I was reared in a small town in Northwest Alabama. My childhood was interwoven with a tapestry of happy memories. But it was not in the sunny summer of youth where God prepared me for ministry work. No, it was in the cold autumn of difficulty. At an unlikely time, God planted a seed that would forever ensure my influence in His Kingdom.
In my early twenties, I became a widow with two small children. I was devastated and scared, to say the least. But God was faithful. At just the right time, Jerome Sherrill and his wife Yvonne followed God’s call to minister at First Baptist Church of Vina, Alabama, where my children and I worshipped. As Brother Jerome took his position as our pastor, the congregation, including myself, were drawn to their vision for church growth. I had no idea the impact they would have on my life. Not only did their concern to expand Christ’s Kingdom inspire me, but their individual attention and shepherding influenced me significantly.
Encouraging Individual Gifts
We all encounter jealousy at work, church, and even in our neighborhoods. I certainly did. Yet, as I think back over those insecure people who tried to put me down, I remember the Sherrill’s strikingly different character. Pastor Sherrill recognized people’s God-given talents, and he encouraged the use of them. He assisted in opening doors for me which offered opportunities to engage in ministry work.
I had a hunger in me to share the gospel. I always enjoyed moments when the Sherrills allowed me to accompany them on Sunday afternoon visitations. On one particular visit, I knelt alongside the pastor and his wife, as Brother Sherrill led an entire family to receive Christ. This pastor’s passion was contagious. And so was his wife’s spirit.
Yvonne was a dedicated pastor’s wife. She always encouraged and was a joy to be around. She had many stories which she narrated with great enthusiasm. She served others fervently and genuinely. As a Sunday school teacher, wife, and mother, she inspired countless individuals, myself included. She truly reflected the Proverbs 31 woman, and still does today.
Brother Sherrill was not a man given to gossip. Instead, he remained dedicated to his family, his church and more importantly, to his Savior. These qualities still emanate from him. Yet, the attribute of his which impacted me the most, was the way Brother Sherrill shepherded others. He was a balcony person, leaning way over to cheer people on in their journey. He always spoke the truth in love, even when one desired to hear something different. And he never veered from God’s truth.
I can still see him today, grasping a hand, with a smile on his face, while reflecting the love of Christ to whomever he was ministering. Pastor Sherrill and Yvonne had no idea how God was using them to plant a seed in me that would blossom years later.
Today, I serve on staff at First Baptist Dallas, working with Pathway to Victory. I teach a Sunday school class for single moms, and I serve with First Impressions (our Sunday morning welcoming ministry). In all three areas, I incorporate what I witnessed years before, from a pastor and his wife, humbly ministering to others. The seed they planted in my soul during my young twenties has grown and is now producing an orchard of fruit.
You ARE making a difference
As Christians, we are constantly being watched by individuals without hope and who need a Savior. Often times, these people are sitting next to us in church pews. Many observe us, day-to-day. They notice when we gossip or when we refrain. They recognize genuineness, while they loathe counterfeits. They can feel real love, while quickly detecting rejection. And their lives are forever changed when someone reflects Jesus.
Christians serve in both secular and ministry vocations. Yet many have no idea the impact they are having. The enemy is working over-time to try to steal our confidence with his age-old message, “You are not making a difference.” Yet God’s word tells us a completely different truth. First Corinthians 15:58 states, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
If you are living for Christ, never question if your work will be in vain. It will not. The Sherrills encouraged my family and inspired me. My children adored them. And so do I. I thank God for their influence and impact.