Vonette Zachary Bright, who with her late husband co-founded Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru), died Wednesday of complications from leukemia in Orlando, Fla., reports Fox News. She was 89 years old.
Bright and her husband, Dr. William "Bill" Bright, helped build the CRU ministry into a worldwide evangelical force with a presence in 173 countries and 25,000 staffers.
"I can't think of a single person on the planet that I respect more than Vonette Bright. She is 10 feet tall in my eyes. Like so many others, I have been profoundly impacted by her long obedience. She is a gift to our generation," said Beth Moore, Living Proof Ministries.
The Brights launched Campus Crusade for Christ in 1951 at UCLA, and the ministry soon spread to other university campuses. The ministry grew beyond university students and now has ministries for athletes, families and does film production.
In the late 1980s, Vonette Bright helped petition Congress to declare a permanent National Day of Prayer. Unanimously approved by both houses of Congress, President Ronald Reagan signed the legislation into law. She then served for nine years as chairwoman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. The movement today includes more than 2 million people in 30,000 observances around the country.
According to Vonette's story in her own words, she first struggled with what her religious mission should be: "I can remember when I first heard that if I were the only person in the universe, Christ would still have died for me, and that I could know and experience His love and plan for my life. I immediately thought: If God has a plan for my life, I certainly wish He would hurry up and show me what it is."
"I had just finished college, was in a relationship with a wonderful man and held a teaching contract in my hand. At the same time, I was trying to figure out why I was put on this earth, and all I got for my quest was confusion." and all I got for my quest was confusion.
She said she finally began to consider who Jesus Christ is, and had to admit she did not really know Him.
After exposure to John 14:6, where Jesus says, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me,' Vonette said she realized she had tried to live a good life, had kept a high moral standard and had been active in church, but despite this, something was missing in her life. "None of these things could provide a personal relationship with God. For the first time in my search for truth, I admitted that perhaps Jesus Christ was the "ingredient" I was missing," she stated.
In 2000, the Brights received the Lifetime Inspiration Award from Religious Heritage of America Foundation. Vonette received honorary doctorate degrees from Los Angeles Bible College in 1979 and King Sejong University, Seoul, Korea, in 1985.
Rev. Billy Graham, founder of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said, "Vonette had a heart for the gospel and an extraordinary vision to reach people for Jesus Christ. Her single-minded focus on the power of intercessory prayer has been both an encouragement to my life and a model for the church."
A memorial service will be held Jan. 8, 2016, for Vonette at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando in Florida.