March 2004 

Tribute to Jim Willoughby

(My Father)
died 12/03/03

    I cannot give adequate information about the early days of James L. Willoughby.  I met him when he and his wife, Virginia, placed their membership with the congregation where I was ministering. I had called in their comfortable home and found out that they owned their own business.  It was what brought that business into being and what they had done with it that is the real “Rest of the Story.” Here is the way he related it in a “Faith-Promise” program at the church.

Years before, he was attending a congregation and became convinced during the “Faith-Promise” program at that church, that he needed to make more money so he could give more money to missions.  He tried an upholstering business, but that didn’t do what he wanted.  A friend approached him with a problem he was having in making something he needed.  Jim said, “I can make that.” He did, and from that he developed some suction cups.

After making his new suction cups, he needed a way to market them.  Jim said, “I put my suction cups on a coat hanger and went to Chicago to find a suction cup salesman.  When I found one, I went into his office, threw my suction cups on his desk and said, ‘Here, sell my suction cups. They will last ten times longer than anything you are selling now.’”  He went on to say, “I was so naive, I didn’t realize that a suction cup salesman doesn’t want to sell something that is going to last ten times longer.”

According to Jim, the salesman put the cups in his desk drawer and forgot about them.  Then one day, a customer came in complaining about how quickly the suction cups he was getting from the salesman were wearing out. The salesman immediately reached in the desk drawer and pulled out Jim’s suction cups, gave them to the disgruntled customer and said, “Here, try these.”  The customer did and was pleased.  He represented the Kraft corporation.  From that point, Jim’s business flourished.

Jim and Virginia kept their “Faith-Promise.”  Missions became the over-riding reason for Jim’s life and business.  A visit to the business showed how important missions was in Jim’s life.  Two complete walls in his office had nothing but pictures of people from around the world that he had helped and maps of certain areas of the world.  He was especially interested in Southeast Asia and made many trips to Thailand , Cambodia , and Myanmar ( Burma ).  I know very little of what he did, but I can tell you that he financed the building of a beautiful Bible college in Mae Sot, Thailand , and financed the establishment of an orphanage in Phnom Pen , Cambodia .  I know that he also helped in South America, the Philippines , and India .  He did not forget home, and helped a mission in downtown Cincinnati as well as a mission on the eastern end of the city.

Once, when I was about to leave for a trip to Ukraine , he placed $5,000 in my hand and said, “Give it away over there.”  I asked if he wanted receipts and his answer was, “No receipts are necessary.  When you see a need, then try to help.  If you can, bring back some pictures.”

Twice, he asked me to visit Southeast Asia and check out the field and do some ministering there.  Each time, he took care of all expenses.  On one of the trips, I had also been asked to go to Australia and speak for the Australian Christian Convention.  I was going to go directly from Bangkok after our mission trip.  Jim had paid for all the tickets and when I tried to reimburse him for the Australian part of the trip he simply said, “Weren’t you going to do the Lord’s work?”  When I answered in the affirmative, he said, “Then keep the money.  I wouldn’t know what to do with it.”

The accouterments and the luxuries of success were not important to him.  He drove an old Ford Taurus that needed to be replaced.  Virginia had planned on replacing the Taurus while Jim was making one of his many trips to visit a mission field.  He somehow must have thought that she might do something like that, because just as he was leaving he turned to her and said, “My car better be here when I get back.”

The business makes industrial suction cups. He was very successful at what he did.  In fact, Jim told me that a man had come by his office a year or so ago and told him that he was now the number one suction cup producer in the world.  Jim said that he had no idea. But more than suction cups were made there.  If you have seen the blue plastic fish banks that IDES has used for years, know now that it was developed and produced by Jim.

Jim and Virginia did not wait until they were blessed to start using the resources God had given them.  No, they made a commitment before they had anything that they would serve God and whatever He put in their hands they would use for Him.  They kept this commitment. Thousands have benefitted from one couple’s faith-promise commitment.

I called and asked him to give his testimony at church during a “Faith-Promise” program we were having.  He said, “No, I’m not a public speaker.  I’ve got a heart problem and just can’t do it anymore.”  About an hour after we hung up from our conversation, the phone rang and it was Jim.  He said, “God’s been so good to me, I guess I have to do it.”  What a blessing that testimony was and still is.

Jim would be embarrassed by this column.  He wanted all glory to go to God and that is where it is going.  It is just that God works through his servants in ways that can be an encouragement to others.  For that reason we have told just a part of this story. To tell the whole story would take more pages than we have in this issue. You may not have known or heard of Jim Willoughby before you read this, but he is known in heaven and in quiet places around the world that worship the true God.

Jim went to be with the Lord on December 3, 2003.  He was returning from a trip to Southeast Asia .  He went wearing a nitroglycerin patch and popping nitroglycerin pills. (He really didn’t care too much for doctors.) While changing planes in Tokyo he suffered a heart attack, but chose to tell no one.  He stood in the back of the plane most of the way home to get some relief.  Once home, Virginia talked him into going to the hospital.  Surgery was a must to repair some deteriorated by-passes from 18 years before and clear a 100% blockage. When the doctor tried to restart Jim’s heart, it wouldn’t start.  Jim had gone home.

“Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them’” Revelation14:

13 (NKJV). From