I can remember my first year in youth ministry very vividly. I started off as a summer intern for a church, and after a really rough first couple of weeks, I began to love this thing called Youth Ministry. I had only been at the church a little over a month and my commitment as the summer intern was already half-way over. That's when one of the staff members approached me about staying on year-round as a staff member at the church while I finished up at Howard Payne University. I thought it sounded like a great idea and jumped at the chance. What followed were some incredible years of student ministry that I'll never forget...But times weren't always easy, especially starting out. I didn't make squat at my job...Literally, I think the church paid me $80 a month, after taxes and I was driving 60 miles to the church to or three times a week...But it was good because of people like Granny Elaine, or Mrs. Laughlin to those who didn't know her well. Of course, that wasn't anybody that I knew because everyone knew her as Granny Elaine. She was the mother of our music minister at the church. The music minister had a son that was about six months younger than me and then a son a couple years younger than me and we were instantly great friends. Since I was the age of her grandsons, Granny Elaine took right up with me. There was never a weekend that I wasn't invited to her table to eat, both on Saturday night and on Sunday after church. I can honestly say that I have never seen the amount of food, nor the quality and taste of food that she could put on the table for one meal. As a POOR college students who lived on cafeteria food, pb & j, and macaroni, the weekends were a big welcome. I was hungry and I got real food to eat...every weekend, without fail. I can also remember those first couple of summers where Granny Elaine just insisted on doing my laundry for me when we would get back from camp or a mission trip...She would always say that I was too busy with all those kids to mess with that and that she could handle it. Her reasoning was always this: "I just feel like I never do anything for you." It would make me laugh everytime she would say it because she did more for me than the vast majority of people I knew. I know her grocery bill went up because of me but she never complained that I was at the table, even when I dropped in unexpectedly. She became friends with my grandparents and when my brother or parents were in town she insisted that we share a meal at her house after church. There was never a stranger that walked in her door and there was never a lack of another chair to pull up to the table for somebody knew or an unexpected guest, family member, or friend that just happened to "stop by" during meal time. She was famous for her cooking and her fried pies and that meant a lot of accidental "I just happened to be passing through at this time" would occur. She would make fried pies every time I had a youth bake sale or food auction and we would make a couple hundred dollars off of just a dozen of her delicious treats they were so good and so popular. For a young college student, spending a lot of time away from home, and living on a tight budget she was a welcome friend. She was one of my biggest fans. It didn't matter what I did, Granny backed me and supported me. I could do no wrong in her sight and it's really encouraging to have those kind of people in your life. Granny Elaine showed me what it meant to live like Jesus. She fed the hungry (and the full), shared a story, and never met someone who wasn't welcomed into her home. She washed the clothes of a busy youth minister as her way of contributing, serving, and helping out. She raised a fine family who absolutely loved and adored her. I got to see Granny Elaine in good times and in hard times and all the time, she was full of the love of Jesus. She gave whatever she could to whoever she could and I think that is what Jesus taught us all.
Granny Elaine passed away yesterday afternoon. She went to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus, and her many loved ones in Christ that have gone on before her. I can see the smile on Joel's face (her grandson who passed away from cancer at 21) as Granny walks through heaven's gate and I know that smile is because he is expecting some fried pies pretty soon. I will miss the visits. I'll miss the fried pies. I'll defnitely miss the encouragement of one of my "biggest fans." But most of all I will miss the love and support of a genuine Christ follower who knew what it meant to be Jesus to others...And the world she lived in and touched will miss that too.