Forty-year Journey
Last Sunday Hazel joined our church, ending a faith journey that began some forty years ago. Soon after my family joined the Church of the Nazarene in the 1960s I became involved in a door-to-door evangelistic campaign. I was assigned to a low-income apartment complex near the church. I went out knocking on doors that Saturday morning, looking for families who had no church home. Hazel answered the door and invited me in. There I met four adorable children, Barbara Jean, Donna, Tommy and Johnny, ages three, five, six, and eight. By the end of my visit Hazel agreed to allow me to pick up the children for Sunday School each Sunday morning. I learned that Hazel had come from an impoverished background with little religious influence. The years went by. The children grew up and dropped out. In the 1990s Hazel attended the morning service occasionally, brought by a friend. I sensed that she was lonely, shy, and was making no real connection to the congregation. I asked her one Sunday if she would come to my Sunday School class if I picked her up each Sunday. She said she would come. The ladies in the class immediately took an interest in Hazel, showing her much kindness. One of the older ladies called her "daughter" when she learned that Hazel had lost her mother as a child and Hazel called her "Mom." A warm relationship was established. Hazel began to thrive on the love that was shown her. Now in her 60s, she became a part of Prime Timers, and a member of our senior small group. One Sunday she bowed at the altar and as best she knew, turned her life over to God. I saw the change in her countenance. She smiled. She was happy. She loved church and Sunday School, for she had found a group that loved her and nurtured her. She brought her Bible and learned how to find the texts, and learned what being a Christian was all about. From time to time I asked if she would like to join the church, but always came the answer, "I don't feel I am ready." When a Nazarene 101 membership class was announced for six weeks on Wednesday evenings recently I was thrilled that Hazel decided to attend. She asked her son, Tommy, now a grown man, if he would take her, and he did. After a long journey, God had brought Hazel into His fold, changed her life, and given her a church family. With confidence and radiance on her face, she acknowledged her faith and took a step that made us all proud when she joined church last Sunday. Eleanor W. Cunningham, senior adult teacher for 20 years at the Gaithersburg Church of the Nazarene, Maryland, is author of the books, Miss Apple, Letters of a Maine Teacher in Kentucky (2002) and He Touched Her (1973), and several articles published in the Herald of Holiness.