May 13, 2015

Why I'd Make a Terrible Baptist Missionary

I ran across these vintage postcards on a website I like to visit and they took me back to my childhood growing up in a big baptist church in Tennessee. Each Sunday, my family would deck out in our finest and go to our respective classes for Sunday School before the main church service. 

I loved Sunday School because it was a lot of like regular school and I was kind of a nerd who loved that sort of thing. Since our church was pretty big, there were enough kids to divide us up into all-girls, all-boys and co-ed classes for each age group. 

I usually preferred the all girls class and was often the teacher's pet. One of my favorite Sunday School teachers was an elderly man named Mr. Dunn who let me read the lesson and each accompanying scripture verse every week. He said I had a nice, clear reading voice and I'm sure the rest of the kids in the class gave a collective groan even though I ate it up. 

Down the hall from my Sunday School class was a big supply closet where all the teachers' books and curriculum materials were kept. In that closet were stacks and stacks of postcards with little messages and cute images on them. These cards were meant to be sent to other kids that we might know to invite them to come to church. 

I guess you could say that a regular part of my Sunday School experience was outreach. Baptists are all about going out into the world and preaching the gospel to all people, and I guess that included the people in our community who might want to receive weekly post cards inviting them to church.

My Sunday School teacher had a big list that contained names and addresses of kids who had visited our church up to that point and each week, we'd spend some time dividing up the list and sending each person a card. Which I guess is a nice thing to do. Our teacher would give us each a stamp for our assigned card and when they were ready to mail, I'd take them down the stairs and outside to the big blue mailbox in the parking lot of the post office next door (I told you I was the teacher's pet).

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Except I knew most of the kids on the list from school. And many of them had only visited one time because they spent the night with another kid from my church or some other situation like that. I knew in my heart that they probably weren't going to visit again with any intentions of joining our church. So in many ways, I felt like sending these cards was a big waste of a stamp.

Then I got the bright idea that I could make this whole situation work for me. 

You see, my grandparents lived in Knoxville which was about a hundred miles away. 

And back then (before cell phones and computers), calling long distance was a big deal. And even though I liked writing them letters, we never seemed to have stamps at our house. So often, I'd write more letters than I could ever send. 

What can I say....I saw my opportunity and I seized it. I began sending my Sunday School outreach postcards to them. Every week, I'd write as small as humanly possible to fit as much about the latest and greatest happenings in my life on that little card. Then I'd stick my free stamp on it and send it off to my grandparents. 

My teacher never knew (or at least I don't think he did). And honestly, I didn't even feel bad about it. I figured it was better to send card to someone who actually wanted to get it than to someone who was just going to throw it away. I wonder if my grandparents ever thought it was odd that I invited them to Sunday School about 20 some odd times.

And that is why I'd be a terrible Baptist missionary.