First, I'd like to start by paying my respects to the beloved Pastor Leonard Jones. You know, it's something to remember all the things your pastor did when you were a child, and believe that he was the best man in the world. I understand that all pastors have their flaws but to a child their like the earthly Jesus who is leading you to the real Jesus who is faultless and blameless. This weekend, people from all over will honor his life, his ministry, and his love. I was baptized by him in 1980 and as he grabbed my hand and said come on Danya, I can remember feeling so safe from all hurt, harm, and danger; as Christ grabbed his hand, I can imagine that he felt the same as I did on that wonderful day.......safe from all hurt, harm, and danger. Rest in Peace Pastor Jones, and I promise daily I'm getting right because this church will one day go home.
Now when I read the Word of God and it speaks of the patriots of their day, my mind often reflect on the patriots of my day who paved the way for me. Not by preparing a career for me, but by preparing me for everlasting life and life more abundantly. I can't help but remember all the days Mother L.B. Ford (my grandmother) sat me at the table with her Sunday school book in hand and said, "Read this and tell me what you think the Lord is saying here." I would read and as I tried to rationalize what I'd read with the intellect I had, she'd say, "Just let the Holy Spirit tell you what it means." Then as if a light would turn on, there was a glimpse into my mind at exactly what God was telling through the Boyd Sunday School lesson writer. For this she will forever go down in the book of Danyelle as one of the patriots who lead me to my purpose.
There was Louis Jefferson Ford who sat me at the table for dinner, and as I prepared to bow for grace he said, "Today you need to give a scripture." All I could think of sitting at the table, with the eyes of him and my grandmother peering at me as if they were pulling out the answer to all of their questions, was "Jesus wept." He said, "Yes He did but you must know more than that scripture to remain grateful for your food." The next time, I told myself I would be ready and when he sprang that at me, I'd give him, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life." I knew it, I read it in Sunday school, but when he asked I just couldn't think of it all so I said, "Jesus wept and He died." With a slight nod he said, "That's part scripture and part reality, next time do better." I was ashamed and sad but he reminded me, "You learn the Word so you will never forget to be grateful." For this she will forever go down in the book of Danyelle as one of the patriots who lead me to my purpose.
Then there was Estelle Sample who would call me up to read in front of the whole Sunday school class week after week. I would dance up reluctantly in my ruffled lace socks and ponytails ribbon tied, wondering of all the people in the class, why did she have to pick me? So one day I got the courage to tell my grandmother on her and this is what she said, "She keeps calling on you because she sees something in you." What did she see? I didn't quit understand but she reminded me that by and by I would understand it better; and I do. For this she will forever go down in the book of Danyelle as one of the patriots who lead me to my purpose.
There was the white haired lady who sang so eloquently by the name of Dorothy Carthorn. All I wanted to ever do was dress and sing like her. She was all I thought I ever wanted to be and when she allowed me to get close, she realized that I viewed her like she maybe should have viewed herself. I will never forget the watch she bought me with the reminder that a young lady should always be on time. I shall never forget and although I struggle someone deep down I know that when a woman finds integrity, she finds a reason to be on time. For this she will forever go down in the book of Danyelle as one of the patriots who lead me to my purpose.
Then there's Zanzie McCoy who said to me, "Danzell you can do it gal. Now get these here chullin and start this mission back up." I never knew that in order to groom a church mother, it started in her early twenties when she wasn't fit to live and surely not fit to die. She took me in my lowest moment and gave me something greater than I. For this she will forever go down in the book of Danyelle as one of the patriots who lead me to my purpose.
Then there was the great Superintendent David Gatlin. The man filled with wisdom who could somehow see more in me, than I could see in myself. He would gather his bible and I'd sit in a chair to the right of him and he'd pour into me verse by verse, page after page. No one imagined that I'd be so interested but something longed for me to know why holiness and nothing else. He said, "One day when you stand before people, always be mindful of what you wear. If you can, wear a robe because everyone is not there for the right reason." It took years to understand but a blessing to have obeyed and for this he will forever go down in the book of Danyelle as one of the patriots who lead me to my purpose.
As I write now, I'm almost overtaken by my tears, but this one thing I know.....had it not been for these and so many more, I would have never stepped into the light of my living. And I said to Pastor Jones when I struggled with the longing to preach, "I struggle with my purpose." And he said, "Now I don't believe in women preachers but if you get big you can always tell them you came from me." At that point I didn't feel rebuked but I felt that no matter what he knew I would do what I felt right and he wanted nothing more than to be known as a patriot who lead me to my purpose.
So although they are gone, I would like to one day be considered as them. A woman who lived with integrity. Who blessed the Lord with her heart and her substance. Who loved in spite of but because of her love for Christ. Who gave a child a reason to break away from shyness and to explore the fact that they can do all things through Christ. Who was a role model to some young lady searching for truth. Who pushed someone to their purpose by recognizing the spiritual gift in them. Who gave someone proof that the Word works and gratefulness dispels haughtiness. A woman who understood that holiness without no man shall see the Lord. So as I once feared death, I understand that my patriots prepared me for life on earth without neglect that I'm just a pilgrim passing through this foreign land and everything I do is about the day when the angels will "Take Me To The King."