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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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St. Edna's lessons

After raising three daughters, caring for her stroke-ridden mother for six years and beating breast cancer, my mother, Edna Engelhard, launched her second career. She started teaching Sunday school.

Mother had dreamed of being a teacher. But she never had the opportunity to go to college and hadn't even taught Sunday school. Now at retirement age, she was ready to start, and she was needed. Her church, Immanuel Lutheran, Sebewaing, Mich., had some mentally disabled adults who didn't fit into a regular class, so she started one for them.

Mother taught Sunday school for 25 years. When she started she could not find materials to teach these special people. Although their intellectual skills were limited, they weren't little children. They were adults and had to be respected as such.

Materials readily available for young minds all focused on little children. So Mother wrote lesson after lesson, sharing them with other interested churches. As time passed, some of her class wanted to be baptized and confirmed. But what about materials? Mother wrote them. Bethesda Lutheran Home, Watertown, Wis., began publishing these materials for other churches.

Mother's class loved her because she shared the message of Jesus' love. Many of them had no families and lived in group homes. In Mother they saw Jesus, loving and caring for them. No longer did they feel left out, rejected. Jesus loved them too.

As word of this special class spread, group homes bused people to the Sunday school. The class grew, and Mother accepted help from dedicated people in her church. More classes were needed because there were too many students and different needs. Some classes were as small as one student and one teacher.

After another bout with cancer in 1983, Mother resumed her busy schedule until September 1992. Nearly 81, she had a stroke and missed Sunday school for one week, then died.

At the funeral home, one of Mother's students said he had to get baptized so he could go to heaven when he died. He wanted to be there with Mother.


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