As I look at the grape arbor in my backyard, heavy with grape clusters, shaded by large leaves, and old gnarled branches intertwined with young tender green branches, it reminds me of the many fruitful women I have known in my life, who ministered in both big and small ways.
I’m grateful for women who were older than me: My Sunday School teacher who loved God’s Word and urged us to memorize a Bible verse each week. Because of her, there are verses that God still brings to my mind to comfort, convict, and console me. A pastor’s wife asked me—a new kid in church—to participate in a skit. She modeled God’s love simply by caring enough to know my name, and asking me to join her.
I’m thankful for those who were just a few years older than me: camp counselors and youth leaders who genuinely enjoyed crazy kids and young adults. Some of those, who lovingly listened to countless questions and endured conversations into the night, have impacted my life to this day.
I’m appreciative of my peers: Bible study friends who together challenge one another to go deeper spiritually, and who can be counted on to pray for one another, and be there in times of joy or need.
I’m indebted to those who are younger than me: for the loving patience of a younger co-worker, who first taught me computer skills. I’m grateful for the ease of women who intuitively use new technology and graciously reach out to teach others. I admire young women who continue to grow spiritually, while balancing work and home life.
As I reflect on examples of fruitful women, I remember one who is now in her late nineties. She was seventy years old when she volunteered to teach music to a group of sixty grade school girls every Friday afternoon at church. She inspired me! Her humble availability and willingness to learn new music, as well as teaching some old favorites, must have been challenging for her. Yet, she taught three classes of twenty often rambunctious girls, as they rotated through her church basement music room each week. “Lamplighters” was a free after-school girls’ program with snacks, followed by Bible stories, music, and crafts, totally run by volunteer women, and a few youth helpers.
In retrospect, I see how God used all of us, banded together in different generations—though we were completely exhausted after ninety minutes each Friday. As we cleaned up juice spills on the carpet, dismantled tables, and swept up assorted craft beads, some weeks we wondered if it was worth it!
As I look back almost thirty years later, the answer is yes. Some of those girls became part of the youth group as they “graduated” from our program; others came back to help as Lamplighter volunteers; and today many are active in various churches—sharing Jesus with another generation to come.
Young or old, we draw our strength from the Vine. Let us be encouraged as we bear fruit together, and rejoice in what God is doing in and through us in varied ways, in various places, praying for others to be grafted into the Vine!
Cheryl Olsen is the Faith & Fellowship correspondent for Women’s Ministries of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.