one to one: Lessons about life, ministry, and grandkids
by Keith Burden, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists
The mid-1960s was a turbulent period in our nation’s history as people questioned everything. It was a confusing time for a pre-teen boy growing up in a small town in eastern Oklahoma. I managed to survive that crazy era, thanks to the influence of godly parents and the loving care of a Free Will Baptist church.
I did not have to navigate the uncharted waters alone. Fortunately, there were other young people about my age attending the same church. That’s where Sister Willie comes in (Willie was her first name). She was the junior boys’ Sunday School teacher. I will always wonder what she was thinking when she agreed to teach that class.
Each Sunday Sister Willie greeted us dutifully, armed with her large-print Bible, flannelgraph, and teaching pictures. Honesty dictates I tell you (to my chagrin) that I cannot recall a single lesson she taught. There were no learning centers in our classroom—no modern, technological gadgets. As I recall, we never had a class party, field trip, or overnight camp-out.
What I do remember are those times, usually at the end of the lesson, when Sister Willie would make a passionate appeal for us to commit our lives to Christ. The urgency in her voice and her tear-filled eyes were unmistakable evidence of her concern for our souls. Those images are burned indelibly into my memory.
Years passed. One day, while visiting a nursing home, our paths crossed again. Although the years had robbed Sister Willie of her independence and mobility, she still had a sharp mind and a pleasant disposition. Once again, her eyes glistened with tears as I told her how God had worked in my life in those intervening years. I had the privilege of thanking her personally for her witness to a troupe of rowdy boys.
A short time later, Sister Willie went home to be with the Lord. At her memorial service the officiating minister asked me to say a few words about this precious lady. This time, my eyes filled with tears as I recalled how she left a lasting impression on me during those formative years.
It is entirely possible there are junior Sunday School teachers reading this column. Some weeks, you probably question if you have any lasting impact on your students. Take it from a former junior boy—you are! They may not remember the content of many lessons, but they will never forget your concern for their lives.
You don’t have to be an exceptionally gifted individual in order for the Lord to use you. God still delights in using ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Sister Willie was a prime example.
About the Column: One to One is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Keith Burden, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life, ministry...and the joys of grandchildren.