I wish I had expressed my gratefulness in the moment. Maybe I didn't understand the value of those treasures until now. Maybe I didn't know I would carry them with me from junior high school all the way to fifty-something. But this week, I want to say "Thank you."
The year I had Miss Latta as a school teacher in fourth grade, we began attending Winchester Community Church. Five blocks from our home, it offered family-friendly programs of which we soon became a part.
I remember singing "O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end . . ." in children's church and "Dare to be a Daniel" in the Junior Department Sunday School opening exercises. In Pioneer Girls, we learned to change a tire (on the pastor's car!), build teepee campfires, and layer lasagna. Our leaders, "Phoebe" and "Chips," not only planned fun overnights and taught us silly songs (that I now sing to my grandson) but held up God's Word as a "lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105).
I loved Sunday evening services. Mr. Holland led the singing like no other. I learned to sing alto by sitting next to Mrs. Davis. The pastor's wife encouraged me to play my flute. Sometimes we played a duet. They even let the young girls take the offering once in a while. In the summers, we enjoyed singspirations at the homes of various church members and sang till we were hoarse. There were always refreshments afterwards.
During Easter week, we came to church almost every night, as I recall. After the sermon, the pastor, also an artist, did a chalk drawing to illustrate his message while the organ played. Then he'd shine different colored lights his picture. Easter Sunday brought us to church early for a sunrise service and breakfast. My mom always made plum and apple raisin kuchens.
Vacation Bible School was the best. For two weeks, every summer, we lined up by departments in the parking lot to say the three pledges. We listened to Bible lessons and missionary stories, learned our verses, and created crafts. Before going home, we gathered in the auditorium and sat on the edge of our seats to find out which team was winning the contest. We sang "We can know that Jesus saves us. We can know. Be assured each moment, everywhere we go . . ."
This past summer, we drove past where the church building used to be. It burned down a while back. The congregation has moved to another location. But the memories live on, memories I cherish.
Thank you to the people from Winchester who invested in a young girl's story. Thank you for giving me the gift of God's Word, the gift of positive spiritual expressions . . . the gift of belonging.
It's the time to give thanks. What belated thank-yous come to your mind?