Hebrews 12I've been thinking a lot lately about the saints who have gone to heaven from our church. I think of them as I drive around town and pass the houses where they used to live. They were all "prayer warriors" and our church and our personal lives were diminished when they went home to be with the Lord. I miss them all.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Mrs. Stinnette lived in this house by the railroad tracks with her husband, a former pastor of our church, until he died quite a few years before she did. She always called him "Mr. Stinnette." They moved back here after retirement, as many of the former pastors have done (including my parents). I don't know of anyone who called her by her first name, Faye. She was a forever Sunday school teacher - I remember the day Kristen went from the nursery to her class at age 3. She was the one who kept track of the "Cradle Roll" babies for many years - she went on countless visits to new mothers in town, inviting them to be a part of our church with their new babies. She was eminently interested in missions, partly because her daughter and son-in-law were the first missionaries of our denomination in Columbia, before his way too early death.
One of my favorite memories of Mrs. Stinnette was when her eyesight became too bad in her 80s to continue driving. My experience is that most of our elderly loved ones fight this change in their lives with great resistance. When she failed the driving test because of her eyes, she drove her car home (not quite sure how that was allowed), put it in her garage, and never looked back. Her biggest concern was how she was going to continue to "take care of the old lady" she had been employed by for a very long time.
Heaven was richer the day Faye Stinnette entered those gates.
Joe and Maizie Anstett lived in the above house for many years - Joe was extremely proud of his yard and garden and I think he would be very sad to see what has become of it since he died and Maizie had to go to assisted living until her death at age 102 last year. Joe and Maizie had been married for 75 years before he went home to Jesus. She missed him greatly, but continued to be a cheerful, sharp minded, delightful, talkative lady, fun to visit. Her little tiny suite was filled to overflowing with pictures of her large, loving family and mementos of all sorts that they had brought to her. I loved visiting them when they both lived in that small area, after they had to leave their home. Joe was such a sweet man - he always asked about our kids and was genuinely interested. Joe would try to tell a story, but never got very many words in before Maizie would chime in and correct him. He was the most patient, loving man - and they made a delightful couple, testament to great love and endurance.
Across the road from Joe and Maizie's place is this house, occupied for many years by Floyd and Violet Hicks. Floyd was a godly man, but very very quiet. Violet, or Grandma Hicks as everyone called her, was a bright spot in our congregation. She had been around forever - she and Faye Stinnette used to spend many days each week visiting folks who they wanted to see come to church. She had a very large family and loved to cook for them on Sundays - inviting others to join them - what was one or two or three more?
Violet lived up to her name in a very concrete way - everyone who came to our church got a visit from her with an African violet - new babies were welcomed the same way, with a plant for the mothers. I remember mine well, and it lasted for many years. I wish I still had it.
I can still envision her sitting in the third pew, organ side of the church. Whenever the congregation was asked to choose a favorite song to sing on a Sunday night, she would, without fail, choose "Living by Faith." And she did. I know she and Maizie and Sister Stinnette are up there in heaven having a grand time.
I had to make a special trip to photograph the house above, because it's not in my usual route around town. But I couldn't leave out Alice Campbell - a tiny little woman who had once been a missionary to China. She always sat in the second row on the organ side and her presence was known - she always asked for the chance to give her testimony of what God was doing for her in her life. I treasured her prayers and counted on them. In fact, if it weren't for her, I'm not sure I would have married DC - she told me one day that she had assurance from God that it was okay to marry him. I always thought she had a hot line to God! She had not had that same sense about my previous boyfriend!
When Sister Campbell was unable to live by herself any longer, she graciously went to the nursing home. She continued her ministry there, delivering mail and cheering the other residents every day. What a blessing she was.
Then there were Gladys and Esther, two wonderful maiden ladies who made a home together. What delightful ladies they were. Esther was a Latin teacher in her career days. She was shy, lovely, and I always wondered why she never married. She was generous and sweet, and I knew she was praying for me. Gladys was a nurse and did not retire until she was past the prescribed age. After she retired from "working", she became the nursery attendant and loved on our kids for quite a few years. Oh, how they loved "Grandma Gladys." I actually concocted that name because I didn't want my kids to call her Gladys and Miss Ehlers was way too formal for her. Grandma Gladys she was to everyone, and still is when she's remembered. I miss her still. When Gladys died, our pastor at the time was brand new. He honored her at her service with the most amazing insights he gained by looking through her Bible.
Last but certainly not least - Ray and Ethelyn lived in this apartment complex the last years of their lives. Ray and his first wife came to our church when their little church closed down. It wasn't long before his wife became ill and died. It became amusing to watch, as the time went by, the elderly unmarried ladies giving him the eye. He was quite refined and handsome, and very very nice. The one who won his eye was Ethelyn. She had spent her youth raising her younger siblings, then married at a much later age than the norm. Her husband was much older, and not in good health. I'm not sure how long they were married before he died, but I know it was not an easy life for her. She had never had the chance to just really love life - until she and Ray were married. What fun it was to watch her glow with love for Ray. Talk about another prayer warrior.
I have been blessed to have known all of these saints who have gone on before us. I love to think that they are keeping tabs on us down here. I don't know if that's possible or not, never will in this life. But I know that their lives have left a profound legacy to us in our church. They left some very large shoes to fill.