The Secret to Everything
Goodbye Sweet Belle – Well Done Good and Faithful Servant
Goodbye Sweet Belle – Well Done Good and Faithful Servant
The Pocket Full of Change Ministries
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, Eccl 3:1-4
It is hard to believe. She was only 10 years old. One day Belle was chasing me in the yard. The next, she was too sick to stand. In three short days, my sweet Belle was gone. Now she will not be joining me on the 2013 missionary journey. Her joyful barks will no longer greet me at the door. She will not share Jesus at any more Bible Schools and never chase me in the snow again. We’ve led our last person to Jesus together and she won’t warn me when I’m driving Hallelujah and about to back into something. All who work with or follow Pocket Full of Change Ministries will miss talented Belle and her role in ministry. I will miss my canine companion.
People asked what happened and how it happened so fast. Sometimes, life is just like that. The official diagnosis was a ruptured inoperable heart tumor. March 15, 2013 was Belle the Missionary Dog’s appointed time to die and the beginning of a season of weeping and mourning for the Touchton family and Belle’s followers and friends.
I was so grief stricken that the details of the March 15th were unclear so I asked Bob to refresh my memory. I remember driving Belle from the animal hospital that tried to treat her to the specialty hospital we hoped would cure her. While waiting in the reception area, I looked up and my best friend Nancy Edwards was there. Bob and I were buying a home that day. Nancy has always been our realtor and had driven from Atlanta, Georgia to Jacksonville, Florida to help with the purchase. It was almost time for our final house walk through so I was expecting Nancy to be with Bob.
“I had to hug you and Belle,” she explained. “Don’t worry. I’ll still get to the walk through on time.” I’ve known Nancy for 50 years and God has put her by my side every time I’ve needed her.
After Nancy left, I remember holding Belle in a tiny room as they explained diagnostics, treatments, and the financial implication. The financial estimate was staggering and I burst into tears. I didn’t have that much money and panicked. I called Bob to ask what to do but he didn’t answer. I looked at the assistant giving the estimate and asked, “Are you a Christian?” She said yes. I confirmed that she knew where she was going in the next life and explained Belle’s role in my life and ministry. She nodded empathetically and waited for my decision.
I remember thinking, Thank God she is already saved. I’m too upset to give the gospel. It turns out I was wrong. I said aloud, “James 1:5-6 promises wisdom. Wait while I pray.” After praying, I knew I had no other choice but to try to save Belle. I peacefully gave the hospital a credit card for 75% of the staggering estimate and left praying they would cure her.
I drove across town to catch the end of the house walk through. Afterward, Bob, Nancy, and I pulled into a fast food drive through lane to grab a quick lunch before going to closing. That is the beginning of where my memory started to get unclear.
While waiting in line, the vet called. I put the phone on speaker and got the bad news that an electrocardiogram revealed a ruptured heart tumor. My heart grew cold.
“Get out of line and pull into a parking place,” Nancy instructed. Bob did as she suggested. The doctor gave details that I’m fuzzy about and told us there was no hope and that Belle was suffering. We knew what had to happen but the logistics overwhelmed Bob and me. The house closing was in 45 minutes. Should we close on the house and then go the hospital to be with Belle? Making her suffer longer seemed horrible and we were not sure she would live that long. Should we let them do what was necessary without us?
“Tell them to wait for us,” Bob urged. “We need to be there and Belle doesn’t need to suffer any longer. Let me try to postpone the closing.” Bob succeeded as we grabbed some food to eat on the dash to the hospital.
The hospital took us immediately and the vet came in to talk. Later, I wondered how I was so sure that the vet was saved and understood that I was not only losing a pet, I was losing a ministry partner. Bob says I asked the vet if he was Christian and confirmed that he knew where he was going in the next life. Apparently, I evangelize on autopilot.
A lab technician whom we had not met before brought us a gasping weak Belle, wrapped in a blanket, and placed her in my lap. I showered Belle with hugs and kisses through my tears. I rocked her and sang the songs we had used to lead people to Jesus. She didn’t do her tricks but she looked into my eyes, groaned occasionally, and blinked at the cues where she was supposed to sit, circle, lay, bark, or reach out her paw to Jesus.
I remember noticing the crying lab technician, Charee, and feeling the need to help her understand why I was singing Jesus songs to Belle. The next part is foggy. Apparently, I asked if Charee was a Christian and she gave a hesitant yes. I must have missed the hesitancy. Bob thinks I asked how long she had been a Christian but it could have been Nancy who asked.
I do remember her story. Charee had walked completely away from God. She said, “After last night and today I “must” be a Christian.” Again, I missed the words “must.” Someone in the room, we are not sure who, asked what happened last night.
Charee and her daughter had a divine encounter. Her daughter had noticed a struggling “handicapped” (her words) man and begged her mom to help. When they helped, the man rewarded them by telling them how wonderful Jesus was. Charee was crying in the room with Belle because she knew the events from the night before and what she was witnessing with Belle wasn’t a coincidence. God was calling her to Himself.
Bob said someone asked if the man the night before had prayed with Charee to receive Jesus. I’m told that she answered he had talked about Jesus and his love, but they had not prayed. All I remember is Nancy looking me firmly in the eyes and saying to Charee, “We will pray with you right now.” Clearly, Nancy meant, “Cheryle, I know you are upset but ‘you’ need to lead Charee to Jesus.”
The Holy Spirit took charge of my grief. It turns out that a season of weeping doesn’t mean I can’t give the gospel. I should have remembered that because we led a waiter to Jesus an hour after my precious Aunt Ka Ka went to heaven. After all, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Everyone, including the vet, cried while Charee accepted Jesus. While we prayed, Belle stared lovingly into my eyes.
Next, the vet stepped forward and released Belle from her suffering. I rocked and sang to Belle as she left us. Nancy held her paw and Bob held me. Afterward, the vet offered condolences and assured us we had made the right decision. Then, he thanked me for helping Charee and teaching him how to share his faith at work.
It wasn’t until later that I realized what a gift God had given us by letting Belle and me lead one more person to Jesus before we parted. Nancy figured it out while it was happening and refused to let me miss that blessing.
I thank God for a Savior who is worth sharing through our tears. I thank God for a best friend who, while she doesn’t have the gift of evangelism herself, understands that I do and insists that I use it. I thank God for a husband who never blinked over the amount I put on our credit card and held me while we cried together. I thank God that the caring, honest, Christian veterinarian figured out a diagnosis quickly, credited back my credit card for that staggering amount, and recharged a manageable amount. I thank God for sending a special blessing at the end of Belle’s life to help begin my season of healing.
We did finally close on the house. I don’t remember much about that either. Bob and I spent the night sleeping on an air mattress at our new house. Mostly, we just comforted each other.
We will miss Belle the Missionary Dog. God used donkeys in the Bible and Belle in Pocket Full of Change Ministries. She faithfully earned her missionary title. Well done good and faithful servant.
PS – I look forward to meeting the next canine missionary companion God is preparing for me. I need a little healing time, but if you know of anyone with Sheltie puppies, let me know. If they want to donate one to help people meet Jesus, that would be even better. I’ve already had two people jokingly offer their adult dog and say it could “quickly learn about Jesus.” I’m on to that trick. Besides, I look forward to training a puppy and I’m a Shetland Sheepdog kind of gal.
I’ll us this closing one more time: Cheryle M. Touchton, the Pocket Full of Quarters Lady, is the Director of Pocket Full of Change Ministries. She and the Missionary Dog Belle travel the country as missionaries. For more information or to schedule a speaker for an event, go to www.pocketfullofchange.org. This ministry exists because people like you are called to help fund the work of the kingdom. To help keep Belle the Missionary Dog and the Pocket Full of Quarters Lady on the road leading people to Christ, you can donate at