One thing I count as a great blessing in my church experience was the opportunity to grow up with numerous “grandmas” and “grandpas” – all related only in the church family sense of the word. I didn’t have a strong set of youth group pals – but I was surrounded by older men and women with strong testimonies and lives spent experiencing and serving God.
Some of my earliest church memories involve finding Mrs. Frost after Sunday night services and getting her to tell stories of her adventures courting her future husband or of life during World War II. Her love of stories extended to the church library and she always kept me supplied with something interesting to read. She read the books before putting them in the library and I was amazed at how she remembered the plots and characters – even of books she’d read two or three years previously! There was always a good conversation to be had about why so-and-so chose what they did or what would happen next. I think the credit for my love of stories – hearing and telling them – and WW2 history goes in large part to Mrs. Frost.
I remember being in Bible studies with Mrs. Jeffrey, watching her face explode in amazement over a truth put in a new way, or a new insight gleaned from Scripture. To this day, I love hearing Mrs. Como pray. The way it seemed God suddenly entered the room and sat down when she started speaking to Him. How I was almost sure she was seeing Him in the next pew over while the rest of us obediently kept our heads bowed and eyes closed.
Mr. & Mrs. Hamill displayed perseverance, tenacity in trusting God. Mr. & Mrs. Baumlin, generosity and gentleness.
I was recently talking to a man who’d been in ministry for multiple decades. His face so wrinkled it seemed every year in Africa had etched a line there. He talked about God’s goodness as if experiencing it for the first, mystical time that morning. He discussed topics of ministry and grace and Scripture like an excited schoolboy home from his first class.
And as he talked, the immense blessing of so many decades of example crystalized in my mind.
I sometimes question if this ministry thing is something anyone could do forever. If “knowing God” can really take a lifetime when it seems so many Christian books go over and over the same territory like food you’ve chewed for too long without swallowing.
But then I think of my church – full of God-experience. Of the men and women who’ve served overseas longer than I’ve been alive. All of whom still find Him faithful. All of whom still know Him to be good – a knowledge only strengthened by a lifetime of difficulty and trial. All of whom are still delighted by truths re-discovered in Scripture, verses that put things in a different light.
And it re-assures me that there are decades of His richness yet left to discover.