By Rev. Dr. Ka'thy Gore Chappell
It was summertime in Opelika, Alabama and of course, Vacation Bible School was an annual event at First Baptist Church. Vividly, I remember large numbers of children meeting outside on the front steps of the church to join friends and newcomers for a morning processional to the sanctuary. After the daily ritual of reading scriptures, singing songs and hymns, giving an offering and hearing stories about missionaries, we recessed from the sanctuary to our respective small group classes in other parts of the church building. There we had Bible study, recreation, music, refreshments and crafts. I loved VBS—especially the opportunity to make something “crafty” that I could take home at the end of the week or in two weeks.
Yes, those were the days when Vacation Bible School lasted two weeks. (Can you imagine?) The extended time from five days to ten days allowed for really good crafts—like basket weaving, ceramics, Popsicle stick creations and more! (Remember those works of art?) And, those were also the days when my family, the Gores, experienced changes within our family that affected our health and habits, especially in the spiritual realm, forever.
During the months that led to that summer, my Dad experienced a major transformation that included an intervention by my Mom, local church pastor and an uncle. Once my Dad made some hard decisions and my mother acted in faith to keep our family together, we went home, told our Dad that we loved him (because our Mom told us to do so) and literally, our lives were transformed.
One particular way that I could measure this change was that the Sunday prior to my Dad’s “experience” we (mother, brother, sister and me) went to Sunday school only. On the Sunday following my Dad’s “experience” we (mother, brother, sister, me and my father) went to Sunday school, worship, Training Union, Sunday night worship and then church supper, choir and missions activities the next Wednesday night. Innocently, I followed my Mom’s lead, trusted her and became involved in church activities.
The God who sees
This was also the season of life that I found myself sitting in a VBS room at a crafts table working on a project. One of my leaders was Mae Strozier. The word among second graders about to be third graders was that she was a seminary student with a call to ministry and a passion for youth ministry. We did not know exactly what that meant but we knew that when one of your own in a church has a call to ministry, acts on it and pursues theological education, the entire church is proud. In fact, we kids would hear our parents, Sunday school teachers and missions’ leaders talking about her personality, her abilities, and her call to ministry by God. All I knew personally was that Mae Strozier was working with me in VBS and I liked her. She was funny, engaged and focused on me and my peers. At that moment, I believe that connection with Mae (a woman in ministry) was God’s first call to me to ministry. Mae saw me. God saw me. Innocently, I responded!
A seven-year-old Ka’thy Gore ChappellIn today’s urban vernacular, the phrase, “I see you!” is how someone might respond to you or specifically “what someone says to you when they really listen to you, understand where you are coming from OR are impressed with you.” During the past several weeks, the collection of scriptures or lectionary readings for Christian study and worship in the Church Liturgical Year has been from the Gospel of Luke, specifically chapters 17, 18 and 19 and features individuals or groups of people who connect with Jesus in such a way that Jesus responds “I see you!” To the ten lepers, the persistent widow, the Pharisee and tax collector, the blind beggar, children, the rich, Zacchaeus and yes, women, the Gore family, and Ka’thy Gore Chappell, Jesus adjusts expectations, is relentless in pursuit of individuals and also reaches out to community. God sees! God transforms! God calls!
Through her actions, Mae Strozier said to me, “Ka’thy, I see you!” Through Mae’s connection with me, I experienced God communicating the same, “Ka’thy, I see you!” Innocently, I believed, listened and responded to God’s call to ministry. “Why Women in Ministry?” God sees women where we are, really listens to us, understands who we are and hospitably, invites us to connect and be in community! Thanks be to God!
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