Dear Donna

0

A letter to my Sunday school
teacher.

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Dear Donna:

It’s been over two decades since you taught me, and yet it only
seems like yesterday. It’s strange how the years pass. I bet you
never thought you’d hear from me.

I remember your first Sunday in our all-boys Bible class. We were
hardly angelic, nor eager to break in yet another rookie teacher.
To say we were unteachable might be an exaggeration. By most
accounts, we were unruly, incorrigible, and obnoxious. I suspect
you had heard the reports — the stories of other teachers
entrusted to our care.

Surely we were legends in our own minds. Our reputation was
renowned in that little white clapboard and brick church. Teacher
after teacher tried — and failed — to instruct us in spiritual
matters.

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Perhaps it was that reputation that became our identity. We were
expected to be trouble, and so we simply lived down to those
expectations. We were angry boys. Some of us were emotionally
ruined. And that’s why we probably made that pact — a covenant of
our wills — to torture our Sunday school teachers and force their
departures.

Foolish boyhood stunts. I’m not proud of them. In fact I’m quite
ashamed. But I must confess that we relished being bad. And we
welcomed the news that yet another teacher had decided our class
wasn’t their spiritual gift. We heard some great excuses for not
teaching us!

Some would say our antics were unacceptable — they were, and
unchristian — most certainly. But we were boys back then. In only
a few years we would graduate from such pranks. Thankfully, because
of you, Donna, most of us didn’t move on to more destructive paths.
You saved us from much worse.

Of course it wasn’t hard to understand our actions. As you soon
learned, we were little guys who had already experienced a lifetime
of heartache. Some of us had parents who had divorced. A few of us
were abused in emotional, verbal, and physical ways. Many of us
were friendless children. Some of us were too short, or too fat, or
too poor, or too weird, or too something else. We were a collection
of misfits. And that church was about the only place left that
didn’t hurt us.

I must further confess I remember little of what you told us. I
can’t even recall a single teaching method you used to capture my
wandering attention. I couldn’t recite a lesson you delivered,
Donna, but don’t think for a moment that you failed in your
mission.

You built a foundation of faith that continues in my life today. I
suspect you’re the reason I can still name the 12 apostles or
identify Jerusalem on a map. I know you taught me where the Sea of
Galilee is located and how to find the tiny book of Jude in my
Bible. I just don’t remember how you did it.

That’s why I’m writing this letter now. Unlike the other teachers
who came and went from our class, you didn’t quit. You patiently
endured — but never condoned — our rebellion, rudeness, and
rowdiness. I have little doubt now that you regularly wanted to run
from us. Every tear you must’ve shed could’ve been a truckload of
anger, confusion, and resentment. You had a right to be apathetic,
but you weren’t. I wouldn’t have blamed you for being discouraged,
disappointed, or distant — but you weren’t.

I especially remember one Sunday morning — the day when
everything changed for me. You had already logged several weeks as
our teacher and, after the umpteenth time that I had disrupted,
demoralized, or been discourteous to you, I asked why you stayed.
Why don’t you leave like the others?

Do you remember what you said? You pointed to a picture of Jesus
hanging on the cross, and said that Jesus died for you and never
quit when times were tough. You told me how people ridiculed,
rebelled against, and rejected him. You then said something I’ll
never forget. You said that Jesus loved you so intensely that he
willingly endured such abuse so all could know his love. And,
sometimes, those who love Jesus must do likewise so others will
know his love.

Instantly, my calloused heart — rock hard with pain, pressure,
and problems — was crushed beneath your testimony. You loved me
without condition. You saw what I could be, not who I was. It was
then that I saw Jesus. Not just in your eyes, but in your hands –
and your heart. You became Jesus in the flesh to a little boy. I
was never the same again.

As time passed, you taught me rich truths from God’s Word-both
inside and outside of class. You also gave me dreams. On my heart,
you hung a harvest of hopes. When others rejected me, you reminded
me of my gifts. You encouraged my wayward writings or strange
sketches. You saw a Peter, when most saw a problem. You saw a
Nehemiah, when others saw a nuisance. You saw a David, when many
saw a delinquent. I will forever be grateful to you for leading me
where I could not go — nor dared to try.

It would be many years, Donna, before your labor bore fruit. As
you know, I later went to Bible college and entered youth ministry.
In time I earned a graduate degree and became a professor. You
always claimed I was smarter than I looked! I’m also married and
have my own kids who are learning to follow after this Jesus who
loves them so deeply. I see a lot of myself in my son and realize
your strength.

I’m not the only one in that long-ago class to grow up and live
for God. Many of the other boys did too. Some are in ministry. Some
are faithful husbands and fathers. Most love Jesus, all because of
you, Donna.

All because you saw something in us that no one else did. You
refused to allow our pasts or our present circumstances to dictate
our tomorrows. While we wrote on the walls, you saw a Joshua who
could tear them down. When we acted like tormenting Sauls, you saw
Pauls who could change the world. Instead of lowering the bar, you
lifted it.

I thank God for you, Donna. You were God’s gift to a little boy
who merely craved love. So when you feel discouraged and think
you’re not causing much change when you teach — I know that still
happens sometimes — just think of me. And remember what you taught
me: Our God is the master of miracles. He can turn water to wine,
make blind eyes see, and cause dead men to walk.

Donna, those miracles still happen for those who believe. You gave
my life flavor, my mind wisdom, and my faith shoes. I am your
miracle.

Rick

Rick Chromey is a Christian education professor in Florissant,
Missouri.

WITH YOUR VOLUNTEERS
Use this article to create an “empowering moment” for your
volunteers.

At your next volunteer enrichment meeting, say: As you minister to
children, there are always one or two children who may try to push
you to the edge of giving up. In fact, some of you may have a whole
group like that.

Remember, as you give your life to these children, you are shaping
eternity. You are writing God’s love on the hearts of children. And
someday, these children may just write to you and tell you how God
used you to set them on the straight and narrow path. Listen to
what Rick Chromey wrote to his former Sunday school teacher.

Read aloud “Dear Donna.” Then have your volunteers line up and
come forward to receive a special gift. If you have ministry
coordinators, have them help with this. Shake each volunteer’s hand
and say: (Name of volunteer), you are writing God’s love on the
hearts of children. Your work deserves a Nobel Prize for eternal
literature.

Then give each volunteer a pen attached to a card with your
ministry’s vision statement printed on it, or the words “You’re
writing God’s love on the hearts of children.”

Gather your volunteers in a circle. Read aloud Hebrews 12:1-3. Then say: Not only are you
writing on the hearts of the children as you lovingly teach them,
but Jesus is writing on your heart. Jesus is the author and
perfecter of your faith. Thank you for letting Jesus author your
life into a classic.

Close in a prayer of thanks for your volunteers and children.

Share.

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