I grew up going to church every Sunday morning, and, when I got to a certain age, every Sunday night. In my tradition, one of the elements of the Sunday night service was the “Testimony Time.” This was a time when people could get up and say how they had become a Christian or what God was doing in their life. There would be a leader who would lead us in a chorus to sing, and then we would pause and wait. Whoever felt like it would get up and share. Then we’d sing another chorus and do the whole thing again. This would go on for half an hour or so, depending on how many people wanted to share. This tradition still continues in my church at home, though I’ve not been a part of it for many years.
Now, full confession: I did not always love the Testimony Time. Sometimes there would be a long pause after a chorus as we waited for someone to stand and you could almost hear the tumbleweed roll by. Awkward! We weren’t a big church, so we heard from the same people every week. Sometimes it was boring. After all, I had already been in church for about 4 hours that day by the time testimony time started, and hearing the same people talk again and again could grow tedious on my antsy teenage heart.
There was one testimony in particular that we heard EVERY SINGLE WEEK. The woman who shared it was named Cavell Pretty. Early in the sharing time she would stand and recite the words of a chorus:
When I think of the goodness of Jesus, and all He has done for me,
My soul cries out “Hallelujah!” Praise God for saving me.
Then she would say:
Yes, my dear people, for the wonderful time came in my life when I knelt at the feet of Jesus. And each day since I’ve found joy and peace in carrying my cross. And I’m meant by His grace to see the wonderful end of a Christian journey. If there is anyone here tonight who is looking for something to satisfy, I say “seek Jesus” and you won’t be sorry.
Word for word.
20 years later, I wrote those words from memory without even a pause, because for 10 years of my life I heard those words said every single Sunday night. I know them like I know the Lord’s Prayer and Jesus Loves Me.
Sometimes I would find myself mouthing the words along with her, and I’d look around and other would be doing the same. Sometimes I’d tune out. I’m sure others would as well. She’d finish and a few people would mutter “Amen” or “Bless you Cavell,” and she’d sit down until the next week when the Testimony leader would ask: “Does anyone have a word of testimony tonight?” and she’d almost always be the first to stand.
Last night, my mother told me that Cavell died at the age of 93. I usually get the list of people who have passed away away from my small town when we talk, and sometimes I admit I’m not always sure who my mom is talking about. I knew this time, and I was sad. Then this morning I came on Facebook, and there was a message thread – it was between about a dozen of the people who grew up in that church the same time as me. You know what it was about? Cavell. The first person started “Our favourite lady of testimonies has made it to the promised land.” Then person after person chimed in, sharing words they remembered from her testimony. We live all over the world now. Some of us are in ministry. Some of us don’t go to church anymore. But we all remembered Cavell, and her testimony.
I can’t tell you about a single sermon I heard in that church growing up, though many were wonderful. I don’t’ remember most of the Bible studies. But I know the story of a woman named Cavell Pretty. Each week she told her story, and twenty years later, we all remember. 20 years later when my mom said “Cavell died,” my first thought was: “She reached the wonderful end of her Christian journey.”
I didn’t always appreciate it at the time, but thanks for telling us about the journey, Cavell. Thanks for telling us over and over.