“I was not trained to be a teacher,” she told me, and instantly she had my attention.
Her simple statement displayed such profound wisdom and gave me immediate insight into the value of serving where the Lord has called you to serve.
On November 14th, I was blessed with an opportunity to meet with Mary Price, a woman who is lovingly referred to as the “Best Kept Secret in Lakewood.” This is a loving reference that was given by her late husband, Larry, who Mary met while teaching a children’s Sunday school class at church. I loved this insight into how she is viewed by others, and after meeting and spending time with her, I concur. She is a gem! Mary has served the Lord in different capacities for over 65 years, spending most of those years serving as a children’s Sunday school teacher. Although she said that she was never trained to be a teacher, she told me that she took it upon herself “to help meet a need”…and she was faithful.
I spent some time hearing about Mary’s first experiences of serving in church. At 16 years old, she began volunteering as a church secretary for the small church she attended and she also began teaching Sunday school. As the years passed and she began attending Arbor Road Church (which at the time was called First Baptist Church of Lakewood), Mary continued to serve the Lord by caring for the 2 and 3 year olds.
Then, after nearly fifty years of teaching Sunday school, Mary felt like “it was time to do something new.” And so she took on a different responsibility–one that few people have been willing to do. She did this by tending to the landscaping and gardening on the church grounds. When she first began she admitted that she “didn’t know much about gardening.” She began by seeking advice from her son and a friend, who both had previous gardening experience, and then she just learned as she went.
Mary expressed the difficulty she faced in finding people to help serve with her in this ministry. When she would encourage people to join her, the overall impression she had was that others believed they needed experience, knowledge, or training in order to serve in this capacity. As I thought about her words, I was humbled. Isn’t it true that oftentimes we feel unqualified to serve in certain ways? I know even I have struggled with feeling the Lord tug at my heart to serve in some capacity, but my own insecurities or feelings of incompetency have kept me from being obedient. The one thing that Mary said that really struck a chord with me is this: “You just do it. Take it one step at a time and learn as you go.” Her message rings true, and she is a great example of someone who just wants to serve the Lord in any way that she can.
After serving alone in her role for many years, the Lord eventually brought a woman named Luisa Henry to serve alongside Mary. Although I spoke with both of these women separately, my time with Luisa was just as valuable as my time with Mary. “I was not a gardener,” Luisa told me. Sound familiar? Simple, but profound! Luisa, who has now been serving alongside Mary for nearly five years, told me that even though she had no experience with gardening or training in landscaping, she just “wanted to serve the Lord!”
Currently, Mary and Luisa spend about three hours every Thursday morning trimming bushes and trees, planting flowers, pulling weeds, and doing any other tasks that will help represent God’s house as one that is beautiful and orderly. They work with diligence, continually praising the Lord for giving them the strength needed to accomplish the tasks at hand. They learn as they go, and pray and trust that the Lord will bring more people to serve alongside them in this labor of love. Luisa talks about their responsibilities with joy, saying that, “God has put us here…and this is our job!” And while they are praying that the Lord brings more people to volunteer, she emphatically points out that their service is “for the Lord” and for His glory.
When I asked Luisa how she has grown in her faith through this ministry, she said, “The Lord used it to draw me back to Himself after some dark and difficult trials.” She shared some of the sorrows and joys of her life with me, but her trust in Jesus was the overarching theme of our time together. Her love for Him was shining through as she told me, “The Lord God is wonderful, beautiful, faithful, and encouraging. He is life, he is health…all those things.” She expressed how thankful she is that the Holy Spirit brought her into our spiritual family, and she believes that, just like a tree continues to grow, spiritual growth is “a natural thing that God takes us through. It is a trust in Him. He is feeding us and He is refreshing us.” It is because of this growth in Him that Mary and Luisa are able to serve with such joy and contentment.
After getting a better glimpse into the stories of these two faithful women, I was both humbled and amazed at their obedience and faithfulness. They were not trained, but they made themselves available to serve with diligence. I hope that each one of us can appreciate the value in this saying: “The Lord doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.” With this in mind, I would love to encourage us all to reflect on our own willingness to serve. Is the Spirit leading you to serve in a particular ministry here at Arbor Road Church? Are you afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone, believing that someone more qualified will step up to the challenge? I encourage you to earnestly step out in faith, and, like Mary and Luisa, notice that the Lord has called each one of us to serve and we can do it with faithfulness and joy.
Written by: Leigh Suluvale