Thursday, November 5, 2009

Miss Maddie's Heart

When I met Miss Maddie, she was a spry octogenarian with a wreath of white curly hair, a quick easy step, and always a smile on her face. She had three main ways of greeting people. If she did not know you well, she would pat you on the back - one pat - smile and then move on. If she knew you by name, she would gently squeeze your shoulder. And then there was the third way - the double handed handshake with your hand warmly enclosed in hers that she reserved for dear friends.

At the church where we attended together, she actively participated in prayer meetings and greeted for morning services, would come listen to choir practice with a smile on her face, and often as not would be the one who would come into the children's Sunday School class near the end of the morning to help serve koolaid and cookies. She had a servant's heart.

In July of that church year, we prepared to sponsor a Vacation Bible School. The area around the church had grown up very quickly with a variety of low income housing on one side and higher end homes on the other. Both areas had many children and their families who were unchurched. It had been many years since the church had sponsored a VBS. I broadcasted a need for volunteers and everyone was readily volunteering their help, including Miss Maddie.

I remember sitting down with her to tell her where our needs were. I gave her a list of the positions we were in need of help with, and though she would nod at each one, she seemed to be looking for something else. Finally, I came to the position of children's counselor. I explained that she would need to be available all week, to be of help in many different places where she could get to know the children and their parents and would especially need to be available on Program Night. She looked at me expectantly and smiled. She had her volunteer position.

The week of VBS went by in a blur. I would look up and Miss Maddie would be helping in one way or another. She was on hand at registration, shaking hands, reassuring children, and being a wonderful encourager to all of the teachers. I saw her consoling little ones and wiping away their tears when they fell and hurt their knees. One day, I came around the corner and she was pushing a little cart filled with cookies and koolaid pitchers, a big smile on her face.

Program Night came very quickly. The children had learned their songs, parents were expectantly filing in and filling church seats, and teachers were scurrying around. I looked to the right of the auditorium, and there in her designated spot was Miss Maddie.

The program proceeded with much delight. The flash of cameras became the background as the children sang the songs and did the choreography that they had been taught all week long. The delight on people's faces as they watched their children was wonderful. My heart prayed, "Let them hear the message in these simple tunes." At the end of the program, our Pastor presented a very simple message. He talked about the love of God, our sinful nature and need for a Savior. At the end, he gave a quiet invitation for anyone who wanted to know more to come to the front of the auditorium when everyone was dismissed.

As the service ended, parents, teachers and students all stood. Some headed to the back to go on to the fair in the gym. About 20 people headed for the front where we stood waiting with smiles. As each person stepped up, a different counselor would step up and take the hand of the child or parent and would head to a seat in the auditorium. Finally each person was paired. I looked to my left and there stood Miss Maddie, Bible held before her like a shield held low, disappointment evident in the set of her shoulders.

I started towards her to encourage her when I sensed movement behind me. It was a 5th grader by the name of Chris. He and his little sister had been coming regularly. They lived across the street in the apartment complex. I looked at Miss Maddie and nodded my head. Her eyes lit up and she stepped forward. I introduced the two and she took his hands and headed for a seat.

I remained in the auditorium and prayed quietly. The different counselors one by one brought their charges forward. Introductions done, explanations and a practice of first testimony encouraged of the decision each had just made. Miss Maddie came up and brought Chris to me. A radiant look was on both of their faces. Chris had also decided to follow Jesus.

As everyone filed out of the auditorium, I waited to lock up and then head over to the fair. Miss Maddie came back to me and asked very quietly to speak with me. We went and sat on one of the chairs and she said, "I have been a Christian for a very long time. I said yes to Jesus when I was just 5 years old and He has walked with me now for 75 years. I have served Him all this time, but I want you to know this - today was the first time I led someone to Jesus." She took my hand in both of hers and gently squeezed. I gave her a hug and handed her a tissue and kept one for me. Waiting by the door was Chris. He took her hand and the two of them walked over to the fair.

I walked slowly over to the fair and prayed as I walked. I thanked God for all He done over the week, the lives that had been touched, the decisions that had been made. I thanked Him for all of the teachers and especially for Miss Maddie. I walked into the fair and started my rounds of enjoying the results of a week of very hard work done by faithful volunteers. At one point, I looked up to see Chris and Miss Maddie standing with his parents. They were holding hands and all had their heads bowed.

Chris and his parents were baptized a couple of weeks later. Miss Maddie was in the front row witnessing their public display of their decisions, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Miss Maddie was never the same after that. As the weeks went by, invariably I would see her with someone new, hands held gently in hers, head bowed and tears on both faces. Miss Maddie had found her heart - the joy of sharing Jesus.

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