Treasure the Memories of our Saints

by | Nov 3, 2020 | South District Notes

Who did you think of on All Saints Day this week?  I thought of my friend Jeanne Long, a church member at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Phoenix when I served there from 2006-2009.  Jeanne died last year, close to 90 years old.

Jeanne had a heart for reaching out to the world with the love of Jesus Christ that could not be stopped.  We had a small and aging congregation at Aldersgate that had been declining for more than three decades, but all Jeanne saw was opportunity.

She saw children in the neighborhood who needed more support than they could get at home, so Jeanne worked with others at Aldersgate to build a thriving after-school ministry. Children from Creighton Elementary School found a safe place where they could go until their parents got home, a place where caring adults like Jeanne would love them and spend time with them and help them with their homework.  Some weekdays that little church drew close to forty kids who experienced the love of Jesus through caring adults.

Jeanne saw immigrants in the neighborhood who wanted to build a life here, and so she led an English as a Second Language group that became a caring community.  Families would come and learn together with Jeanne and they developed deep bonds of friendship. One of the students gave me an amazing hand-carved cross that reminds me of Jeanne every time I look at it.

My second year at Aldersgate we needed a new lay leader, and I thought of Jeanne – not only because of her heart for the neighborhood but because of her way with people.  Jeanne had no interest in participating in the drama and conflict that sometimes invades church life.  She was friendly and hopeful, but she was tough too.  Jeanne tried to turn down my invitation to serve as lay leader, because she didn’t feel comfortable praying in front of people.  I told her we needed her and bought her a book of prayers.  She did a wonderful job of leading the church as its lay leader.

When Jeanne was 27 years old, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  The doctors told her she wouldn’t live past 50; at least that’s what she told me when she was 75.

Jeanne was too full of hope and purpose to let a little challenge like M.S. stop her.  She had neighborhoods to transform, so she kept right on living and right on working for justice, even though she’d been bent over, walking with a cane, since long before I ever met her.

Jeanne was fearless.  There was no stopping her.  She kept on loving the world, no matter what.

All Saints Day reminds us to treasure our memories of saints like Jeanne who teach us how to live well.  Jeanne never would have taught Sunday School – that wasn’t her thing – but she taught me about loving God and loving your neighbor, and never, ever giving up, no matter how hard things get.

I hope to be like Jeanne, some day.

Thanks for listening –

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Author: Matt Ashley

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