April Gentry Witkowski Obituary (6.12.83 – 6.25.22)

April Gentry Witkowski enjoyed being a conundrum, a mystery that defied expectation. Despite what her first name might lead one to believe, she was born on June 12, 1983. She spent the first months of her life in one of those sparsely furnished Fort Worth, Texas houses with paper thin walls that could not contain her cries and that had been unofficially reserved for poor, Baptist seminary students such as her father. When April was three, she moved with her parents, Ray and Debra Gentry, from Houston, Texas to Ellenwood, Georgia which would also serve as the first home of her little sister, Allison Gentry. She would become April’s childhood shadow and eventual second-in-command of all crafting projects. April then moved to Ashburn, Georgia where Ray served as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church Ashburn (FBCA). While living in the brick pastorium located behind FBCA, April began to develop many of the interests and hobbies that shaped her life such as her love for the color purple, her passion for crafting, quilting, drawing floor plans, playing the piano, make believe, using sign language, and stitching together her notebook on Georgia history. Her childhood would twist and turn through public, private, and homeschool education circles, giving her the unique ability to relate to children who wore polos and khakis to homeroom and to those who wore pajamas as they studied grammar books on their bed. She would also spend a good portion of her life moving seamlessly about middle Georgia. She knew Warner Robins, Georgia like the back of her hand. And yet, she considered metro Atlanta to be her home, having spent her high school and college years in Lawrenceville, Georgia. She liked being unpredictable.

The one aspect of April’s life that was never a conundrum proved to be her faith. Being a pastor’s kid (PK), she regularly sat in the first pew or two of FBCA as her father preached from the platform and as her mother stared down at April from the choir loft. One summer night as Ray preached the gospel, the Spirit opened April’s eyes, blessing her with an awareness of her sinfulness and of God’s saving grace manifested through Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. With tears slowly sliding down her well-defined dimples, she prayerfully confessed Jesus as her Lord and savior. Though only seven at the time, the Spirit wrought a change in April’s life that led her to build friendships across the racial boundaries of the Old South, to evangelize her little sister through mentions of how everyone in her family but her sister would be in heaven because they loved Jesus and Allison did not, and to debate her grade schoolteacher when she taught April that the dinosaurs had died off before humans arrived.

In the years that followed, April’s faith continued to blossom as she went on her first mission trip with the Chattanooga Valley Baptist Church youth group and developed a passion for children that made her the go-to babysitter for many and a fantastic preschool volunteer at Hebron Baptist Church. While in college, she came into contact with the rich traditions of reformed theology and biblical counseling through the influence of her mother. Buoyed by the security of God’s sovereignty and the sufficiency of the Scriptures, April determined to support local churches committed to expository preaching and to living out the doctrines of grace. This conviction led her to develop a sweet relationship with Providence Baptist Church that she has maintained throughout the years. After completing a business degree through the Liberty University distance learning program,  dabbling in the Atlanta real estate market, and mastering the spiritual gift of office work while on staff at Sandy Valley Baptist Church and Central Baptist Church, April left Georgia for Louisville, Kentucky. There she earned a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) for the purpose of being better equipped to serve the local church.

After completing her seminary degree in 2011, God’s kind providence directed this girl whose dislike for football and sports mirrored her love for coke and Cheez-Its to a position at the SBTS Health and Recreation Center. As she facilitated basketball tournaments and managed swimming pool schedules, she unsuspectingly met another seminary graduate, Peter Witkowski, who decided to ask her out because she had the kindest of smiles. Their courtship began January 7, 2012, with a date at the Hill Billy Caffe and ended in a marriage ceremony on October 20, 2012.

Immediately following her marriage to Peter, April moved to Eastman, Georgia where she labored alongside Peter, seeking to expand and develop the children’s ministry at First Baptist Church Eastman (FBCE). She taught Sunday school classes, planned lock-ins, and designed the children’s ministry logo for FBCE. Though she proved gifted with children, she also delighted in counseling the women of FBCE both formally behind a desk with Peter and informally on her sofa as her babies played around her. She embraced hospitality and all the wonderful aromas of cooking that can go with it to encourage others in their pursuit of holiness.

She also experienced great heartache in Eastman. In July 2013, she buried her first-born son, Peter Alexander who died from complications of his premature birth.

Though she knew much heart ache in 2013 and then again in 2015 as she suffered a miscarriage and then once again as she battled cancer, April’s God never failed her. He sustained her through her grief and then blessed her and Peter with a second son, Luke Alexander, and then two daughters Lily Vienna and Lacey Ruth.

Her four children proved to be her greatest joy after Christ. From the moment they entered her womb, April bonded with her children. She delighted in teaching Luke how to shoot basketballs into laundry baskets, in having dance parties with her girls, and in picking out cute and yet affordable outfits for all three kiddos. But the greatest evidence of her love proved to be her unceasing prayers for her children’s salvation and the many hours she devoted to telling them of the God who had transformed her life all those years ago.

In 2018, April and Peter came to Virginia to revitalize Amissville Baptist Church (ABC). April had always wanted to support her husband as God used him to expand and sanctify a local church through the preaching of the Scriptures. With a clear calling from above, April came to Virginia intent on sharing her life with this sweet congregation. As her health declined, she gave her all to attend ABC, lamented how her cancer limited her involvement at church, and encouraged her husband to faithfully fulfill his divine charge to shepherd these sheep whom she loved dearly.

During these last years, April’s heart clung fiercely to her Lord and Savior, her husband and children, and her church family. For her family and friends, she battled breast cancer for more than three years, longing to be a part of her husband’s sanctification story, her children’s salvation story, and her church’s restoration story. On June 25 at 9:15PM, her glorious story came to an end. Though her official biography is now closed, April’s story will continue on within the stories of those who had the joy of calling her their friend, sister, daughter, mommy, and bride. Wise King Solomon lovingly wrote, “The memory of the righteous is a blessing (Prov 10:7).” April was a blessing to all who knew her.

April never wanted to be boring. Her alter ego was that of a Russian spy named Natasha. But for all her wonderful complexity, her final legacy, her memory now entrusted to us, proved to be gloriously unmysterious. She loved the Lord her God with all her heart, soul, and strength and her neighbor as herself. May we all go and do likewise.

April is survived by her husband: Peter Witkowski; her children: Luke Witkowski, Lily Witkowski, and Lacey Witkowski; her parents: Ray and Debra Gentry; and, her sister: Alison Gentry. She is preceeded in death by her son, Peter Alexander Witkowski.

Funeral Details

The funeral will occur at Amissville Baptist Church on Friday, July 1, 2022 at 3:30PM. The family will host a viewing from 2:30-3:30PM and a dinner will follow the internment. The service will be livestreamed on ABC’s website and facebook page.

Instead of flowers, the family asks for donations to be made to the April Witkowski Memorial fund either online or through the mail at: Amissville Baptist Church P.O. Box 158, Amissville, Virginia 20106.  

Memo: April Gentry Witkowski Death Announcement

Editor’s Note: April’s Funeral will be Friday July First at 3:30PM at Amissville Baptist Church. The viewing will begin at 2:30PM.

My dearest April Gentry Witkowski died last night (June 25) at 9:15PM thirteen days after her 39th birthday. Following our evening scripture devotion and our singing of Worthy of Worship, I left April to tuck in our three precious children. As I came downstairs several minutes later, I discovered that April too had found rest…her final rest in the merciful and loving arms of our Lord and savior.

No man could have had a more glorious wife, nor children a more loving mother, nor family and friends a kinder companion than April. Undoubtedly, the hearts underneath our tear-stained faces will ache with unbelievable sorrow. And yet hope remains for we know that our savior lives, and that April lives with him. By God’s grace, I believe we can do the unthinkable and press forward in a world without my glorious, purplely person for I know that I will one day soon spend an eternity with her.

Oh how, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his Saints.” – Psalm 116:15

Thank you for loving us well. May, God be Glorified!

Contact/Support Info

Please note, we long to responded to all texts and messages. But with the many challenges facing us, our responses will probably be increasingly slow.

EMAIL US AT: BIBLEFIGHTER@GMAIL.COM 

SNAIL-MAIL: P.O. BOX 637/ AMISSVILLE, VA 20106

CALL US AT: 540-937-6159.

SUPPORT US AT GOFUNDME.COM: APRIL WITKOWSKI MEDICAL FUND

Memo: As Death Draws Nears: April Update 6.19.22

Decline has become April’s new norm. Though her doctors credit her resolve and determination for having propelled her beyond that initial two-week prediction that expired this past Wednesday (June 15, 2022), her trajectory remains unchanged. Over the past seven days, she has moved from traveling up and down the stairs between our living room and bedroom, to traveling between her hospice bed and her favorite chair a few feet away, to staying in her hospice bed. As her mobility has declined, her fatigue and mental fog have increased. She eats and drinks very little and sleeps much of the day, gaining clarity of mind at best for thirty minutes here and there during the afternoon. At times, she can engage in conversation and respond to messages. But after a few minutes, she must surrender to the impulse for more sleep, lower her bed, and set aside her best intentions to carry on.

The Vocation of Death

In his book Surprised By Suffering, R.C. Sproul described death as being a type of vocation, a calling…if you will. To associate death with say one’s call to preach will undoubtedly sound strange, but I believe the idea proves poignantly true. Solomon bluntly notes in Ecclesiastes 9:5, “For the living know that they will die.” We should not seek out death, but we also must not pretend that death will never come. It is appointed for all men and women to die once. Rather than shunning discussions of death, we should diligently mine the things of God so that we are prepared for that moment when our mortal and broken bodies will be swallowed up by life (2 Cor 5:3-8). As the Puritan John Flavel noted,

“It is the high point of wisdom to look upon things which shortly will not be as if they were not.”

May seeing Jesus face to face be our true purpose, the telos of our existence. In short, the vocation of death is the calling to depend upon Jesus as we walk underneath shadows of death so that we might reach the joys of heaven.

To steward this her final vocation well, April and I have devoted those ever-shrinking moments of her mental clarity to the task of preparing for eternity. I read her our daily Bible readings and then pray with her. We talk of Jesus’s sweet promise that he “will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb 13:5), of his pledge “to come again and take you to myself (Jn. 14:2),” and of how sleep can be a common mercy in times of sorrow. We also talk through some of our family’s plans for the immediate future which inevitably must touch upon April’s demise. While April floats in and out of consciousness, I spend my energy managing April’s medications, assisting her with daily necessities, studying how to shepherd (as much as can be done on this side of eternity) her heart towards Jesus, parenting our children, and praying for her, our family, and our church family. When she’s able to break free from the fetters of fatigue, April summons her small amounts of energy to reaffirm her love for me, our children, her parents and her sister, the Witkowski family, and her many friends. There have been many tears and “I love you’s” these last few days. After swallowing her pills or bite or two of food, she blesses our children with one those faint and yet, all important hugs and then closes her eyes.

Her time grows short. The ‘when’ still remains obscured behind providence’s heavy curtain. So, we continue to take one day at a time, valuing these precious moments.

As long as April retains her earthly citizenship, I plan to stay close by her side surrounded by our children.

What Comes Next

Once her funeral is complete, I will be out of the pulpit for another 2-3 weeks to begin the process of slowly transforming our family of five into a family of four. At the conclusion of that time, I will return to my church duties and eventually resume dissertation, relying upon the support of my fellow elders, deacons, church members, family, and friends.

Gratitude

Dear friends, April and I will forever and always will cherish your visits, messages, cards, and those times of prayer, fellowship, and song that we have shared together these last few weeks. We also appreciate your many generous gifts that have been given to us and appreciate Fresta Valley Christian School (FV) for having generously secured our children’s education for the next school year. Lastly, we appreciate our church family gifting me the freedom to devote myself to April this past month. You have loved us well! Thank you!

Prayer Requests

Please continue to pray for God to encourage and comfort April with a special awareness of his spirit. Pray for me, the elders of ABC, and for the Witkowski and Gentry families to have the wisdom needed to navigate what comes in the days before after her death. And Pray for God to save and comfort our children and our extend families, our church family, and our many friends as who are grieving her cancer and who will soon grieve her death.

May God be merciful.

Contact/Support Info

Please note, we long to responded to all texts and messages. But with the many challenges facing us, our responses will probably be increasingly slow.

EMAIL US AT: BIBLEFIGHTER@GMAIL.COM 

SNAIL-MAIL: P.O. BOX 637/ AMISSVILLE, VA 20106

CALL US AT: 540-937-6159.

SUPPORT US AT GOFUNDME.COM: APRIL WITKOWSKI MEDICAL FUND