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A Sermon in Shoes
By Audrey Weir-Graham,  Pacific Union Conference Leader of Ministerial Spouses Association
         One of the songs that was indelibly impressed upon my memory as a child growing up as a fourth generation Seventh-day Adventist who regularly attended Sabbath School, is “A Sermon in Shoes”. Some of you may recall it, too. Went something like this….

   “Do you know, oh, Christian you’re a sermon in shoes?
    Do you know, oh, Christian, you’re a sermon in shoes.
    Jesus is counting upon you, to spread the gospel news,
    So walk it , and talk it, a sermon in shoes.”

         For the last 23 years, I have been employed in public school as a high school history teacher.  Yes, I once taught in our church school system, too.  My last stint was 30 years ago, when Ricardo and I pastored in Battle Creek, Michigan, and I had the privilege of being the first female Bible teacher at Battle Creek Academy. However, when we moved to California, I chose to be a stay-at-home mom for seven years to care for our children, Jessica and Jonathan.  A precious time, for which I am ever so grateful.  When they got of age to attend church school, there was no opening at our local academy.  I prayed and then applied to teach in the public school district in the city that we lived.

It wasn’t long before I realized that teaching in a poverty-stricken school district was God’s mission field for me. The song would reverberate in my head, especially when I was confronted with the challenges of low student motivation, disinterested parents, mediocre teachers, and limited funding. A sermon, Lord, really??

         Having a prayer partner to buoy my spirits when the tough days caused me to question if this is where God wants me to be has been a blessing. We have prayed for me to have a “God-like” spirit in the classroom, when I cannot openly talk about Jesus. We have prayed for the “difficult” students by name, whom unknowingly scream for me to give them some “momma love”.  But last year, I prayed that the Lord would use me to lead someone to know Him and become a Seventh-day Adventist. Enter Helen.

         It was in the fall. I saw Helen in the hallway between classes.  We smiled and spoke to each other and I asked her if she was a substitute.  She was a retired principal from a neighboring district and was substituting for travel money to see the world.  I told her I would like to have her phone number so I could request her as a substitute in my classroom when I needed to be absent.  She gave me her number and then went on to say to me,
“ I’ve been watching you”. There’s something different about you”.  I gathered she could tell that her comment about me being different caught me off guard, because she went on to say, “ I mean it in a good way”.  We both laughed and she then asked, “Are you a Christian?” I told her I was. She then asked, “What denomination are you?

I responded, “ I’m a Seventh-day Adventist”.  Without missing a beat, Helen stomped her foot on the ground, and excitedly said,
“A Seventh-day Adventist---I’ve been wanting to know how I can become a Seventh-day Adventist!!!”   I couldn’t believe my ears and I didn’t want to over react, so I calmly responded, “Well, I can certainly help you with that.”  She had no idea how excited I was.  Me an Adventist preacher’s wife? Me a former Bible teacher? Me the teacher in public school who was wondering if I was making a difference?
I went home that afternoon asking the Lord to show me how to win her “His Way” to Him.

         The Holy Spirit whispered to me to invite her to have lunch in my classroom with me the next time she came to substitute.  So, that’s just what I did. On the day that we scheduled lunch, I brought vegetarian spaghetti with salad. I brought real plates, with real utensils and glasses. No paper products. The Holy Spirit said “Make her feel special.” She was elated and she couldn’t believe the spaghetti could taste so good and not have meat!

         Next the Lord told me to give her a Christmas present. So, I gave her a music CD of Sam Ocampo playing classic hymns like only Sam can play them. She loved it!

         I then was impressed to send her the “Message Magazine”, but I didn’t tell her I was sending it to her.  One day, after substituting for another teacher, she popped her head into my room and said,” You’re sending me the Message Magazine, aren’t you?  I smiled and said, “Do you like it?” She responded, “I’ve never seen anything like it!”

         It’s June….the school year is almost over.  Ran into Helen in the faculty lounge and the Holy Spirit said, “Invite her to come hear you speak at church in two weeks.”  So, that’s just what I did.  I asked her if she would like to go to church with me.  Doing the “Helen Stomp” –she stomped her foot and said, “I’d love to go to church with you”.

         Inasmuch as I was the guest speaker, I was concerned that she not be by herself.  I invited a dear Christian sister, Andrea Smith, to come to church with us and to sit with Helen throughout the service.

The Lord showered blessings on us that Sabbath. The members of the Capitol City church embraced her, the food at the potluck after church was good, and the Word that the Lord gave to me fed her heart. As we drove home from church that Sabbath, Helen kept saying, “God is calling me to higher ground”.  I’ve been a Baptist all my life, but I can’t stay a Baptist with the knowledge that I have, now.  It’s time for me to go to higher ground”. 

         Once again, that still quiet voice spoke to me and said, “Ask if she would like Bible studies.” So, that is what I did.  I asked, “Helen would you like to have Bible studies”? She stomped her foot, and said,

“I’d love to have Bible studies”. Knowing that I was going to be gone most of the summer traveling with my husband, Pacific Union Conference President, Ricardo Graham, “I asked Andrea if she and her husband, Ron would give her Bible studies. Andrea gladly consented.

         I received a text message from Helen in July asking if I would be home, July 23.  I was there to see Helen get baptized.

          It’s a catchy tune…. so glad I never got that song out of my head, “Do you know, oh, Christian, you’re a sermon in shoes?  So, walk it, and talk it, and teach it, and preach it, -- a sermon in shoes!”