In an online interview, one of my readers asked, “When did Reverend G’s relationship with God begin and how did she grow so close to Him?”
Reverend G (aka Gertrude Davis) grew up in a non-Christian home. Her parents believed that everyone should make his or her own decision about faith, which excluded church as a major part of their family’s lifestyle. They wanted their daughter to be an independent thinker, especially about something as nebulous as religion.
But one of Gertie’s – that’s what her friends called her – best friends invited her to a church camp. Gertie and Susan were both 13, at that frustrating age when they were waiting for their chests to grow yet afraid of what might happen when they did.
Gertie’s parents thought a week at a camp in Arkansas might be a good diversion for their only child, so they consented to let Gertie go with Susan.
The Arkansas humidity covered the campground like a damp blanket, but Gertie didn’t really mind. She just wanted some fun activities, some time with Susan and lots of time in the camp swimming pool.
But on the first night, the camp music director asked everyone to get in a circle and hold hands. Gertie held Susan’s hand on the left and on the right, she held the hand of Marsha – a black girl from Springdale. Marsha had the prettiest smile and a friendly squeeze as Gertie placed her white palm into Marsha’s black one.
Marsha also had a beautiful voice, and she sang gustily to the song, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” Susan also knew this song, but Gertie knew nothing about the love of God, the community of Christians or the special place God had chosen for her in His kingdom. She only knew that Marsha and Susan seemed to enjoy the song.
That night Gertie, Susan and Marsha stayed up late talking about boys, camp food and the next day’s activities. But Gertie was more interested in the meaning of that song.
“What exactly is a Christian?” Gertie asked her friends.
Marsha rolled over on her bunk and explained, “A Christian is a person who has invited Jesus into her life. Someone who understands that she has sinned and needs to be saved.”
“I haven’t sinned,” said Gertie. “I’m actually a pretty good person. I’m not sure what sin really means, except for people who murder or hate. I haven’t done any of that. So why would I need to become a Christian?”
Marsha thought for a while and then said, “Have you ever ignored God? Are you perfect?”
“Well, of course I’m not perfect. Nobody is.”
“Exactly,” said Marsha. “Nobody is perfect and we all ignore God, so that’s why we need to be saved from ourselves and our sins.”
“Yep,” said Susan. “That’s basically it. If you want to go to heaven, you’ve gotta’ get saved and Jesus is the only one who can do it right.”
That sounded a bit weird, but Gertie thought about it until she fell asleep. Then the next night at the camp meeting, Gertie’s spiritual fog seemed to clear. The camp speaker was a big shot all the way from Oklahoma City, and he used to do drugs until he became a Christian. He explained how God just sort of grabbed him one night and shook sense into him.
Gertie had never thought about doing drugs, but she was impressed that God could save somebody out of cocaine and heroine habits. So she listened carefully during the invitation and then went forward to find out more about this Jesus guy. She prayed a prayer that was printed in a little pamphlet, and she felt good about making such an important decision. But she didn’t quite understand what had happened to her.
However, Marsha and Susan were delighted. They both hugged Gertie, called her “Sister” and wrote her name next to theirs in their camp scrapbooks. But Gertie wondered how to tell her parents about this momentous decision, and she spent the rest of the camp time thinking about it.
God had a plan, a good plan for Gertie. He put into motion a special person so that Gertie could grow in her faith and learn more about His love.
Stay tuned for the rest of the story….
I love Gertie’s backstory. What a life you have created through Reverend G!
And she’s so much fun!