the tragedy made headlines worldwide. His father left on Feb. 1, 2003 not by choice, but from heat shield damage on the leading edge of the Space Shuttle Columbia’s left wing. Unaware of his impending loss, all seven-year-old Matthew knew at the time was his father, Commander Rick Husband, was coming home.
The landing was imminent, but the scheduled arrival time was shrouded by silence. The sky was empty. There were no sonic booms marking Columbia’s re-entry. So began the decade-long drain on Matthew’s heart. Rick and his crew, returning from a 16-day science mission, lost their lives as the shuttle broke apart eleven minutes before their scheduled reunion at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
In an instant, Evelyn was a widow and her 12-year-old daughter, Laura, and Matthew were fatherless. In the wake of the NASA tragedy, Evelyn was thrust in the public limelight as the commander’s wife. Since then, she has lived years in the private aftermath of brokenness and loss, but also in the painstaking beauty arising from the ashes.
“Through the bouts of bitterness, battles and questioning it’s been cathartic to sort things out with God – to resolve and rest in His promise to use all things for His glory,” said Evelyn.
Evelyn’s experiences of raising a boy without his father is, in her words, a consuming challenge and incredible struggle. Now, after years of healing and building a new life, Evelyn is at a place where she feels free to pursue other passions the Lord has placed before her.
Evelyn recently accepted an invitation to serve on the Board of Directors for Fathers in the Field and continues walking alongside grieving women through her church’s ministry to widows. Not surprising, given God’s economy of wasting nothing, Evelyn’s ministry reflects the crosses God’s given her to bear.
“I have a passion for Fathers in the Field because it’s about a long-term committed relationship, not a quick fix,” said Evelyn. “Without a dad, a boy is so vulnerable and fearful. It’s hard to navigate through all those emotions as a mom. It was life-altering and devastating as a single mom constantly in search of godly men to be in Matthew’s life. I didn’t want to rob him of that example. It was challenging as some of the men who eagerly volunteered to spend time with my son never followed through. Grandiose plans were shared, then nothing.”
Through the years of parenting without a consistent male perspective and presence, Evelyn became keenly aware of the lack of balance in a fatherless boy’s life. Her female-slanted gift of mercy was not balanced by a male-slanted gift of justice. Matthew’s paralyzing fear and anxiousness was placated, but could not be overcome through mercy alone.
Evelyn remarried in 2008 to Bill Thompson, who lost his wife to breast cancer. She knew Bill’s presence wouldn’t replace Rick’s God-ordained role as father, but was grateful and encouraged by his godly influence on Matthew’s life.
As Matthew’s “wing-man,” Bill is there for Matthew as a mentor and as a friend – a similar role Mentor Fathers play in the wounded lives of their Field Buddies.
As Evelyn begins her tenure on the Fathers in the Field Board, Evelyn offers up encouragement to the Mentor Fathers, Church Champions and pastors who are committed to sharing faith, displaying forgiveness and modeling fatherhood:
Your role is critical and is hard work, so rely on God to help you be effective by humbling yourself before the Lord
Mentor Fathers help provide the balance to a female-led household with their manly insight, character and influence
Boys want, crave and need your presence and leadership in their lives whether they are responding or not – don’t opt out
Through your commitment to the ministry, you are relieving single moms and widows of a huge burden to create experiences and memories for their boys with godly men and in good settings
Author and wife of a martyred missionary, Elisabeth Elliot, said “The will of God is never exactly what you expected it to be. It may seem to be much worse, but in the end it’s going to be a lot better and a lot bigger.”
God recently gave Evelyn a glimpse of Matthew’s “better and bigger.” The message of redemption of “a future and a hope” resonated in her son’s heart where all things eternal reside.
Fathers in the Field welcomes Evelyn and is grateful for her devotion to defending the cause of the fatherless.