I was 10 years old and, in my attempt to become an independent boy, I became a little careless about church attendance. There came a time when I missed two Sundays back to back from church. On a Saturday morning, I saw the mail carrier put mail in our box, so I went to collect it. As I walked back to the house, I sorted the flyers, bills and the junk mail. Then there it was. It had my name written on it and the name of my Sunday school teacher in the top left hand corner – Ms. Martha.
I knew immediately I had been caught, not just caught but judged guilty by my own acknowledgement. Without opening the letter, I shoved it deep in my pocket for fear my parents would see it. After I delivered the rest of the mail to my parents, I went into the back yard behind a tree and opened the letter. Yes, it said everything I suspected.
“We missed you the past two weeks…Hope to see you Sunday.” Signed: Ms. Martha.
I don’t know if a 10-year-old boy could have hurt any more than I did at that moment. The next day was Sunday and yes, I was in church. It was hard to face Ms. Martha, but her loving ways made it easy and after a few minutes. I knew I was forgiven and back on track.
My parents have been gone more than 30 years now and I never shared this story with them. It still hurts that someone had to remind me of where I belonged on Sunday morning.
Ms. Martha taught me a couple more years. Years later, I would become her teacher. I shared this story with her many times in her last years; she would just smile. I wonder how many letters she wrote to the other students during her 94 years of life. Ms. Martha’s letter probably impacted my life as much as any other event ever did. She didn’t want to make me feel guilty, but reminded me lovingly that I was special, and that not only did God love me, but she did as well.
Do you have a Ms. Martha in your life, someone to remind you whose you are and welcome you back to the place where you are loved and needed? Maybe you are a Ms. Martha, helping to provide guidance for a young person. I want to be like Ms. Martha. I want to do for someone else what Ms. Martha did for me – show the love of God to others. And would you believe it: that wayward 10-year-old boy became a missionary and Conference lay leader. Thank you, Ms. Martha.