Gladys Sakel (l.) and a friend with the Rev. David Schoen in 1994.
This fall, as many throughout the UCC are celebrating how God is still speaking as part of regional All Saints celebrations, I am remembering Saint Gladys.
Gladys Sakel was a wonderful, white-haired widow and member of Trinity UCC in Canton, Ohio. Gladys was a woman of great faith in God, love for Christ and love for Christ's and her church. Gladys was a daily evangelist, always ready and eager to share her faith with others and invite them to "come and see" Jesus.
When I came to serve as pastor at Trinity, she had a heart condition which slowed her down and limited her church activities to worship and her circle. It took some time for Gladys to get going in the morning. But Gladys used her morning hours at home for devotional and prayer time. In fact, Gladys would pray for over 100 people everyday. She prayed for many to be touched by God's spirit for healing, for strength and for faith. It was a gift to know that Gladys was praying for so many, including me.
Gladys lived in a humble home with just her check from Social Security to provide for her. When her Social Security check arrived each month, she would carefully manage and divide her meager income between her medication costs, food and her church offering.
The first year that our congregation planned to use the UCC's Consecrating Stewards program for the fall stewardship campaign, we asked Gladys to be a witnessing steward, knowing her ability to speak of her faith. I'll never forget her witness to the congregation that Sunday in worship.
After sharing how much her faith and church had always meant to her, Gladys began a sentence saying "I never will forget the most important day in my life." I fully expected Gladys to complete the sentence by saying "É the day I received Jesus Christ in my life," because that was the way that Gladys spoke of her piety and faith.
Instead, Gladys finished her sentence saying, "É the day I decided to tithe."
As I remember Gladys Sakel, a saint of the church, I think of what St. Paul wrote of the Macedonians' offering: "Their abundant joy and their poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part" (2 Corinthians 8).
That Sunday, I learned how the same spirit that brings forth great witness to the still speaking God also creates and calls for abundant generosity.
As I enter into this All Saints season and rejoice in the dynamic witness of the UCC's Still Speaking Initiative, I review and challenge my own witness and personal giving in light of the abundant generosity of Saint Gladys.
The Rev. David Schoen is minister and team leader of the UCC's evangelism ministry in Local Church Ministries.