OBU’s First Lady Jill Thomas and guest speaker LaShai Rhone hosted a Courage and Connection event Friday, Nov. 12, at 10 a.m. in the Cargill Alumni and Advancement Center. All female students were invited to attend the open and free event, which was focused on the topic of loneliness and how hard times have driven Thomas and Rhone to prayer.
So with free coffee provided, female OBU students spread across the Cargill Center living room and experienced a warm, safe atmosphere to listen to LaShai Rhone’s story and connect with both her testimony and the other attendees.
To begin the event, Thomas explained the Courage and Connection program and its intended purpose for the female students of OBU.
“Really my goal in this is that we have the courage to show up, be real, say how we’re really doing. [To] have the courage to be honest about being a mess, about being broken,” Thomas said. “That’s the whole reason we have Jesus, because in our weakness his power is made perfect.”
LaShai Rhone then introduced herself and shared her story with the attendants.
“The things I’ve been through in the last few years is what has helped to shape me … and that has happened to deepen my relationship with the Lord.”
In February of 2014, Rhone lost her mom to heart disease. According to Rhone, her mom was her “go-to.” Her mom was her rock, her everything, the woman she called three to four times every day.
At that same time, her one and only daughter went away to college.
Because of this, Rhone felt like this was the hardest time in her life. She was in a place of questioning, feeling like things were being taken from her and wondering who she was apart from being a mom and a daughter.
Two months later, Rhone was at the gym with her husband when she went into cardiac arrest – leaving her in a coma for four days and with the diagnosis of long QT syndrome, also known as “sudden death syndrome.”
With all of these factors, Rhone felt like she was at the lowest point in her life. According to Rhone, it got to the point where she was lying prostrate on the floor saying, “Lord I want my life back.”
“I felt like that was the loneliest part of my life because I just felt like everything was just taken,” Rhone said.
But despite the turmoil and questioning that came with this phase of life, Rhone attributes radical change in her relationship with the Lord to this stage of life.
“I’ve always taught the word, I’ve always read the word,” Rhone said. “But I think that at this point in my life is where my whole life changed. I went from teaching and reading the word, to truly becoming a lover of the word – and there is a difference.”
Thomas then shared her own experience with loneliness.
“I’m never alone,” Thomas said, “but I was having this lingering feeling of loneliness.”
Though she knew what to do and she knew that she was around people all the time, the lonely feeling persisted. So although she didn’t want to share about this “weird” place in her life, the Lord called Thomas to share. As she shared her experience of loneliness with Rhone, Thomas had a revelation.
“We knew the Lord was calling us to a deeper relationship with him,” Thomas said. “But it came through loneliness.”
Thomas then asked Rhone how she was freed from the lonely feeling of this low point in her life.
“When you were in your dark place … how did you get out of the pit,” Thomas asked.
“Although I tell people that was the worst year of my life, it was also the best year of my life because what it did for me is it brought me closer to the Lord,” Rhone said.
Through this period in her life, Rhone said she gained the gift of encouragement.
“Sometimes you have to go through it in order to get through it,” Rhone said. “So a lot of times in order for me to encourage others, I’m gonna have to go through it myself.”
During this time, specifically, God told Rhone, “In me, you are complete.” Therefore, that is the message that Rhone shared with the attendants.
“[The Lord] is just a prayer, a call, a weep away,” Rhone said. “He created us with a God-shaped void that only he can fill. When we try to fill that void with other things, whether it be … sex, drugs, alcohol, whatever. When we try to fill that void, those things, it doesn’t work until we allow him to fill his void.”
To end the event, Thomas asked Rhone, “What would you tell your twenty-year-old self?”
“Be real with yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously,” Rhone said. “Live in the moment and don’t take things for granted.”
Rhone works as a home and auto personal lines insurance agent for The Hartford Insurance Group. She is a member of Galilee Baptist Church in Shawnee, where she serves alongside her husband, Rev. Anthony Rhone, who is the church’s pastor. She serves as the ministry leader and Bible instructor for “Pearls of Wisdom,” the women’s ministry at Galilee Baptist Church, and also serves the church in its leadership and encouragement ministries. She is the newly elected president of the Oklahoma Baptist State Pastor/Minister’s Wives and Widows, for whom she also serves as a facilitator and Bible instructor. She has prior experience as the marriage ministry leader at Fairview Baptist Church.
She earned an associate degree in business finance from Rose State College. She plans to continue pursuing a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership from Southern Nazarene University, before ultimately earning a master’s degree in psychology. She and her husband have a 26-year-old daughter, Tonia Janae’ Rhone, who is currently attending Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine.
Rhone is passionate about spreading the unadulterated, undiluted, uncompromised word of God to those who seek Him. To that end, she strives to be an example of a virtuous woman who has yielded to God in every area of her life. She seeks to encourage women of all ages and believes that keeping our daily lives in tune with Christ plays a major role in helping us reflect Christ to others.