But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
~ Matthew 19:14
Whether we choose to believe or not, our life has an impact on the lives of others. Have you ever wondered what folks will say about you when you have departed from this Earth?
When I learned of the unexpected passing of one of the most positive, spiritual influences during my formative elementary years, I went on a journey through memories, although decades-old, are still near and dear to my heart. As word began to spread via Facebook, folks from all over the country began to share memories about our beloved Chris Hedger, who had been the children’s director (Junior Church teacher/Junior Choir Director) while we were growing up in a young, dynamic church in the 1970s.
Although Teacher Chris and her family moved out of the area in the mid 80s, her legacy certainly remained, not only in the children’s ministry of that church, but, more importantly, in the hearts lives of the hundreds of children with whom she came in contact. For those of us who grew up under her teachings, this last week has been a time of reflection on lessons that we learned from her. One theme has resonated throughout all the memories that have been shared: she loved children and loved to tell children about Jesus.
As a child, I did not realize that I was sitting under a creative genius. Teacher Chris had an uncanny ability to teach biblical truths using each learning style (even though that probably wasn’t the “cool” educational thing back then). She taught us by: drawing out stories on the overhead projector, using songs, bringing Scripture to life by taking months to learn and act out verses, repetition and rote memory, using visual aids and graphic auditory descriptions, telling stories using terms and situations to which we could relate as children.
She was able to command the attention of 200 children every Sunday during the Junior Church hour (held concurrently with Big People Church, with only a few other adults present. Junior Choir under Teacher Chris was more than singing: it was learning the meaning of what we were singing and to whom we were singing. It was learning respect, working together, serving others, and, of course, learning music. During my six years in Junior Choir, we sang at a funeral, sang often at local nursing homes, sang for Big People Church, and went out of town to a huge national Sunday School Convention in Detroit.
In all honesty, I was quite petrified of Teacher Chris. I”m not sure if it was just because I was an extremely shy child, or if it was because she did things on such a grandiose scale that it was intimidating, or if I was just trying not to get called down and sent to the baby mat during the service. Teacher Chris gave me my very first piano lessons, which were the summer before I started first grade. Although I was just with her for a few months as a piano student, I remember being so proud that I could play When the Saints Go Marching In….with chords. While I was in elementary school, Teacher Chris encouraged my love of music by letting me play little solos during the Junior Choir programs. Now that I’m aware of my “singing voice”, I think I understand what she meant when she said: Lisa, you just keep playing that piano!
She also had the ability to bring out the individual and uniqueness of each child she worked with and I believe that every child that ever sat under her teaching heard a clear presentation of the love of Jesus. Teacher Chris loved and taught every child that came through the doors. It did not matter if you came to church in a church bus or in a station wagon; it didn’t matter if your clothes came from the ritzy department store or from Goodwill; it didn’t matter what you looked like or smelled like; it didn’t matter if your parents were deacons in the church or if your parents did not care about you at all. She knew that Jesus loved all of us and it was her passion to share His love with all children. She taught it in a way that it “stuck” and, forty years later, many of us have used these same stories and songs to teach our own children and grandchildren.
As I grew up and began working with children (including my own children), I contacted Teacher Chris on several occasions for ideas…and it was then I realized that everything she did with us, she came up with on her own. There were no curriculum guides…nothing. She loved children and wanted to tell them about Jesus and she used every creative resource she could to get the message across. I remember her telling me and my friend during one of our conversations (who had also been under her teaching): Girls, it is your turn!
Yes, it is our turn to continue the legacy. Sure, we may have to update some methods (the baby mat probably would not go over well anymore), but, God’s unending love is timeless. No matter if our life’s work has us working with children, senior adults, the homeless, orphans, motorcycle gangs, prisoners or Wall street businessmen, the message is the same: God is love. God is good.
What will they say about us?
Wherever our passions and life callings lead us, we have an everlasting Hope in Jesus that cannot be taken from us. For believers, one thing that we should all strive to have said of us is: This person showed the Love of Jesus.
Yes, I realize this is a divorce recovery blog, but, in a roundabout way, this is related to divorce. Yes, I am divorced (you can substitute this for: I am _____, or I have done ____), but, in the middle of all of the bad, the junk, the pain and suffering, Jesus reached down and wrapped His loving arms around me. He met me where I was. Remember, He loves us in spite of ourselves. We do not have to try and reach lofty “standards” or wait until our circumstances have improved. We do not have to act a certain way, smell a certain way, wear certain clothes…God loves us and never leaves us.
Thank you, Teacher Chris, for your godly testimony of God’s love. You will be missed here on Earth, but I know that Earth is a better place because you have been here. It is with joyous hope and anticipation that we have Hope. Thank you for sharing this Hope with countless others. Well done, my good and faithful servant.