The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


A+ teacher

His eyes fill with tears when he talks about "his kids." Vern Hanson has taught Sunday school for 35 years at Ezekiel Lutheran Church, River Falls, Wis.

Even though he is seriously ill with cancer, the 71-year-old has no plans to give up.

"I've been to two surgeries and on chemo treatments three different times," he said. "It really knocks the tar out of me. But I want to teach this year, and I'm planning on it." The church was glad to hear that, as 23 students requested Vern for a teacher this year.

"I've taken this picture to class every year," he said, holding artwork that he keeps in his house of Jesus knocking at a door. "Jesus is standing, knocking, never forcing. You make that decision to invite Jesus into your heart. You need to believe and you must open from the inside — from your heart."

It's certain the 300-plus students who have had Vern for a teacher have heard these words.

Now Vern faces an uncertain future. "I'm ready," he said. "The odds are that I could be facing death. I'm thankful for the experiences that have put realism into the Christian story. Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. I haven't seen the whole picture yet. I believe that when I die I will pass into God's presence. I don't question that."

Vern doesn't have to question the impact he's made on his students either. At a celebration last year, former students, hidden from view, used a This is Your Life format to tell how he had encouraged them on their spiritual journey.


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