Meet Mrs. Givehand, a 94-year-old African American widow living in Nebraska City her whole life. She lives across the street from the house she grew up in because it had been burned down. Adversity was commonplace for her and her family. She would study twice as hard in order to receive half the grade, and not for lack of knowledge. It was because she was considered a part time person. She became a 1st grade teacher 50 minutes out of town in Omaha because her town would only hire full time people. She drove uphill both ways every morning come heck or high water. She had a reputation to preserve and the odds were not in her favor.
Years ran its course. Mrs. Givehand and her revilers experienced growth and change over time. I have had the privilege of seeing both groups eat peaceably under one roof. Singing together in her vintage floral wallpapered living room in honor her of her birthday. I have tasted the hate free, non-GMO, country fried chicken delivered special from Mary’s Cafe, a place she grew up around, right next to her father’s mechanic shop. It was a meaningfully decadent meal marinated in the ministry of reconciliation.
It was against the backdrop of her life experiences that the deportment of her message impacted me with such great force. She said, “You better finish school and get that paper.” I was touched but not moved understanding the complications of my situation better than anyone else. My education was a patchy quilt with credit hours spent toward Anesthesiology, Computer Science, Media, Advertising, Theology, and Business. At the end of the day, my official transcripts were being held hostage at Southwestern Adventist University because of an outstanding bill that would take some time to pay off. One of the professors from Union College would visit our little church in Nebraska City. He would bring a small group of Theology students to preach. This fulfilled the preaching rotation schedule and allowed Dr. Fetrick to evaluate his students. I expressed my interests to him and he assured me that if I came to Union, some of the hands-on work I was already doing as a Bible worker was directly applicable as credit toward my degree in Theology.
My time was up as a Bible Worker one year later. They decided to vote to extend my stay another six months. Pastor Martinsen, Mrs. Givehand, and others in the congregation voted also to assist with my outstanding school bill. It was a shock, a blessing, and a call. A call to step forward in faith as the amount donated was significant, but $2,753 shy. The Conference was happy to consider me for future employment, and after talking with an advisor, found it would take two years to complete my degree. Registration day came, and my situation had not changed. Pastor Sweigart urged me to step forward in faith with the miracle of his own testimony. I showed up, spent the whole day working through a registration check list that ended with a “DENIED” because of missing transcripts. I was at peace knowing I gave it a good try. On my way back home, I got a text message. I wonder if it is still saved on my phone. I'll have to do some digging around.