Unsung Saints

Second Monday of Advent

Luke 21:20-28 English Standard Version (ESV)

Jesus Foretells Destruction of Jerusalem

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

The Coming of the Son of Man

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Mrs. Marston, Kindergarten Teacher

In most Texas towns and cities, the greatest concentration of affluence is found on the north and west sides, the poorest on the south and east. Due south of the railroad depot where our father worked, Powder Creek ran mostly parallel to the train tracks. You literally crossed the tracks and a couple of bridges to get to the south side of town. Because our town, and particularly the south side, were in a bowl, flooding was a real problem from time to time. When we moved to Bonham in 1958, cotton was still king. Just west of the depot was one of several cotton gins in town. Just across the tracks and west a few blocks was the cotton mill, where a number of the blue-collar, south side, white folks worked.

Mrs. Marston, the organist at First Baptist Church, also ran the Bonham Free Kindergarten, which was just down the street from the cotton mill. She was assisted by several other Baptist women, who felt the call to service. Kids from the south side and some from the north, particularly children from First Baptist where our Dad was a member, prepared for first grade there. We all had to bring a sack lunch, and we learned to share with each other. It never dawned on me until much later that some of the kids from the south side didn’t have as much food as those from the north.

Not many years later the Head Start program began, but, in 1959, kindergarten was not required. Some of the country club kids went to a private kindergarten, but most of those who attended kindergarten went to Mrs. Marston’s. I was in class with a few of those kids all the way through high school. In those days, we would have called them enduring friendships. In reality, we were, as the Germans say, acquaintances for years. Friends stay in touch and genuinely care about each other’s lives until they die. Acquaintances share a lot of common experiences for a limited time.

Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street were a dozen years away. So, kindergarten was very basic. You learned colors, letters, numbers, and how to play together. Mrs. Marston was very intent on playing records and having the children learn to skip around the inside perimeter of the one-room schoolhouse, doubtless to burn off some of the vim and vigor, as it were. Well, as much as I already loved music, then, I could not skip. To my chagrin, Mrs. Marston dragged me around and around in front of an entire room of laughing children until I learned to skip. I am very glad she didn’t teach swimming. But I assure you that I can still skip to this day, although I don’t practice the skill. Perhaps, on the day of the Lord’s return, when I lift up my head, Mrs. Marston will grab my hand, and we will skip into eternity together like the man at the Beautiful Gate in Acts 3.

Mrs. Marston did not live many more years, although I doubt the skipping did her in. Despite her gruff approach, she loved God, kids, and music. One day a week, the next year, many of the same kids, now first graders, went to an afterschool music program at First Baptist. That’s where I learned to know and love the hymn, “This Is My Father’s World.”

Dear Father, thank you for Mrs. Marston and all the early childhood teachers who give children their first taste of school and teach the little ones to give you thanks and praise. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

St Matthew's Pastor Sam Zumwalt

Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Wilmington, NC

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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