Christ’s Church of Oronogo is getting ready to celebrate her 70th birthday. I’ve been part of this congregation for over 65 of those 70 years because that’s how old I am. Oh, how the memories flood my mind! I can’t separate my “real” life from my life at Christ’s Church. I went to my Oliver family reunion in July and that family is one of the charter families of Christ’s Church. This church is as much a part of my heritage as those aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Because of life circumstances, I’ve been pondering a lot and thinking about my heritage. In Mark’s sermon recently, he mentioned listing five people (heroes) who molded us. I can’t narrow mine down to five, but I’d like to give you a glimpse into some of my Christ’s Church heroes and how they shaped me. They are some of the many “tree planters” in whose shade we sit.

Before I start, let me mention that none of these people were perfect or sinless. But, just as God used people like Moses, King David, and others in the Bible, He used these imperfect people to mold and shape me and many others for Kingdom work.

First is my Granny (Charlotte). She was my granny, but her many grandchildren weren’t the only ones to call her that.
She was the most hardworking, loving, hospitable person I have ever met. She was a rural mail carrier and often sent letters to family, church members, or people on her route to let them know she was thinking about them, cared about them, and was thankful for them. She frequently invited college students (among others) to her house for Sunday dinner (and oh my goodness, could she cook!). I still remember her great big, black, worn KJV Bible. She made me feel special, even in the midst of her job and other responsibilities.

Next is “Aunt” Mae. She was not my aunt. In fact, I think there were only two people at church who were entitled to call her that.
But she loved me like she was my aunt. I called her that one time, and people listening laughed. She said, “Dear one, you can call me that if you want to!” I never said it out loud again, but I sure did inside. I was her dear one! Of course, nearly everyone she ever met were “dear ones” to her. And you knew you were dear to her. She radiated God’s love, whether teaching classes, leading Bible Bowl, serving in the Hispanic ministry or simply smiling and calling you “dear one”.

There’s Daffol. She was the piano player for church and her laugh could light up the room. She served as an elder’s wife before she was widowed in her 50s. She and her husband, Charles, had many missionary friends, one being Bert, a widower from Germany they’d met when he and his wife had come to study at Ozark Christian College. Daffol and Bert later married, and she moved to Germany to be a missionary there. Her heart for God and lost people throughout the world made a huge impression on me.

Next, let me mention Bill and Wendel. Both worked tirelessly on the church building, never wanting recognition. Bill did electrical work, and Wendel did carpentry. I remember seeing Wendel on top of the church doing roofing when he was in his 70s. What I remember most about these two are their big smiles and joy in the Lord.

There’s my dad, Don! I’ll admit, I was always a Daddy’s girl, and I thought he was the greatest! My earliest memories of church are sitting beside him with my head on his chest, listening to him sing in his deep baritone voice. He wasn’t a scholar, and I don’t know if he ever taught classes at church, but he sure taught people about God’s character. He loved and he served sacrificially. The morning he died, he was driving to church to sprinkle salt on the sidewalks so others could safely enter the building to worship.

John, one of our past ministers. John knew the Bible. I still remember him preaching and giving a scripture to look up, saying, “left side, right column, halfway down.” I was impressed he knew his Bible so well that he knew what the scripture looked like on the pages. John was friends with Tom, one of our deacons (at the time), and they used to like to play tennis. Tom lived across the street from a teenage kid they befriended by asking if he’d like to go play tennis with them. He did! They talked about the Lord together, and that kid figured out they had something his life was missing and accepted Christ. That kid was Steve.

Steve, the kid who played tennis, later asked me to marry him. There are so many things I could say about Steve. He was selfless and modeled the fruit of the spirit better than anyone else I’ve known. I think one of his favorite things in life was teaching kids and directing VBS. He did that year after year and loved every minute of it. He wanted other kids to know the Jesus he knew and loved. His last words before he died were, “Worship the Lord”.

Shirley, one of our past minister’s wife. She was amazing, and as a young mother, I was in awe of her. She decorated her house so cute, practiced hospitality to lots of young mothers, cooked delicious, beautiful food, taught Bible studies, and wrote amazing things. I got to the point where I was discouraged because I was comparing myself to her, and I didn’t measure up. A turning point in my life was when I figured out that God didn’t make me with the same gifts or abilities he gave Shirley but He gave me my own set of gifts.

Frank, aka Crazy Frank. Frank was a new Christian that had “lived some life”. He taught me about really pouring your heart out to God in prayer. He was on fire for the Lord but had many friends who were still lost. I remember vividly his prayer one Wednesday evening asking God to not let them enjoy their time at the bar that night. It was so beyond anything I’d ever prayed, but I knew that God was able to do just that!

Toney and Stacie, former children’s ministers. I have taught kids since I was a teenager – something I did because someone needed to. Toney and Stacie modeled teaching because you love God and because God wants you to love people, not because it is a duty. With that attitude change, God gave me the gift of loving to teach preschoolers!

There’s an old song by Ray Boltz called Thank You. I’d encourage you to look it up and listen. But here are some of the lyrics:

Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave.

Let me encourage you from my stories of these ordinary people. You don’t have to be a scholar. Just be someone who loves God, loves people, and lives that love out loud. Give a letter of encouragement, a hug, a “dear one,” a smile, sweat equity on a roof, an invitation for a meal, lead a Bible study lesson, invite a kid to play, pray your heart out to God.

I am a life that was changed because of the actions of ordinary heroes!

Patti Bearden

Patti Bearden is a part of our Christ’s Church family and has served in numerous areas over the years. Here, Patti is pictured with her late husband, Steve.

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