The following Broadcaster article appeared in the Nov. 2017 edition [adapted for Nov. 2019] and reminds us to, well, remember...which is a gift from God)
She had a soft, gentle voice and an unassuming personality. She never selfishly sought the attention of her friends and family, and she went about the business of loving people and serving specific needs as long as I knew her. She made other people better and her quiet, selfless nature spoke more boldly than most preachers could ever proclaim from any pulpit. She was kind, friendly, compassionate, and ever so humble. Her name was Gladys Jones, and I'll never forget her.
I met Gladys when God called me to FBC Walnut Cove in the fall of 2001. I was called as Youth and Music Minister and quickly got to know the sweet people of this church, especially the youth and the adults in the chancel choir. In the three years that I served on staff at FBC, God bestowed upon me the most precious and steadfast friendships which I still enjoy today (regardless of time or proximity). I loved making that drive along 65 to Route 8, crossing Buffalo Creek and into Stokes County, taking Brook Cove Rd. all the way into "downtown" Walnut Cove, climbing up a short hill to Summit St., taking a left and finding myself at the place of my ministry; it was where I clearly heard God say, "Son, it's time for you to enter into full-time, local church ministry, become ordained, and attend seminary." FBC was a place to succeed, fail, celebrate and learn much about myself as a young minister. And the people of FBC helped me understand what the face of Jesus looked like, expressing himself through each and every person. Yet Gladys, a deacon in the church and a female leader and servant of the people of FBC, left a lasting impression on me that I'd like to share with all of you.
First, let me preface by saying that God uses our remembrances, our intentional reflections of the precious people in our lives as ways to find the gratitude which is buried and cultivated deep within the soil of our souls. It is in the relationships we share with one another, the struggles and the celebrations, the pains and the joys of shared ministry that bring us the greatest measure of thankfulness in our hearts. Knowing Gladys Jones for the short time that I did helped me see that God still finds a way to express himself as Jesus incarnate.This was true in my friendship with Gladys Jones.
While I didn't spend time with her week after week, during the three years I was at FBC she and I would have meaningful conversations about God, church and ministry. Gladys was a giver. It was Gladys who had the great fishing hole behind her house (on several acres of farmland) where Brad Cheek took me fishing in my mid-20s one day. Gladys was generous, you see, and to spend time with her was to receive something of a deposit, an investment in moments which translated into a sort of spiritual gain. Gladys was full of wisdom! The sweet timbre of her voice usually carried with it the wisdom and compassion that my heart so eagerly desired (whether I knew it or not). Let me share with you what I mean in more specific detail.
It was not long after I was accepted to Campbell Divinity School and was about to start classes in January of 2003 that I received an envelope from Gladys. I had not expected to receive a note from her, and I found this note delightfully unusual. When I tore open the paper envelope I noticed that Gladys had made out a check to me for what I remember to be $125, with a note that specifically designated this money to cover the cost of gas to and from Campbell University. The note was brief, from what I remember, but the impression and the legacy she left that day upon receiving her financial gift was the tangible evidence of God's grace in my life, not only for that month, but for many, many more months during my time at Campbell Divinity School! Each month I would receive another check from Gladys (same amount) which would illustrate her loving concern for my well being on the road. Friends, the love of Gladys Jones drove me to seminary week in and week out. Since Campbell University was the place where I heard God's voice the loudest and clearest, I consider Gladys the traveling companion that took me to Buies Creek, the sister in Christ who believed in my calling enough to financially provide for each and every road trip up and down interstate 421. Gladys was God's vessel of love and her "love lifted me, when nothing else could help." Love lifted me...all the way to Campbell Divinity School...and love carried me home...every time.
So, not long after Mandi and I were married in the summer of 2006, I asked Mandi and if we could make the trip to Stokes county and down Rosebud Rd. to visit my dear friend Gladys. She agreed and Gladys opened the front door of her home and welcomed me into the same living room I had visited years before. Our visit with Gladys was brief, but intentional. I explained to Gladys our reason for wanting to see her, as tears began falling down my red, warm cheeks: "Gladys, you will never know how much your Christ-like example has meant to me. You were responsible for sending me to Campbell, covering my gas expenses, and showing me the love of God's Son, Jesus Christ, by sacrificing your finances to help me answer the call to ministry and seminary education. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your kind gesture, and I just had to stop by and tell you how thankful I am for you, and for the witness you left with me. You need to know how special you are for living out Jesus to me and for me. And I love you!" While Gladys noticed how I was struggling emotionally, she let me say all that I wanted to say. With her patented Gladys smile, I'm sure she said, "You're so welcome" and went on to say how glad she was to do it. After a final hug, and walking out the door, I knew that our visit was a blessing to God and to us all, a living "thank-you note" come full circle. Gladys passed away a few years ago but her legacy of ministry in my life continues to bless the Kingdom, and it's safe to say I will never, ever forget my sweet, caring, Jesus-loving friend.
It's good to remember. It's important to reflect upon the people who have shown us Jesus. It's vital that we take time to remember the people God has used to help us in our spiritual journeys. Throughout your lifetime, throughout your journey of ministry, who have been the Gladys Jones' in your life? Who has left a life-long impression of grace and mercy on your heart? Who has invested herself in the fertile soil of you? Who has sacrificed his time so that you would find Jesus in the midst of your season of struggle? Take time to remember, take time to reflect, and take time to be thankful.
Remembering is the road that leads to gratitude. During this blessed season of Thanksgiving, make sure you give thanks for those precious people God has placed in your life who have helped you hear his clarion Call. And may we always, always, use our Sunday morning worship to remember the Savior of our souls, Jesus the Messiah, who not only helps a seminary student find gas money to get to divinity school but most importantly redeems us through his own sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection on Easter morning.
Let's take time to remember, not just when we celebrate the Lord's Supper on Nov. 3rd, or gather to eat with our families on Thanksgiving Day, but on every occasion when God reminds us that we did not get here on our own. After all, God is the Giver of all good things; therefore, the precious gift of Godly and compassionate friendships and relationships (especially those who have given their lives to helping us find Jesus), are to be remembered, celebrated, and offered up to God as cause for thanksgiving. Remember God's precious vessels of love, dear friends, and be eternally grateful. Amen and amen!
Seeking to remember so that my response is only gratitude,
><> Pastor Will <><