It started simply enough. Idah Roberts had stopped by the office at Emanuel Lutheran Church, Dallas, one Saturday after preparing the altar for Sunday services.
"The secretary told me, 'I have the hardest time to find a loaf of bread [for communion] that isn't sliced,' " Roberts recalls.
" 'Would you like for me to bake the bread?' I asked her." That was more than 30 years ago. Roberts turned 100 on May 12 and arrived at church that Sunday with her usual two loaves.
Baking bread has long been part of her long life, starting when she was growing up as one of eight children on a farm in Illinois. "When my mother got out the bread pan, I'd get up on a chair to watch her," Roberts says. "She'd tell me, 'If you aren't going to stir it, you'll have to get down.' So I stirred."
Later her husband, Hanson, wanted nothing but her homemade bread. And bake she did. She made bread all through the years she worked as a school nurse, retiring at the mandatory age of 72. She continued to bake while caring for her husband after he suffered a stroke five years before his death at 97 in 1997.
Now she bakes bread only for church, and parishioners tell her often how much it's appreciated. "I just praise the Lord and thank him for all those precious friendships," Roberts says about the people at Emanuel — who not only receive her communion bread with thanks but also presented her with a birthday cake decorated with "100" in gold numbers.
"It won't be long before they'll have to take over [the bread baking]," she adds. "There comes a time to depart this world. And I'm on the way."
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers