The theme "Love Your Neighbor" permeates this issue of the Western Recorder as various contributors accurately provide a perspective on that biblical command.
The admonition to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind is followed by the second great command to love your neighbor as yourself. We can all think of people in our lives who have modeled both of those commands well. In my mind, one of the best examples is my wife's late aunt, Lula Mae Pryor.
She died this past Dec. 10, but leaves an amazing legacy of faithfulness to love the Lord and love one another. Her life evidences that you cannot do one without the other.
The last time my wife (Karen) and I visited her in an assisted living facility in Lexington will forever remain etched in our minds. What happened on that visit exemplifies the way she lived life.
As we entered her room, it was obvious she did not remember who we were. She quickly asked us to remind her of our names, and Karen added the family information — that her dad was Lula Mae's late brother, Wallace York. She asked us to write down our names on a notepad that she kept handy at all times.
We talked for 10-15 minutes when she again asked us to remind her again of our names. That happened once more before our visit ended. But what happened in between those times is remarkable.
She told us that she was in that home for a purpose, and that was to tell people about Jesus and their need of Him as Savior. She could not remember people's names, but the name of Jesus was one she never forgot. Not only did she remember His name, but she could tell anyone what Jesus did for them on Calvary's cross and how they could have the salvation that she was assured of.
Her ministry was not only to residents and visitors there, but to staff members as well. Anyone who entered her room was asked how she could pray for them. She asked them to write their name on that notepad and then give a detailed explanation of how she could pray for them.
That's how she spent her days — telling people about Jesus, explaining how they could be saved and praying for them. Everyone who listed a prayer request could be assured she prayed not only daily, but multiple times each day.
That's the ultimate love of God and of people — to tell them about the saving power of Jesus and to love them enough to pray diligently for them.
Once you were part of her life, she never let you go. She followed up with students, missionaries, preachers — she would even call the church office to talk to the receptionist, just to check on her.
She developed a pastry ministry, boxing up any leftover pastries during her years of working at Magee's Bakery and seeing they were delivered to folks all over town. She never drove, never owned a car, never had a driver's license — yet she made her way and left her influence all over Lexington. She didn't travel much and may never have left Kentucky, but prayed for people all over the world.
Her pastor, David Prince of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, rightly said she was "probably the most unique person" he ever met. Not only was she his biggest encourager, but "she was most people's biggest encourager." He added, "More than any person I've ever know, her life revolved around Jesus, family and church family." She spent decades on the Ashland Avenue staff. Her role: clean the church. "She actually loved it and felt honored to do it," Prince said. For 31 years, she immaculately cleaned the church, but she prayed for people and the ministry as she cleaned. "If she knew where you usually sat, then you could be sure on Sunday that you had been prayed for and that seat had been prayed over," Prince said.
When her health didn't allow her to continue cleaning the church, her assignment changed. She would call visitors and thank them for attending church. The result — the retention of visitors increased.
Prince recalled one of the times he visited her in the hospital. As he left, a nurse asked, "Are you the greatest preacher of all time?" Prince, puzzled at that question, then heard the rest of the story. "Are you Lula Mae's pastor? According to her, you are the greatest pastor of all time. She sure is something," the nurse surmised, then with tears in her eyes said, "The first time I met her she prayed for me."
There can be Sunday School lessons taught and sermons preached about how to love your neighbor. But Lula Mae Pryor demonstrated to everyone she met how to love your neighbor. As you read this month's issue, may you be encouraged to love your neighbor as yourself as an outpouring of your love for God.
Chip Hutcheson is interim managing editor of the Western Recorder, a monthly magazine of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. You can email him at email@example.com.