When Mama was 10 or 11, she and her parents lived in the church parsonage. The preacher served in more than one church, in several small towns. He traveled back and forth, staying with the church caretakers – in this case my grandparents. They might only have a church service once or twice a month. As a child, listening to Mom and Grandma talking, I knew this time in both of their lives was good. For my mom, it was eternally good.
The following is Mama’s testimony in her words. I’m honored to share it with you today. It is part of our family’s legacy of faith.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 (NIV)
One Sunday when the preacher came, I was sick. Mother and Dad decided it would be best for me to stay home from the service. The parsonage where we lived was connected to the church and the heating was also shared.
I needed to rest, but I also wanted to hear the sermon. The only way I could do both was to lay on the heat vent in the floor. I could hear the preacher as well as if I’d been in a pew. I don’t remember what the sermon was, but something was different.
The words weren’t new. Mother was the Sunday School Superintendent, and Dad preached down at the mission several nights each week. They didn’t believe in babysitters, and I’d already been going with them for years. I knew the messages and had heard the invitation to salvation so often I could recite it. I sat on rough benches and unpadded pews regularly. Other kids fell asleep, but not me. Respecting my parents meant staying awake for every word. Sometimes I’d stand on turned over wooden box and sing while Mother played the piano. So there would be no favoritism at church, during Christmas plays, I was always a shepherd. Never Mary. Never an angel. That was fine. We normally only had a line or two to memorize. I visited hospitals with my folks and watched Dad anoint several people with oil before praying for them. I saw people healed, and other people die. Dad read the Bible, and they could pray for hours at a time. Every soldier they prayed for came home safely from WW2. During our family prayer meetings, I sat silently, with my head bowed and hands folded. Faith and church weren’t part of my parent’s lives – they were their lives.
During that sermon where I lay curled up and miserable from being sick, the words struck a chord in my heart. When it came time to pray the believer’s prayer, I did. I meant every word, and I knew my heart had been changed. I was saved.
When Mother and Dad came home, I told them about my conversion. They accepted my testimony quietly. They loved me deeply, but this wasn’t a cause for a celebration; it was a call to worship. I heard them praying for me long into the night.
In the morning, they had me tell the preacher. Later, I was told that he was on the verge of quitting the ministry because no one had ever come to Jesus under his preaching. After he learned about ‘Ruth’s Prayer,’ he went on to preach with increased confidence and certainty in his calling for years, leading many to Christ.
After Mama shared this with me, I said, “Wow! God saved one little girl’s soul and a preacher’s ministry so that others could be saved too.”
She looked at me, surprise in her dark-blue eyes. “I never thought of it that way.”
My brother and I have a humble mother. Illness has taken so much from her. When I sit with her, she often wonders if her life has mattered, and she wishes she had done more for God more. The truth is, and I tell her this every chance I get, is that what she has done matters and so does what she is doing.
Now, our Mom spends a lot of her time in a chair watching the birds, and she does what she can for the Lord: Ruth prays.
Until Next Time,
****Update on November 29, 2014 Ruth Pater passed quietly from here to heaven.
Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his faithful servants.
Psalm 116:15 (NIV)