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Everyday ‘saints’ transform lives, faith

 
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5:00 P.M. EST November 4, 2011



The Rev. Conrad Chigumira (far right) officiates at a wedding in Zimbabwe.  “He was loving, Spirit-filled and bold,” Kelvin Chitowo said. A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of the Rev. Simon Chigumira.
The Rev. Conrad Chigumira (far right) officiates at a wedding in Zimbabwe. “He was loving, Spirit-filled and bold,” Kelvin Chitowo said. A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of the Rev. Simon Chigumira.

On Sunday, Nov. 6, United Methodists will celebrate All Saints Sunday. Whom will you remember on this day and why?

When we posed that question on the United Methodist Church Facebook page, we received more than 160 responses.

Many named specific loved ones and friends, while others listed pillars of their congregation.

When Kelvin Chitowo of Windhoek, Namibia, thinks of All Saints Day, the Rev. Conrad Chigumira comes to mind.

“Rev. Chigumira was a man of charisma,” Chitowo said. “He traveled all over Zimbabwe, preaching the good news to the people. He was loving, Spirit-filled and bold. For him, a ‘yes’ was a ‘yes’ and a ‘no' was a ‘no.’ He contributed very much in planting many United Methodist churches in Zimbabwe. He could go to areas where many pastors fear; he could do it without salary but for the glory of God. I loved him.”

The Rev. Ruth Craver Shannon, now retired, has similar memories of the Rev. Warren Tropf, a retired member of the East Ohio Annual (regional) Conference. “He was, like Enoch, one who ‘walked, and walked with God, and walked no more,’ a great colleague, mentor and friend.”

Ana Marie Carles Agad, who now works in Amman, Jordan, wrote about the grandfather who raised her and shared his love of God.

“He was our mentor,” Agad said. “We used to go to church every Sunday. We never missed (the opportunity) to visit God's home to thank him for all the blessings we had. Now that (my grandfather) is gone, it's very difficult to adjust. I miss him so much.”



Memories of “Great-Grandmother Nell” Fleming Nantz, who died at age 99, sustain Jesse Carswell. She “extended … grace, forgiveness and compassion,” Carswell said. A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of Jesse Carswell.
Memories of “Great-Grandmother Nell” Fleming Nantz, who died at age 99, sustain Jesse Carswell. She “extended … grace, forgiveness and compassion,” Carswell said. A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of Jesse Carswell.

‘Taught me what faith was all about’

Iraida Ruiz is a licensed local pastor serving two United Methodist churches in New Jersey — First, Hasbrouck Heights, and Trinity, Paterson. She has fond memories of her grandmother, Cuqui, “who taught me what faith was all about and the importance of the Holy Spirit in my life.”

Memories of “Great-Grandmother Nell” Fleming Nantz sustain Jesse Carswell. Her “faith and strength guided her family through difficult circumstances for the majority of her 99-year life,” he said. “She impacted not only her home church — Oak Hill United Methodist, Morganton, N.C. — but (also) three generations of United Methodists. ‘Nanny,’ as she was called by everyone, extended the notion of grace, forgiveness and compassion in her daily life. I thank God for her faith and for her place among the ‘cloud of witnesses’ in the Church Triumphant.”

Similarly, “Aunt Virginia” Harroff — Marge Hess Yetzke’s faith model — lived to be 100. “I attended church and Sunday school with her every week,” recalled Yetzke, a member of Coloma (Mich.) United Methodist Church. “She read me stories of the Bible when I was little, and we shared our faith as I grew. She was the kindest person I ever knew.”

Lisa Taylor Hartmann of Lawrence Chapel United Methodist Church, Central, S.C., remembers her father, Lynn Richard Taylor, who died July 12 this year. “Being able to care for him at home, with the help of hospice, was the best worst time in my life,” she wrote.

While Jacqueline Coldiron’s father was “very important” to her, he also influenced others. He taught the high school boys’ Sunday school class. “They were very special to him,” she said. When her dad became very ill, a former student happened to be in town and stopped to visit him. “He left crying, saying Dad was the only dad he had ever known.” She lives in Cumberland, Ky.



Marge Hess Yetzke, centenarian “Aunt Virginia” Hess Harroff and Heather Yetzke share a frame in this 1997 photo. A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of Marge Hess Yetzke.
Marge Hess Yetzke, centenarian “Aunt Virginia” Hess Harroff and Heather Yetzke share a frame in this 1997 photo. A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of Marge Hess Yetzke.

‘The saints are lucky to have her’

Anne Reed of Buffalo, N.Y., admired the courage of her mother who died five years ago. “She raised my sister and me by herself. She was a strong woman!”

Writing from Greensboro, N.C., Crystal VunCannon Nickell said her mom “taught me as much in her dying as she did in her living. I was lucky to have her in my life for 55 years. The saints are lucky to have her. Miss her every day.”

Often on All Saints Sunday, United Methodists light candles to remember friends and family members. Ceil McClellan of Asbury United Methodist Church, Corpus Christi, Texas, will light one for an active member who died this year.

“John Clements … was involved in Emmaus, Celebrate Recovery, Sunday school and anywhere else he was needed. He had a double lung transplant and fought a valiant battle. … I am proud to have called him ‘friend.’”

A young woman who died of brain cancer this year was a saint to Jan Johnson Mobley of Middlebrook Pike United Methodist Church, Knoxville, Tenn. She described Jennifer McDonald this way. “Her love for the Lord shined in everything she touched. She was an amazing young woman that I was blessed to know.”

Another saint was Elaine Belham, a member of Trinity United Methodist Church, Gulfport, Miss. “She was an inspiration (and) was a driving force behind many charitable organizations,” said Brent Powell, another Trinity member. “She was always helping the less fortunate and the elderly.”



On All Saints Day, Ana Marie Carles Agad (right), now of Amman, Jordan, remembers the grandfather who raised her and shared his love of God. A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of Ana Marie Carles Agad.
On All Saints Day, Ana Marie Carles Agad (right), now of Amman, Jordan, remembers the grandfather who raised her and shared his love of God. A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of Ana Marie Carles Agad.

‘I would be a great man if I would live like them’

Bishop Deborah L. Kiesey of the Dakotas Annual Conference, said, “When I think of All Saints Day, I remember the Rev. Merlin Ackerson. I worked as an associate with him early in my ministry, and I often think of the wise counsel he offered – counsel that has guided me well throughout my ministry. In particular, I remember his passion for social justice and his boldness in proclaiming that passion.

“But perhaps the most important thing I learned from him is this: when someone is working against you or seems to be a ‘thorn in your flesh,’ look deeper and find where they are hurting in their lives and recognize that pain is probably the cause of their actions. That advice has helped me try to see beneath hurtful actions, and see the person instead. Good advice from a wise pastor.”

“I have many that I might not call saints,” said John C. Tracey of Spring, Texas. “They are more like heroes of my faith. I … would be a great man if I would live like them.”

Perhaps Laura B. Smith Robinson of St. James United Methodist Church, Danville, Ill., summed it best. “There are many good people who have encouraged and inspired me spiritually along my faith journey. I remember them on All Saints Day and think of them throughout the year. Some were Methodists and some from other faith communities. I owe them much and bless the memories I have of them.”

*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5489 newsdesk@umcom.org.

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