It is so exciting for a church family to watch a child who was raised in the church give his life to God and enter ministry. Who would have thought that Jonathan - a toddler not so long ago in some of yourmemories, will soon be completing his second year of seminary at Emory. Jonathan and Marissa have so much to offer the church. Jonathan, with his quick mind and compassionate heart, will be a wonderful minister. Marissa, with her love for children and gift for music, will also be such a blessing to the children she will work with. This Sunday, Marissa and Jonathan return to us. We will have a love offering to show our support for them and to offset some of the expense they incur living in Atlanta. Following the service, we will rejoice with a covered luncheon in their honor. We also celebrate with June McCall whose grandson, Eric, is finishing his first semester at Duke. Eric has attended worship at Aldersgate several times with his grandmother. One day, our church may be blessed to have someone as fine as Jonathan, Marissa, or Eric sent to us as pastor.
While we are celebrating with Jonathan and Marissa, I will also be thinking of a very dear friend, Margaret Paul, who will be celebrating her 90th birthday. I call Margaret my second mom. When I went to my first appointment, Margaret accepted me into her family. She encouraged me, challenged me, and loved me through those first years of ministry. She has always been the kind of person who supported her pastor, spoke honestly with them and accepted them for who they were. The crowd at Margaret’s birthday gathering will be filled with family, friends and pastors.
I mention Margaret because like Jonathan, Eric and Marissa, Margaret has a calling. She embodies that disciple spirit that brings others to Christ. She is the first to invite someone new into her home. She will get up and go hold a baby for parents so they may take communion. She is the confidant for those going through tough times. Over and over again, I have seen her love her neighbor as she would Christ.
In Dover, we had a pack of wild ten to twelve year old boys who came to Magnolia when I was pastor there. They would ride their dirt bikes to church, throw them in the bushes and come in late, dressed in preteen weekend play attire. Some of the teachers would ask me to tell the boys to stay home if they couldn’t act properly in Sunday School. I ignored the complaints while Margaret volunteered to become their teacher and friend. Ministers move on, but Margaret stayed and kept in touch with these boys as they grew into men. Several of them came from homes where they had little parental support. Margaret became an important person in their lives.
Several years ago, Margaret was walking in downtown Dover when she heard a man’s voice calling “Mrs. Paul, Mrs. Paul!” A young man in uniform rushed across the busy street and gave her a huge bear hug. It was one of those wild boys, grown up, back home and overjoyed to see his old friend and teacher. All of us should mean as much to the stranger as Margaret has over the years. There is no one dearer to my heart than Margaret, and certainly no one who loves the church more than “Paul” as all her friends call her. I wish her the happiest of birthdays and pray for a church full of Christians like her, Jonathan, Marissa and Eric.