Mattie wasn’t rich by worldly standards, but she shared willingly of what she had. From an early age, her life was one of sacrifice for the benefit of others. Photo credit: Courtesy Heritage Woods of Sterling Assisted Living Facility
Because she was older than her uncle’s children and a good worker, a great deal of the housekeeping and child rearing responsibilities fell on her shoulders. As a result, she was only able to make it to the fifth grade before leaving school to help full-time around the house. It was a blessing that her mother had been a stay-at-home mom because the training she got from her helped in the new role she found herself in. It was not until she was 16 years old that she was able to leave that environment and get full-time employment at a boarding house.
It was while attending school, however, that Mattie discovered music was her greatest joy. It was reaffirmed at the local Methodist Church where she and her mother regularly attended before her mother’s death. It didn’t matter what she was doing, Mattie was always singing and sometimes would even preach between songs. And the songs she sang revealed her other passion, her love for Jesus. She enjoyed hymns the most and one of her favorites was “Take the World but Give Me Jesus” by Fanny J. Crosby. She often said that without Jesus life would not be worth living.
Family was important to Mattie. Her children have been blessed by her cooking, sewing, and needlepoint skills. As she was able, she worked to support them during their growing up years. Thelma, her oldest, remembers that her mother would work nights at the post office at Christmastime so she could get presents for the children. It wasn’t until the kids were older and more on their own that she worked as a housekeeper at various hotels and finally, more permanently, at the Dixon State School. Her seven children (one for each day of the week she would say) have blessed her with many grandchildren and some great grandchildren. She would say that while she had lost track of the number, she knows she has enough of them!
Mattie also loved her church. She became a member of the Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1949. She and the kids had moved from Memphis to Chicago where they lived with her older brother and his family for about a year. They then moved to a small home where they were on their own. As God would have it, their neighbor across the street was an elderly woman named Betsy. She was an Adventist colporteur/Bible worker, and it wasn’t long before she sold a couple of children’s Bible story books to Mattie and started Bible studies with her. You guessed it, a couple of years later Mattie was baptized during meetings held by Elder Cleveland and was a faithful member the rest of her life.
Early church life was a blessing; there were a lot of other mothers with children attending and those friendships were such an encouragement to Mattie. At that time, the Shiloh Church was a young church; elders from a larger church would come and preach, teach, visit and work with the kids on a weekly basis. Potlucks were such an important part of church because they provided time for fellowship and there was one every week. Thelma recalls that their diet changed and no longer included pork and other things. Also, for the first time they learned about Christian education. Two of the elders (who were brothers) that visited from the mother church, were strong supporters of Adventist education. Because of that passion, they sponsored many of the younger children, including some of Mattie’s, in Adventist schools. This was not something they did for a year or two. Thelma recalls that sponsorships continued sometimes clear up to the ninth or tenth grade which was the case with Mattie’s children.
At age 50, Mattie lost her eyesight from glaucoma. Thelma remembers that she would sit next to her mother in church and say the words to the songs in her good ear so Mattie could sing with everyone else. It was at age 87 that Mattie developed dementia and just last fall, shy by four months of being a century old, Mattie went to sleep in Jesus and is waiting for His call when He returns to take His loved ones home.
The reason I am telling you about Mattie is because for the last 35 years of her life, she supported the mission of the Lake Union Revolving Fund with some of her life savings. A gentleman who visited her in 1985 told her about the revolving fund and what a blessing it was to churches and schools. It was after that visit that she decided to be a part of the revolving fund family and deposited a small amount in the fund. This would be her “funeral fund,” she told her daughter, Thelma. When Mattie died, it was enough to pay for her grave marker with a little left over! Knowing her mother’s passion for the revolving fund mission, Thelma donated the remainder of Mattie’s “funeral fund” to the revolving fund to honor her mother.
I have worked with revolving funds for over ten years and Mattie’s is the first donation I have had the privilege of receiving. My heart has been touched by her generous spirit and it will always be a blessing when I think of her. I hope it is for you as well.
It reminds me of when Jesus told about the widow in Luke 21:1, 2. His comment was that she had given more than all of the others because she gave all she had. Mattie wasn’t rich by worldly standards, but she shared willingly of what she had. From an early age, her life was one of sacrifice for the benefit of others. I think Mattie chose to make deposits in heaven’s treasury. Am I doing the same?
Jon Corder is the Lake Union Stewardship director.