Honoring Amelia Gavidi

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

Together as Baptist sisters and brothers around the world, we celebrate the beautiful life of Amelia Gavidi. She dedicated her life to serving God and serving others, including her faithful leadership as the immediate past President of Baptist Women of the Pacific from 2015–2019. She touched the lives of all those she met and to whom she ministered, and she was deeply loved by all who knew her.

Full of Love for Life, People, and God

“We have lost a light here on earth through Amelia’s homegoing. Amelia was so full of love for life, people, and God. She brought joy wherever she went through her smiles and laughter, her stories, her dancing – urging people to join in. Her heart for God and helping people find the love of Jesus were such a passion for her,” said Moreen Sharp, BWA Women Executive Director. “She made a marked contribution to the women of the Pacific and the world as she traveled, encouraged, and preached with great enthusiasm. Amelia was a dear friend to me and the others who have been privileged to walk with her as colleagues in this work of BWA Women. She is dearly missed. Our prayers are with her dear family.”

Our Powerful Prayer Warrior

“When I think of our dear sister Amelia, I immediately think of dancing. It was as if the joy of the Lord just bubbled over and broke through as graceful movements. Many of us have fond memories of her dancing, her shimmering joy, and her effervescent passion for Jesus. She was also our powerful prayer warrior. If our women needed prayer, we would put Amelia onto it, knowing somehow it was more compelling than our own requests. I felt stronger, more assured when I knew Amelia was praying for me,” said Elissa Macpherson, President of Baptist Women of the Pacific.

“She was also a champion cheerleader. As I stepped into this role, as my immediate predecessor, she was there to give advice, insight, and encouragement. Amelia never merely liked someone’s Facebook page post. There would always be a comment of encouragement and affection although you just knew she would have preferred to be with you there in person, holding your shoulders with affection and smiling at you with her beaming face,” said Macpherson. “I smile to think of Jesus and Amelia dancing together – this is a comfort. My heart aches for her family. The Pacific women mourn for our dear leader and sister. We look forward to the day this is transformed into dancing.”

A Shepherding Heart

“I have served alongside, worshipped, and like many of you, danced with Amelia. We have prayed and wept together as we have shared deeply of our concerns for others and talked of our love for the work of God. Amelia served the Baptist Women of the Pacific with a shepherding heart, and at many times, put the needs of others before her own. With joy and laughter always present, Amelia drew others not to herself, but to the Lord,” said BWA Women President Karen Wilson.

“Amelia lived for Jesus. She loved Him with every part of her being and this love shone brightly to whomever she met. Her deep desire was to spend her days serving the Lord and serving others. “For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:7,8)

She was a dear friend, a champion and encourager of others, and a humble servant of God. I will miss her greatly but look forward to being reunited with her one day soon in Glory,” said Wilson.

Please keep the Gavidi family in your prayers and take a moment to share a tribute, memory, or prayer with the family using the form below. You can also view Amelia’s Homegoing Service at Unity Baptist Church in Suva, Fiji, by clicking the button below.

“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.” – Psalm 30:11

Share your favorite memory of Amelia, a tribute to her ministry, or a prayer for the family.


Honoring Beth Echols

Beth Hayworth Echols, former director of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Women’s Department and passionate advocate for her global neighbors, died December 10 at her home in McLean, Virginia, USA, at the age of 96. While serving at the BWA from 1986-1995, she was known as Beth Hayworth MacClaren. The BWA calls upon all Baptists to remember and honor her legacy of hospitality and human rights advocacy and to pray for her family during this time.

“Beth Echols had a heart for the world. Long before she took over her role as Executive Director of the BWA Women’s Department, she was loving and caring for international people right around her. This made her a natural fit for the role of Executive Director,” said Moreen Sharp, Interim Executive Director for BWA Women. “Her tenure was a time of great change in the BWA as well as on the global scene, but she provided a strong foundation – working faithfully with her team, addressing women’s issues, and drawing women together to make an impact in the world. Her work paved the way for the future, and we have been blessed by her faithfulness.”

Born in 1924, Echols grew up on a tobacco farm in North Carolina, often completing her chores while reading any book she find. Her childhood church, Abbots Creek Missionary Baptist Church, instilled in her the unshakable belief that God loved her and all the children of the world which guided her professional path.

Echols had hoped to become a foreign missionary. When that door remained shut after her graduation from Mars Hill College, she enrolled in the Women’s Missionary Union Training School in Kentucky and graduated in 1949 with a Bachelor of Religious Education. After graduation, she began her long career of employment at Baptist organizations, always looking for ways to serve her neighbors at home and abroad.

Like many young female Baptist leaders, her first job in Baptist life was through the Baptist Student Union (BSU). Her first ministry position was as the BSU director for Eastern State College where she was responsible for nurturing the spiritual environment for 500 Eastern students who were Baptist. In 1953, she moved from Eastern into a statewide leadership position as the Associate Student Secretary for Kentucky’s Student Union Department. Echols describes her greatest accomplishment in this position as creating the first retreat for international students, which became an annual event in Kentucky and spread to other state BSU departments. Echols would first connect with BWA in this role while attending the 1958 Baptist World Youth Conference in Toronto, Canada. In total, Echols worked 11 years in Kentucky, frequently speaking to students across Kentucky and in neighboring states.

In 1960, Echols left Kentucky to become the associate state director of student work for the Louisiana Baptist Convention (LBC). The LBC had recognized the need for ministry to international students, and Echols was eager to grow this work on college campuses across the state. In this role, she reconnected with BWA at the Baptist World Youth Conference in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1963.

Echols’s work with international college students was a direct challenge to segregation in Louisiana and came to the attention of the (white) Citizens’ Council in 1964. African students often asked Echols about the mistreatment of African-Americans by so many who claimed to be Christians. To address these concerns, Echols began inviting American students, both black and white, to the events for international students. By the 1964 retreat, several students from Grambling College and other schools in Baton Rouge and New Orleans were attending.

The Citizens’ Council heard that Baptists had hosted a mixed-race event over the 1964 Thanksgiving holiday break, and two of their leaders came to Alexandria to demand answers. Echols was the only employee willing to speak with them, and the article they wrote about the meeting eventually cost her a job she loved.

The December 31, 1964, issue of the Citizens’ Council newspaper, The Councilor, led with the story “Baptist Student Leader Praises Negro Agitator.” The article describes, but does not name, the international student conference as follows: “A recent Baptist-sponsored conclave of college students held in New Orleans had a strong Basin Street flavor, with dark skinned boys and light girls meeting on a social basis.” The article quotes Echols as believing that “Martin Luther King will go down in history as the Greatest Christian of our Time,” and that, even in the context of interracial marriage, she believed that everyone had a right to choose whom to marry. The article summarizes the meeting: “Miss Hayworth was genial and in no mood to offer excuses. With straightforward honesty she told her segregationist visitors that she admires Dr. King, believes in intermarriage and actively participates in social integration. She said she based all these beliefs on her own interpretation of the scriptures.”

Among the 117,000 nationwide subscribers were numerous Louisiana Baptist pastors and lay leaders who began writing the state convention in early 1965 demanding an explanation. Some were supportive of Echols’s views and encouraged the denomination to take a strong stand against the Citizens’ Council, but most were highly upset that a denominational employee would bring shame upon the convention in this way. Despite the support from several Southern Baptist Convention leaders and Louisiana churches like St. Charles Avenue Baptist in New Orleans, she could not withstand the backlash. Some of the critical letters contained death threats while others threatened a reduction or elimination of their Cooperative Program giving if she remained a staff member.

The Councilor would run at least two more articles on the subject, so by the summer of 1965 Echols knew she could not stay in Louisiana. She describes 1965 as her briar patch and was ever grateful for the Baptist World Alliance meeting in Miami, Florida, USA, that summer where she accepted Jane and Bob Denny’s offer to live with them in Arlington, Virginia, USA, and seek employment opportunities in the nation’s capital.

Echols began her D.C. career at Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), then called Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. For seven years, she was the BJC’s assistant director of information services, which also allowed her to be a staff writer for Baptist Press. As an accredited newswoman in the 1960s, Echols was a pioneer covering Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, and other political news coming out of the capital. Her articles at Baptist Press, particularly those related to hunger, poverty and women’s issues, were published in religious and secular news outlets across the country.

Echols left BJC to work in local churches in the D.C. area. In 1979, Echols came to McLean Baptist Church in McLean, Virginia, USA, where she began an international ministry that continues to this day. Echols remained an active member of McLean Baptist when she accepted the position of director of the Women’s Department of the Baptist World Alliance in 1986.

Her love of people, travel, and all things international were fully indulged at BWA. She visited more than 50 countries during her tenure and was a prolific writer keeping up with Baptist women around the world. In addition to introducing the stories of international Baptist women to North American audiences by writing their stories for American and Canadian publications, Echols stabilized the member connections of the Women’s Department.

At the 1989 BWA Commission on Christian Ethics in Zagreb, she presented a trailblazing paper on the issues Baptist women around the globe were facing. Dividing the report into global geographic regions, Echols discussed the basic survival issues women face, their roles in their churches, views on ordination and obstacles to overcome. Echols noted, “Women want to move from what they perceive to be ‘servitude’ to ‘partnership’ and, with men, find a true servanthood within the church.” Echols also created and published the first Women’s Department directory in 1993. Tracking down the names and contact information of all the women’s unions and their leaders who were part of the formal and informal BWA network was an enormous undertaking.

Echols officially retired from BWA on July 31, 1994, at a gala party in Uppsala, Sweden, with Baptist women from around the globe in attendance. Since her successor had not yet been named, Echols remained at the BWA through March 1995, finally stepping down from paid professional ministry at the age of 70.

Another milestone for Echols early in her BWA tenure was to be ordained to the Gospel ministry on June 26, 1988, by McLean Baptist Church. Ordination was something she had considered but never before pursued. Echols agreed only after prayerfully considering its potential impact on the various international Baptist women leaders she was leading, supporting, and encouraging. In a scenario reminiscent of her Louisiana departure, a number of male Baptist leaders tried to stop her ordination by calling her and contacting the leadership of BWA to lodge their objections. This time they did not succeed, and she was ordained almost 40 years after finishing her seminary studies.

Upon her retirement, Echols’s commitment to international ministry was honored in various ways. The Women’s Department established a fund in her honor to assist African Baptists in purchasing a headquarters for the All-Africa Baptist Fellowship and provide relief in Rwanda. In 2000, McLean Baptist Church dedicated a large Sunday School classroom to Echols’s ministry, renaming it the World Missions Center. The room is decorated with more than 300 items Echols acquired while working for the Women’s Department. Still in use, it is a beautiful testament to the diversity and commonalities of Baptist groups from around the world, and the legacy of one woman whose ordinary acts of consistent obedience brought them into a little more harmony with one another.

“Beth was a faithful and courageous leader who fought the good fight. We have much to be grateful for in reflecting on her life and much to aspire to in reflecting on her legacy,” said Elijah Brown, BWA General Secretary.

Echols is preceded in death by her first husband, Robert MacClaren (1986), and her second husband, Pat Echols (2012). She is survived by family in Virginia and North Carolina and many friends around the globe. Memorial service details are forthcoming. Donations to memorialize Beth Hayworth Echols can be made at BaptistWorld.org/give.

Note: Special thanks to Jennifer Hawks for her diligent work in researching and chronicling the life of Beth Echols and for her service as the primary author of this release.

Share your favorite memory of Beth or a tribute to her ministry. 


Honoring Paul Msiza

Ngwedla Paul Msiza of South Africa assumed office as Baptist World Alliance (BWA) President at the conclusion of the 21st Baptist World Congress in July 2015, becoming only the second African to fill the role. Before becoming president, Msiza had been actively involved in the life of the BWA. His past service included terms as a BWA Vice President, Executive Committee Member, and General Council Member as well as a member of various committees, commissions, and workgroups. He was also chair of the Local Arrangements Committee for the first BWA Congress held on the African continent and was installed as president during the proceedings in Durban, South Africa.
During Msiza’s presidency, the Baptist World Alliance added nine new member bodies, bringing the BWA membership to 47 million Baptists within 241 member bodies in 126 countries and territories. He traveled extensively during his five-year term, ministering faithfully to the global Baptist family. This included the preaching of the gospel in 25 countries, ambassadorial meetings with national dignitaries and religious leaders, presiding over BWA General Councils and Executive meetings, and fellowshipping with thousands of Baptists around the world.
Over the last five years, Msiza has led the BWA through significant change, including the transition of General Secretary leadership from Neville Callam to Elijah Brown, as well as the current challenges created by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“Paul has been an incredible servant of the Lord,” said General Secretary Brown. “He has been a friend, a companion, a confidante, a champion for the BWA, and a preacher of excellence and faithfulness in God’s Word. He has traveled the world tirelessly and led ably.”
In addition to his global leadership, Msiza has also served at a regional and national level. He was President of All Africa Baptist Fellowship, one of six regional fellowships of the BWA, from 2006-2011 and General Secretary of the Baptist Convention of South Africa (BCSA) from 2001-2010.
He was trained at the Hebron Teacher Training College and worked bi-vocationally as a pastor and school teacher from 1988 until he became Founding Principal of the Baptist Convention College in 1995. He holds diplomas and degrees from the University of Witwatersrand, the University of South Africa, the Baptist Theological Seminary of Southern Africa, and the Baptist Bible Institute. Msiza has served as the senior pastor of Peniel-Salem Baptist Church in Pretoria since 2011. He has been married to Sanna Mapula for more than 20 years, and they have three sons and one daughter-in-law.
He was trained at the Hebron Teacher Training College and worked bi-vocationally as a pastor and school teacher from 1988 until he became Founding Principal of the Baptist Convention College in 1995. He holds diplomas and degrees from the University of Witwatersrand, the University of South Africa, the Baptist Theological Seminary of Southern Africa, and the Baptist Bible Institute. Msiza has served as the senior pastor of Peniel-Salem Baptist Church in Pretoria since 2011. He has been married to Sanna Mapula for more than 20 years, and they have three sons and one daughter-in-law.
The global Baptist family is incredibly thankful for the life, leadership, and legacy of President Paul Msiza. Join us in a prayer of thanksgiving for this man of God and express your personal thanks using the Tribute button.
Offering communion at the 21st Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa, in July 2015.
Meeting Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko in 2018.
Speaking at Samford University / Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, USA.
Meeting Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko in 2018.
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Honoring Knud Wümpelmann

Knud Wümpelmann, former president of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) passed away Tuesday, June 2, at the age of 97. The Baptist World Alliance calls upon Baptists worldwide to join in prayer for his family and to honor his legacy of faithful ministry.
After answering God’s call to ministry, Knud studied at the Danish Baptist Theological Seminary at Tølløse, Denmark, and went on to have pastorates in Jutland and in Copenhagen before being called as the first General Secretary of the Danish Baptist Union in 1964. After sixteen years in this role, he became General Secretary for the European Baptist Federation (EBF) and served in that capacity from 1980-1989.
His leadership demonstrated deep commitment to the unity of Baptists across the EBF, especially to Baptists of Eastern Europe then under Communist rule. He made around twenty visits to the then Soviet Union, and it was during his leadership that a project of the EBF Books and Translations Committee and Eurolit came to fruition – to place a set of the William Barclay New Testament Commentaries, translated into Russian, into the hands of every Russian-speaking pastor to support their preaching ministries.
“We give thanks for this faithful servant of God, Knud Wümpelmann, and the fine example he gave to Danish, European and World Baptists of Christian statesmanship based on his own deep commitment to follow Jesus Christ throughout his long life,” said Tony Peck, EBF General Secretary. “The hallmarks of Knud’s ministry were apparent; a caring pastoral approach to leadership; a gifted organizer, a reconciler and peacemaker, all with an ecumenical commitment to work together with Christians of other traditions.”
After retiring as EBF General Secretary, Wümpelmann was elected to serve as the President of the Baptist World Alliance, a position he held from 1990-1995. In this role, he took a special interest in the BWA’s commitment to human rights and religious freedom, which included representing the BWA as an international observer at the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994 and helping serve Baptists in eastern Europe during a season of significant change.

“For many years, Knud was an advocate for a united Baptist community in a politically divided Europe. He didn’t just pray ‘Your Kingdom come’, he was an accomplished advocate for the coming of God’s Kingdom in eastern Europe,” said David Coffey, BWA President (2005-2010). “He saw the dawn of a new era before the walls came down. He had made numerous visits behind the Iron Curtain, so when the new Europe came into being at the beginning of the 1990s, as a profoundly relational pastor, he was the perfect BWA President to welcome the numerous new members from the Eastern bloc.”

Through his ministry presiding over the 17th Baptist World Congress, Wümpelmann developed a special relationship with Argentinian Baptists.
“During his presidency, we had the honor and privilege to organize and receive in Buenos Aires the 17th World Congress that brought together more than 10,000 delegates from all over the world,” said Raúl Scialabba, former BWA Vice President. “Knud knew how to give the gospel message whatever his audience, and at the same time serve millions of Baptists with the presence of a diplomat. Twenty-five years after that unforgettable Congress for many Argentinians, we remember him and thank God for his life and for his legacy.”
Wümpelmann’s legacy of impact is indeed far-reaching, including inspiring the men who would follow in his footsteps as BWA Presidents.
“I remember Denton Lotz, the former General Secretary of the BWA, referring to President Wümpelmann as a world pastor. All who attended the Buenos Aires Congress could give testimony to that. I marveled at hearing stories of his courageous support of the Baptist churches in the former Soviet Union, building bridges and connections that last to this day,” said John Upton, former BWA President (2010-2015). “It was leaders like Knud Wümpelmann that modeled for so many us the essential values of leadership and global pastoral sensitivity. He had an innate intercultural intelligence that made the BWA global in character.”
Despite his long and far-reaching ministry, he was always quick to deflect personal attention in order to place the focus solely on God. When asked what he wanted his presidency to be remembered for, Wümpelmann said: “My ‘presidency’ is not so important! What counts is God’s mercy to His people and of that we have received a great deal: the growth of our membership…, the unity in diversity strong enough to keep us together, the help in times of great distress…, and the gift of hope for a great future.” His final message to the global Baptist family included within Baptist World Magazine in April 1995 remains as relevant today as when it was first written: “Love one another, because love won another!”
Wümpelmann is survived by his loving wife of 73 years, Karen; their two sons Jørgen and Mogens; his daughter-in-law, as well as grandchildren and extended family. A memorial service will take place at the local Baptist church in Tølløse where Knud and Karen met, were married, and have served as members since their retirement.
“I am so grateful for the long line of leaders within the BWA who have led well,” said Elijah Brown, BWA General Secretary. “May the Lord be with his family, and may the Lord help us live into Knud’s legacy of grace, concern for the poor and dispossessed, and encouragement to all.”
Knud Wümpelmann honored during a visit to Cuba.
Knud Wümpelmann joins with other BWA presidents (David Coffey, Billy Kim, Noel Vose) in celebrating the retirement of former BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz.
Share your favorite memory of President Wümpelmann or a tribute to his ministry. The memories will be compiled to share with the family.


Honoring Paul Montacute

Paul Montacute, 22-year veteran staff member of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) passed away Thursday, February 20, at the age of 73. The Baptist World Alliance calls upon Baptists around the world to remember and honor his legacy and to pray for his family.

“I am deeply grateful for the partnership Paul immediately offered when I first started attending BWA meetings 15 years ago. Since then he and his wife Judith have been consistent encouragers,” said Elijah Brown, BWA General Secretary. “As I visited with Judith last week, she noted how much the prayers from friends around the world meant to her and the family during this time. The Baptist world has lost a true champion of the faith.”

Montacute’s legacy of ministry and global leadership includes many faithful years investing in the next generation, including time serving as a national youth officer with the Baptist Union of Great Britain in the 1980s and as Director of the Baptist World Alliance Youth Department from 1990-1993.  

“As chairman of the BWA Youth Committee, Paul led the team that planned the landmark BWA Glasgow Youth Conference in 1988,” said David Coffey, BWA President (2005-2010). “It was a groundbreaking event which in many ways shaped BWA Congress Gatherings in the years that followed.”

As he transitioned to leadership of Baptist World Aid in 1993, he continued to faithfully mentor young leaders, including Bela Szilagyi, who currently serves as Vice President of Hungarian Baptist Aid.

“Paul was the first one to believe in Hungarian Baptist Aid and in our God-given dreams a quarter of a century ago. He believed God can work through a then small team from Central Eastern Europe to make a difference in the world when partnering with the wisdom and experience of Baptist World Alliance and its leaders,” said Szilagyi. “Paul not only gave space to implement innovative ideas, but through his mature wisdom, made sure that hundreds of thousands were and are helped with dignity in meaningful ways. Paul has not only been a spiritual and professional mentor who shared his knowledge and love for ‘the least of these,’ but he was a man of God who also allowed me to see his personal life and thus enabled me to grow as a husband, father and follower of Christ.”

His leadership of Baptist World Aid was fueled by his unrelenting, Christ-like compassion. This was witnessed firsthand by the many whose lives he touched around the globe but also by the staff who served alongside him.

“Paul was one of the most compassionate people I have ever known. His active concern and advocacy for those in our Baptist family whose lives were torn apart by human or man-made disaster was what he knew God had called him to do and he never relented in that call,” said Wendy Ryan, former BWA Director of Communications who served with Paul from 1990-2005. “He was a stickler for detail and process, but that was to ensure that funds entrusted to the BWA for Aid were given out without favor and properly accounted for as part of the stewardship he exercised for Baptists around the world. I traveled with him to many remote parts of the world and saw him serve Baptists in need with grace and love. The BWA could not have chosen a more suitable person to lead Baptist World Aid.”

Tony Cupit, who served as a BWA Director from 1991-2005, also affirmed the strong administrative skills that Montacute brought to the team, which were invaluable to the effectiveness of the entire BWA team.  

“Paul Montacute brought a lot of wisdom, energy and personal character to the life and ministry of the BWA over more than two decades. He was a quiet, large man with a big heart,” said Cupit. “He brought the discipline and detail of a British public servant to our leadership team, a great complement to pastors like Denton Lotz and me. We needed the thorough analytical skills and practical commonsense that were among Paul’s strengths. He was a good servant of Jesus Christ. We will all miss him. His legacy will be remembered and appreciated both for who he was and what he accomplished.”  

In recognition of his impactful ministry, Montacute was named EthicsDaily.com’s Baptist of the Year in 2005. In outlining the reason behind his selection, Robert Parham wrote about his experience traveling with him to Sri Lanka and witnessing his work with the United Nations: “I observed the breadth of his network and the depth of trust that global Baptists have in him. Baptists have for too long focused only on hunger relief work and ignored social reform, but Paul combines the two, cleaving to the biblical mandate to feed the hungry and pursue justice for the poor and dispossessed. He exemplifies what it means to be a Good Samaritan and a prophet like Micah.”  

“If anyone merited the title ‘Global Ambassador,’ it was Paul Montacute. He was a prodigious global traveler in all the continents, tireless in his advocacy for the neediest members of the Baptist family. His eyewitness accounts from disaster areas challenged member bodies to give generously to Baptist World Aid and his reports from restricted countries like North Korea addressed critical issues of human rights and religious liberty,” said Coffey. “I give thanks to God for my friend ‘Monty’ who in every respect was a big man. Paul personally fulfilled the Great Commission of taking the Gospel to all nations and is now with the Lord he served so faithfully.”  

Rev. Montacute is survived by his loving wife of 47 years, Judith; their two sons Pete and Tim; his two grandchildren, Kailyn and Beckham; his elder brother John and his younger sister Ruth. A celebration of life has been scheduled for Tuesday, March 3, at 11 a.m. at Vienna Baptist Church: 541 Marshall Road SW Vienna, VA 22180 USA  

In lieu of flowers, donations to Baptist World Aid may be made in Rev. Montacute’s name at bwanet.org/give.

Share your favorite memory of Paul or a tribute to his ministry. The memories will be compiled to share with the family.