Whatever happened to Emma McGruder?
Ok, not her real name, but you probably know someone like her.
I went to her funeral not long ago. You know that part where they ask family and friends to stand up and say a few words? And you know that part where sometimes no one stands and there’s an awkward silence?
THAT did not happen at Emma’s funeral. One after another stood. Older people – not much younger than Emma herself, middle-aged people … and even teens.
Emma McGruder had been a Sunday school teacher for more than half a century (insert Awana leader or children’s church teacher here).
And she had affected the lives of hundreds and hundreds of kids as they “came through” her class.
“The thing I remember about Mrs. McGruder,” one lady began, her eyes spilling over with tears, “is her faithfulness. She was there every Sunday unless her family was away or she was in bed sick.”
“Emma McGruder led me to the Lord,” an older man said. Every week she’d ask, ‘Ray, are you ready to trust Christ?’”
“Nothing fancy about Emma McGruder,” a younger teen said, one of her last students before being moved to a nursing home. “She made us open our Bibles and then we studied what God said – right from God’s Word.”
“I am not kidding.” A college student stood up. “I took a class on the New Testament my first semester at Bible class … and I already knew most everything the professor said. Thanks to Emma McGruder.”
I knew Emma McGruder and I knew about her faithfulness, but I had not had her for a teacher. As I sat there and listened to dozens of people talk about her influence on their life, I thought about the heritage she was leaving behind her.
I know she didn’t use the latest technology, or state-of-the-art curriculum (which often leaves out the Bible “bad parts” so as not offend anyone) and I never remember her “taking a break,” because she was “stressed, burned out, or the kids were getting to her.”
She was just there. Week after week she was there, loving those kids and letting them know that she prayed for them daily. Week after week she showed them what God had to say about their lives. They knew they could talk to her about anything and she’d listen. They knew she wouldn’t laugh at their questions but do what she could to answer them. They knew she would be there, ready to teach next week … next month …. next year. In fact, in many cases she taught two (and in a couple cases three) generations of the same family!
Oh, I know some people think, “that was ok then, but it wouldn’t work now.”
Maybe. Maybe not.
We do have a lot of resources available to teach kids these days. We have computers, the ability to Skype missionaries, the technology to produce special effects and entire bands leading the music. And all that (when used the right way) is good.
But we also (in some churches) change teaching teams as often as the seasons so just when a child is getting to know a particular teacher, another one takes his/her place so the first one can have a break.
As I sat and listened at the funeral that day I picked up on a theme – Mrs. McGruder’s students knew she loved them and was interested in their lives. More than anything she wanted to reach them with the gospel and then show them how to grow spiritually through God’s Word.
The last lady stood. She smiled as she shared. “Once we started talking about money and I remember Mrs. McGruder saying she wouldn’t quit teaching us even if someone gave her a million dollars to do so … because what she wanted us to learn from the Bible was worth even more than money could buy.”
I was just thinking.
Where ARE the Emma McGruder’s today?
Wait – are YOU an Emma?
I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service (1 Timothy 1:12)