Emma Kreger was a school teacher. Emma taught school in the days of one-room schoolhouses, a phenomenon in Indiana where we lived that survived well into the 20th century. Her classroom was young people from first through eighth grade. Emma was so dedicated to her profession that she did not marry until well into her fifties, inheriting a family of adult children who absolutely adored her.
When I met Emma she was a widow, well into her 90s. She was the oldest member of the church that I was serving. A gentle, unassuming, sincere and slightly ornery little gal. Still dressed with the dignity and the audacity of a life-long teacher.
One Christmas I was visiting her in her little two room apartment at St. Anne’s Home. By that time she had been a resident for several years, not really venturing into the outside world-but riding her little motorized scooter to meals and bingo. As I attempted to make conversation, I commented on her collection of Christmas cards, noting a particularly colorful one.
“Oh, that’s from Lyle. He’s an inmate at Pendleton,” was her response.
I was completely taken aback. Pendleton was one of the maximum state prisons in Indiana at the time, a lot of hard core criminals residing within its walls. The look of shock on my face must of been obvious. “Emma, how do you know someone in Pendleton.”
“Oh,” she answered matter-of-factly, “he killed a friend of mine.”
Emma proceeded to tell me about Tammy, a troubled young lady who had rented the upstairs apartment in Emma’s home many years ago. “I learned quickly that Tammy had a drug problem. Instead of throwing her out, I tried to help her.”
As I caught my breath in awe, she continued. “Tammy finally gave her heart to Jesus Christ and gave up her drugs. The first thing she did was to go and turn in her pusher. His name was Lyle.”
“But you know how it goes. He got out on bail right away. He was furious. He came right over to the apartment and shot Tammy dead right there. The police arrived quickly and arrested him and soon he was sentenced to life in prison in Pendleton.”
It was an incredible story, but then Emma said something amazingly grace-filled. “Pastor, that man was crazy ! He had to be crazy to come so boldly and kill her, knowing he would be caught and convicted.”
I nodded my head in agreement and she concluded, “I decided a crazy man needed Jesus.” Emma proceeded to tell me how she had been writing to Lyle for several years and praying for him. And then one day, through the work of Prison Fellowship, Lyle became a Christian. Now he was being allowed to go to high schools to tell kids what would happen to them when they got caught in drugs.
What a life change. All because of a grace-filled, insistent little school teacher, who decided that craziness should not separate someone from the love of God.
(C) 2010 by Stephen L Dunn. All rights reserved.