By Linda Morris Thomas
“I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old … things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.” — Psalm 78:2b-7
I have always been interested in my heritage and have done enough research to make me want to know more. I know that on my father’s mother’s side there is Native American blood. I know my mother’s paternal grandmother came from Ireland. However, I know very little about my mother’s maternal grandparents other than the fact that the Tripp’s have a history of long lives. My grandmother lived 99 years and spent much time with me in both my childhood and after I was married. Since she passed, I have regretted that I didn’t ask her more questions about her family history.
There is value in knowing what is passed from earlier generations. We now know that many medical conditions stem from family genes. Many strongholds are generational. Family trades are often passed down. Habits and lifestyles result from youthful family experiences.
As for me, I was born the daughter of a farmer and wife who worked alongside him. I was the third child of what eventually grew to be six children. From the time of my earliest remembrances, I was taught the scripture and prayer and taken to church every time the doors were opened. My mother was my spiritual rock, but there were other ladies in the church who taught me, prayed for me, and mentored me.
One of those ladies was my Sunday school teacher for many years of my childhood. She challenged her students to memorize Bible verses and rewarded us with special prizes. She did “Sword Drills” with us to familiarize us with how to use our Bibles. She prayed for us and with us…teaching us the value of communing with God.
She was the church pianist and music director. She led the PHYS (Pentecostal Holiness Youth Society) and directed Christmas plays. She directed VBS and built tables and chairs for the Sunday school classroom. She also helped with cleaning the church and with keeping the grounds neat. No job was too hard for her to tackle. I admired her and saw her as someone I wanted to imitate. Fortunately, she took great interest in me and became a mentor to me.
When I learned to play the piano, she willingly turned the pianist position over to me. Later, I was the one directing Christmas programs and Vacation Bible School. At a young age, I began teaching young people in Sunday school and have been teaching ever since. I found myself, a little later, as the youth director…a role in which I served for 50 years. Let me explain…I directed but did not do all the work. I enlisted younger people to take on the various leadership roles in the youth department and then facilitated them in their jobs by providing necessary materials and overall management. Through this method, we developed many capable leaders who have or are now serving in leadership/teaching roles.
Because of the influence that teacher had on me, I have always had a passion for young people–working with them in church, in clubs, in scouts, and in the schools–is my calling. It is important for our youth to have role models who encourage them emotionally and train them spiritually.
In my first years of working with youth, most of them came from churched homes; and I felt my role was to reinforce their spiritual training. In more recent years, the trend has changed. Many who attend Sunday school and Girls’ Ministries classes are almost biblically illiterate. I feel compelled to teach them the Word of God and to challenge them to spend time with God in prayer and meditation.
I have learned that the more I know about my forefathers, the more interesting my past becomes to me. I so much enjoy family reunions and reminiscing about special memories of family members of generations before who are now gone. I talk about my heritage with our children and grandchildren. I have picture albums, notes, and memories of past family members that I will pass down to them to assure they do not forget their heritage.
In the same way, it is important to me that the Word of God be a priority for my grandchildren and the other children and youth in my circle of influence. I enjoy the exuberance of young people and love to play their games, enjoy trips and adventures with them, and spend times of entertainment with them. I love eating pizza and ice cream with them. Fellowship is important in building that relationship of trust. However, we must never allow fun experiences to replace the biblical mandate that we teach the scriptures. The more they know about their spiritual heritage, the more likely they are to give their hearts to Jesus and live from a biblical worldview.
Today, Christianity is threatened as never before. It is more necessary now than ever to teach the scripture so that future generations can defend their faith and live out their Christian heritage.
It is up to us to “Pass the Flame.”
“Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, forsake me not, until I have shown thy strength unto this generation and thy power to everyone that is to come.” — Psalm 71:18