I don't write many blogposts; but today I have something to say.
Last Wednesday I heard the news that Alma Galloway, 102 years old, of Clinton, South Carolina, went to be with her Lord. I experienced the joy of our salvation, the comfort of an old friend, and the sadness of separation at that moment.
One of my college friends, Gene Brooks, posted his own post about Ms. Alma. I won't rewrite what he has written. I was very much a part of the 1990's group to which he referred, spent many hours in the Son Room, and remember well the "Him Alone" study.
One of the most important aspects of my education at Presbyterian College in the early 1990's occurred not at the grand school but in the school's backyard. From the back of Ms. Alma's house (particularly after the lots behind her house were cleared), you could see onto the backside of PC. I first began going to her house in the summer of 1992 for occasional Bible studies and prayer times and to see college friends during the summer. For the next three years, at different intervals, many PC students spent time in that home. We spent hours and hours in her Son Room, sitting at the feet of Mama G and learning about her Jesus.
How she loved God's Word. How she loved her church and pastor. And how, like Anna in Luke's gospel, she gave herself to intercession and worship. Her style of simple, direct prayer was very similar to the one taught by Avery Willis, which he called "Conversational Prayer." The approach of praying as if Jesus is sitting in the room with you, speaking directly to Him (as opposed to making announcements to other people in your prayers). Simple, direct, sincere. Praying on the spot. Asking the Spirit to guide the praying and speak to you as you do. Believing that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. How I remember the presence of God seeming so thick at times in that prayer room. It was a refuge for many people, a Bethany, a Bethel.
Through the years I learned to call Ms. Alma to add PC students to her prayer list. Her normal habit was to wake up early in the morning and sit up in bed, interceding for those on her list for about three hours. When I left college and attended seminary, I could call her or visit her and she would begin asking me, How is so and so? I am still praying for him (or her). She would still be praying for people 1-3 years after I told her.
Prayer, intercession, and small group ministry have been large facets of my own ministry through the years. I know that her life and influence made indelible marks on my own approach to such ministries of grace.
It was a joy to share simple meals with her in her kitchen or her porch. One time she even hosted me and my parents for a very southern supper. I remember attending her 85th birthday party in the spring of 1995. When I began pastoring at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Clinton, many a Sunday evening she came with Nell Haggart and sat as close to the front as possible.
For several years, occasionally I would call her or come and visit her with similar requests. Mama G, I have met this young woman who is a new Christian and trying to get close to the Lord. Do you think you could meet with her some and help her? She was always eager to do so and had a great ministry of mentoring women. The last time I visited her house was about five years ago. When I came into the house, instead of the consistent, awaited regular greeting of Hey honey! Look at you!, she was agitated and not her usual self. When I told her my usual line about a new woman to disciple, it made her nervous and she said that she could not. I was not even sure if she knew who I was, and without being told I knew that her mind, that had held so much about the Lord, was fading. Leaving the house that day I knew that I would never again share the warmth of the Son Room.
A while back I was walking down the hall of Laurens Hospital when I spotted her sitting on the edge of a hospital bed. I entered the room and visited with her, though she did not recognize me. She was concerned about finding her shoes, so I joined in and helped her find them! Though she did not know me, her spirit was warm, affable, and spunky as usual.
I have lived enough as a person and pastor to know that God allows us to enjoy rich gifts in the lives of people, but that those seasons do end and we have to accept that the gift we enjoyed has been released into eternity. May God be praised.
She was a local woman of God in the likes of a Bertha Smith or Martha Franks. And I was blessed to know her. To touch her was to come close to the rustling of the garments of Jesus.