Story Magazine - Third Quarter, 2003
A Joyful Heart and a Childlike Faith
by Brad Reiners, associate vice president for planned giving
It isn't often that you get a second chance to meet someone for the first time, but that is what happened when I first received a telephone call at home from Agnes. You see, Agnes was a distant relative of mine that I first met many years before as a small boy. Although I knew where she lived, our paths never seemed to cross. That changed when I received a phone call from Agnes at home one evening.
Agnes always got to the point quickly and this evening was no exception. She asked, "Can I give you some money to help train pastors? That's what you do isn't it?" I said yes to both questions and arranged to meet her at her home the following week.
Although she got to the point quickly on the phone, it was a different story when we sat down at the kitchen table. Knowing that we would eventually get around to why I was there, we began catching up on years of family history. As the memories flowed around the table, I began catching a glimpse of this remarkable person.
Agnes and her husband, Gilbert, never had children; following his death many years before, she was alone but not discouraged. Although physical ailments were beginning to catch up with her, Agnes remained active and in good spirits. In fact, the only times I saw frustration in her were when she was immobilized by broken bones.
Agnes lived across the street from her church and spent much of her time volunteering there. Her home was where she ate and slept; her church was where she lived.
She told me that she loved telling children about Jesus. For example, a young family with several children moved in near her. It soon became obvious that church was not a part of their life. Since the small children liked to come and visit her, she decided that she would teach them to pray before they received their cookies. Soon they were hearing the Bible stories from Agnes and going to Vacation Bible School with her. Although the family moved out of town a few years later, Agnes believed that the children had received the foundations of faith that would remain with them the rest of their lives.
One day I called Agnes and said that I would be coming through town the following week and was wondering if we could have lunch together. Rather than the usual yes, she said she didn't feel up to it and would have to pass. Some time later I learned that she was suffering from colon cancer and seemed to be slipping.
I called again and asked her if there was anything I could do for her. After a short pause, she said that she would appreciate receiving some materials from our bookstore on the Holy Spirit--the subject of her current Bible study.
Before too long I received a phone call from another relative telling me that Agnes had passed away. Expecting a relatively small funeral, I was overwhelmed when the church was filled for her funeral. Apparently Agnes had touched many, many lives in that small town. Oh yes, I almost forgot--although Agnes never had much money, she did make several large annual gifts for scholarships and included the seminary in her estate plans. Agnes was someone who truly lived her life as though Jesus were watching--and it showed.
What's Your Story?
If I were to sit down with you, what would your story sound like? What would you share about your involvement and witness?