I never met the woman, but her faithfulness made an eternal impact on me and my family.
Forty-some years ago, a young mom started attending a Sunday School class in a nearby town. On Sunday mornings, she’d leave her husband in charge of running the family grocery store, she’d bundle up her toddler son, and they’d head to church.
After dropping her son off in the nursery, this woman went to her own Sunday School class. Week after week, Ms. Barbara would teach the young couples, and that young woman, my mom, from the Bible. It wasn’t so much the stories she was teaching that captured Mom’s attention, it was the way she would tell them. Ms. Barbara lit up when she’d talk to the class about Jesus.
Now, Mom knew Jesus. She’d grown up in a rural Methodist church. She’d learned Bible stories and had many years of fellowship with her church family. But she didn’t have what Ms. Barbara had. Her eyes didn’t light up when she spoke about Jesus. She didn’t know her Bible all that well. She hadn’t journeyed into the depths of relationship God offers a person who commits her whole life to him.
According to the obituary Mom found online, Ms. Barbara taught this young couple’s Sunday School class for 25 years. My mom attended for approximately three of those. One of those Sundays in three years, Ms. Barbara wasn’t in church. It was that Sunday when God tapped Mom on the shoulder and whispered to her spirit, “You know of me, but I’d like to commune with you. If you’re willing, my Holy Spirit will take up residence in your heart, and be your forever guide. Child, come.”
Mom went forward in this Baptist church. The pastor prayed with her and she fully committed her life to the Lord. The following Sunday, Ms. Barbara told Mom someone had told her about a pregnant woman who went forward in church the previous week.
This Sunday School teacher was sad she’d missed the moment of Mom’s decision, but was thrilled to help get her started on the faith journey. A few weeks later, Mom was baptized, with me, her only daughter, tucked away inside. Ms. Barbara didn’t miss that Sunday! She wouldn’t have missed it.
Mom found a relationship with Jesus Christ because of that sweet Sunday School teacher, and I have been the beneficiary of that decision all my life.
When Mom got serious about walking with God, everything in our family changed.
One of my most vivid childhood memories is of Mom sitting at the dining room table, her olive green Living Bible opened, with an accompanying Bible study off to the side. My brothers and I watched our mom go from a baby Christian to a spiritually mature prayer warrior, faithful to serving Christ and his church.
As I got older, I grew more curious about Mom’s conversion experience. She attended this church for another couple years before moving to a new town and finding a new church. She would tell me about Ms. Barbara but could never remember her last name.
I got a text not long ago, and Mom had been looking up something in our hometown newspaper online when she stumbled across an obituary for a Barbara. She knew the name instantly, and at long last remembered her teacher’s last name. She sent me the obituary, with a note saying it made her sad to relocate her only after she’d passed away. Here’s a blurb from the obituary:
[Barbara] belonged to the First Baptist Church of Gallatin where she taught a young married class for over 25 years… The influence of her church was in every area of her life… Her legacy was of a common woman who did uncommon things by touching one on-one each life she encountered. Each person remembers the little things she did that helped mold their life to be better.
Mom wouldn't get to tell Ms. Barbara what kind of influence she made on her life. How her eyes light up when she talked about Jesus, the same way Mom’s own eyes light up to this day.
It’s an interesting world we live in, isn’t it? I asked Mom if the obituary mentioned her children. Sure enough, a daughter was listed, and Mom found her on Facebook. In a private message, on the third anniversary of her mother’s death, Anne received a note from a total stranger. A woman who had been touched by her mother’s love for Jesus.
A touch that changed the life of Mom, my brothers and me. The beauty of God’s kingdom is that our influence never has to end. To God be the glory.