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Tumbling head-first down memory lane

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The woman was dressed in white from head to toe, her black curls matted and damp with sweat. She had smudges of oil shimmering on her face from a previous anointing with holy oil, and she was screaming, arms outstretched and face turned upwards as she lost her voice to the empty blue sky.

I was only five years old, and I was worried about my Sunday school teacher.

“Leave your granola bar in the car,” my mother instructed me. “Mrs. D has been fasting for ten days now. It wouldn’t be very nice to eat in front of her when she’s hungry.”

Mrs. D noticed our arrival and collected herself.

“R family,” she sang out in a strange sort of chant, her gaze distant and glazed, “Praise the Lord that you were able to join us! And bless us and your precious, blessed children! May the Lord JESUS bless them! And keep them in His merciful arms forever! Amen!”

Her hands were on my head now. I started to squirm away in fear, but my father held me still.

“Mrs. D is blessing you!” he growled in my ear. “Hold still!”

“It’s fine!” Mrs. D shrieked, raising her arms in the air above her head and twirling away from us suddenly. I had never seen my typically-demure teacher behave this way before. “It is all for the joy of the Lord and His Son, the pure sacrificial lamb! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Oh, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”

She began to wander away, and we followed. She lead us through the maze of the gravel parking lot and across a field to a shining white tent, where our pastor and several of the elders were standing around a water cooler.

“Well, R family!” our pastor boomed. “You made it!”

“I was in prayer when they arrived,” my Sunday School teacher cooed. “I think I need to go meditate on the Scriptures for awhile now, alone.”

She left us, and the pastor showed us around the tent.

“It’s a perfect reconstruction of the biblical tabernacle!” he boasted. “We even have an Ark of Covenant. We didn’t put anything inside it, though. We decided to wait for the Lord to communicate His unique covenant with us, here on our newly-consecrated church property!”

“Well, it looks like a lot of fun!” my mother beamed politely. “What time is the groundbreaking ceremony scheduled to happen?”

“We’ll probably get on with the ceremony in an hour or so,” our pastor replied thoughtfully. “We should wait a bit to make sure we don’t leave anyone out. In the meantime, though, feel free to explore the tabernacle, and we have donation boxes placed all around the property. Anything you donate today will go directly to the building fund for our new building! Let’s fill up some seats for the Lord!”

I don’t remember much more about that day. It was summertime in Texas and the heat was intolerable, particularly dressed in our Sunday clothes.

That church building was never constructed, though. I don’t know what happened to the money donated to the building fund. The pastor left the church rather suddenly few months later when his long-term affair blew up in his face. His wife left him and took the kids, and we never heard from them again.

My Sunday School teacher was discovered murdered in her apartment a few years after that. People said that it was because she always wore jewelry when she participated in prison ministries. Looking back now as an adult, of course, I am appalled at the way this woman’s entire social group ignored her obvious drug addiction. They manipulated her into working for the church for free for nearly a decade, and blamed her Cookie Lee collection for her tragic death.

I was the only one who cried when she died.

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Written by GRSeim

April 21, 2012 at 5:53 am

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