“Granny”: Living Witness Mentor

Instead of a footnoted tome, this week’s comments are an example of being a living witness.

“Granny”: An “Ordinary” Church Member

“Granny” was a member of one of my churches. She was in her 70’s, had not finished grade school and lived in the same house in a rural agricultural area for over 50 years. She had been heavily educated in the “University of Life” and her hands exhibited it, gnarled by hard work and rheumatoid arthritis.

She was a long time convert to Adventism and faithfully attended church despite her husband having little interest in Adventism or “church-going.” However, “Granny” willingly shared her faith and her love of Jesus. She prayed with us and for us, for our strengthening and encouragement – even on days she was suffering more than those she was caring for. “Pastor, I pray for you every day,” was an oft-uttered blessing to her pastor. If encouraged, she’d play the saw – as a special music number. (Organ and skillfully played saw sound good!)

“Granny”: The “Can Lady”

“Granny” not only witnessed in the church, but on miles of rural highways. Early each week day morning, she parked her pickup truck and walked roads – collecting cans. People noticed and would stop and ask what she was doing. “I collect cans for my church,” was a common reply. Curious, more questions resulted in an understanding that her cans went to the recycling center and the resulting cash was an offering that helped the poor, displaced families, refugees, and to teach others more about Jesus.

Learning of “Granny’s” mission, people collected cans and would meet her alongside the road with trash bags full. She’d end up at the recycling center some days with a full pickup bed. “Granny” witnessed to police officers, neighbors, prisoners collecting trash, anyone curious about a 70-plus year old lady dragging a trash bag down 4-5 miles of highway each morning collecting cans. Every year, our local church had a Sabbath School Investment offering completely disproportionate to its members. (This year’s investment projects can be found at

http://www.igivesda.org/site/1/docs/Mission%20Investment/2012-Mission-Investment-Projects.pdf

“Granny”: The “Can Lady” – Part 2

About October-November each year, “Granny” started visiting local farmers, businessmen and people she knew from around the community – some from her can collecting.  After a brief chat about how blessed they were, thanking them for past support, and noting the good she knew about them, she would ask for their help with another project that helped people overseas gain better lives – and she’d talk about ADRA. Some knew she would come – “I know what you’re here for” was sometimes her greeting. In the end, she usually left with a check or cash in hand.

The Hope for Humanity offering was something “Granny” felt was her personal mission and we honored her commitment as did others in the community. The current Hope for Humanity Offering projects are found at: http://hope4.com/

“Granny” and “Tomato Witnessing”

Being in rural Florida and a truck farming area, “Granny” and her husband knew area farmers and the tomato, citrus, vegetable and strawberry packers. During each season, boxes of fruit or vegetables would end up on their door step, or “Granny’s” pickup, and in turn she would take some to neighbors, shut-ins, poor people she knew, and the resulting conversation often turned to the goodness of God and the love of Jesus. She was not shy of praying for the people either. It always impressed me how consistent kindness opened doors and warmed hearts to eventually learn more about Christ and “Granny’s” church. Quite often it was through “tomato witnessing.”

“Granny” and Marie – Turning Adventist Community Services into a Community Service

At our church, we had Adventist Community Services. It was a separate small house full of older clothes, and the detritus of well-intended donations. Once in a while folks would pack things up and send them on for use overseas.

One day “Granny” and Marie, another church member, cornered me after church. “Pastor, we have an idea,” was the first line. It resulted in the board agreeing for them to reorganize Community Services, let the community poor or needy to come and get clothes they needed – for a 50 cents donation per piece. In preparation, they washed, mended and carefully hung clothes on the racks by size and gender. They cleaned the house and recruited others to spruce up the place.

When ready, they opened the doors and with hand lettered signs on the highway out front – and word of mouth – people came. Some came and bought. Others brought more donated clothing to help with the project. Many came to talk, share joys and sorrows – and be prayed for. “Granny” and Marie got other church members to help – some during their Tuesday lunch breaks.

“Granny” and Marie – Turning Adventist Community Services into a “Witness Center”

The final act was “Granny” and Marie corning their pastor on another Sabbath. “Pastor, we have an idea – and it’s a good one. We want to take part of the money people are donating to buy books to leave on the table in the Community Services on Tuesday – and give them away for free.”

“Which books?” I asked.

“Well the inexpensive copies of Steps to Christ, Desire of Ages, Great Controversy, some books on health, and inexpensive Bibles for starts.”

After a brief board consultation, it was agreed. We bought books that went on a neatly decorated table right beside the door under a large “Free Books” sign. Every person who came through the door was offered free books or Bibles, at times with “Granny’s or Marie’s gentle persuasion – talking about how meaningful these had been in their lives.

Curious – or “persuaded” – some picked up one or two upon departure. After a couple of months, and several boxes, “Granny” called me one Tuesday afternoon. “Pastor, we need more books for next week!”

“We just got new cases two weeks ago. What happened?”

“People have been reading the books and Bibles and are coming back for more! Some are taking 5 at a time for friends or family. They are talking about how these books are changing their lives, and what they are learning about Jesus.”

As a result of this gentle urgent persistence, the pastor made a “special delivery” 3 hour trip to the Adventist Book Center that week to pick up a double order of books and Bibles.

What I learned and how I learned it

How did I learn about all this? There were Tuesday’s where I intentionally “found myself” in the Adventist Community Center talking to people, being an observer to the process of living witness and watching people leave with clothes, hugs, prayers – and books.  There were times when my wife and I were the recipients of tomato, grapefruit or strawberry “witnessing.”

I was mentored by the witness of these members, often to people who would not darken a church door. Sometimes I was introduced as “their pastor,” which led to more opportunities for prayer and encouragement. Those visitors told me about the impact these two ladies had on their lives and how they gave them hope and encouragement in their sharing clothes and the gospel.

A few weeks later on a weekday morning while “canning,” Granny caught her heel on the pickup truck tail gate, fell out and broke her hip. It meant surgery and a hospital stay. It was during my hospital visits that more strangers who came to visit “Granny” would tell me how they knew her and what she meant to them, how she had helped them, prayed for them, and lived a witness of Jesus.

What I learned was how powerfully and deeply one living witness could have such an impact on so many, either directly or indirectly. What I also learned was that members can be very creative and, if empowered – or their pastor staying out of the way – could do more than their pastor might imagine.

My hope is that by sharing this story, others will be inspired to listen carefully to the calling of the Spirit – to be the living “testimony of Jesus.”

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Sat, 09/13/2014 | San Diego Adventist Forum
Terrie Dopp Aamodt, PhD

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