By Carl Stagner
Retirement is not an option. At least it’s not an option when it comes to service of the King. There’s always a work the Lord has for us to do. For Beatrice Nitchman, this sentiment has translated to seventy-two consecutive years of teaching Sunday school. She may be up in years, but she’s not allowing her age to hold her back from doing what she loves, for the children she loves, to the glory of the Father she loves. Down through the years, the children she’s taught may not remember all the facts, figures, and biblical illustrations, but they do remember her love for them. They simply call her “Miss Bea.”
Miss Bea began teaching Sunday School at age sixteen. It was the 1940s then, and 3,500 Sundays later, she’s still teaching. Except for vacation and illness, Miss Bea has consistently reported for duty, whether at First Church of God in St. Louis, Missouri, where she began, as well as other churches across the country, including Northside Church of God in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now serves under the leadership of Pastor Judy Weeks. Beatrice utilizes the Warner Press curriculum, Bridges, but then gives the featured bible story a life of its own. “My son-in-law says I’m an embellisher,” she explains. “If the lesson says we should get this or do this, I imagine what it could be, and that’s what I do.”
Saturday night is not the time to begin getting ready for Sunday’s lesson. Miss Bea spends all week thinking about the next week’s lesson and making sure special activities are planned to enhance the experience. “Their minds are so fertile, and to think that I have the opportunity to give them good ‘forever learning’—you know they’ll never remember hardly anything I have said or taught, but they will know that the teacher and the church cared about them. And that we were prepared! I tell the children all the time that we’ve done our homework. If our parents are going to make the effort to get them dressed to go to Sunday school, then I must be prepared to give them the best.”
The joy of constant learning, as well as the profound faith of the little ones she teaches, keeps Miss Bea going. She rejoices as she watches them grow in both stature and spiritual maturity. She’ll keep going as long as she can. “One thing is that I feel called,” Beatrice explains. “I’ve done as many as eleven jobs in the church at one time. But then there’s that light in the children’s eyes when you know that they get what they’re learning—and the ability to stretch them and their imagination. So as long as I have my imagination, I’m good.”
Miss Bea’s pursuits aren’t limited to ministry. On her fiftieth birthday, she parasailed over the Gulf of Mexico. On her eightieth birthday, she took her first ride in a hot-air balloon. Like an increasing number of senior citizens, she’s surfs the Internet and uses social media, but unlike a lot of seniors, she’s presently itching to jump out of an airplane!
Northside Church of God is home to another remarkable example of ministry endurance. Seventy-five years as a deacon, Willie Taylor can’t stay seated for too long—even at age 102. He accompanies the church’s visitation pastor, Pastor Earl Horne, on regular visits, and does whatever he can to participate in church work days. This godly patriarch to more than 200 direct descendants still picks up the phone and answers dependably with, “Praise Him!” Joy in the Lord is his constant strength, about which he comments, “There is no secret to having so much joy and a strong commitment to the church; for I love Jesus and the church and I’m so thankful to him for being so good to me all these years.”
Were you blessed by reading this story? Support the ongoing work of Church of God Ministries with your gift to the World Ministry Fund at http://www.jesusisthesubject.org/world-ministry-fund/. Another way to give Bible stories new life and interest is through the new Speed Sketch curriculum from Warner Press, available this fall—same content, new interactive format!