by Carolyn Hittenberger
God looked like Helma, or maybe Helma looked like God. I’m not sure which it was, but I saw God in Helma’s smile. I felt God in Helma’s hugs. I found God in Helma’s shiny face. She was the most beautiful lady I knew.
She showed me God’s love through the heart shaped stick figures she drew to illustrate the Beginner Sunday School lessons. For me, God’s stories lived in the colorfully garbed clothespin people in Helma’s sandbox. She sowed Truth into my spirit. Through Helma Anderson God imprinted indelible impressions of Himself on my childhood. Today those images remain warm and real, foundation stones that last a lifetime.
Every child entering Helma’s class felt loved. She didn’t seem to notice dresses that were too small or too big, or hair that was not as carefully kept as it might be, or faces that still wore breakfast. She just loved everyone and generously welcomed us with hugs and her God-given ability to make each one feel like someone special!
I was Baby #8 of a low-income family. Our home and everything in it had burned, leaving us with very little of this world’s stuff. Sometimes we were mocked for our poverty. Kids called us names. Dad worked hard, but his income didn’t always stretch enough for Easter dresses and Christmas shoes. Mom made a home from next to nothing, and never turned away friend or stranger from her table. Still, we were clearly on the low end of the social ladder. I was very aware of thoughtless remarks and/or condescending looks, even from Christians.
But Helma…. Never did I hear her speak anything but words of love and acceptance. Every week after Sunday School, there was a race to the second row on the left side, Helma’s place for the “big service.” We all wanted to be close to Helma. Black stove-pipe hat, thick glasses, perpetual smile, and joy that seemed to glow through her skin, Helma sat there, scrunched to the end of the pew by as many little bodies as could squeeze into the row beside her.
I don’t know how long I was in Helma’s class, probably no more than two years. I do know she impacted my life and at that very early age, helped me understand God’s unconditional love. Helma died of cancer when I was fourteen. Only then did I realize that the beauty that had so captivated me was not physical beauty at all. Her beauty was the Image of Christ. There was no façade, no cloudy doubts or shadowed attitudes to cover Him up. The SON shone through her like light through a freshly scrubbed window. I learned wonderful Bible stories and motion songs in her class. More important than the lessons, her life taught me God…who He is and how He loves.
Yes, Helma and God looked a lot alike!
Carolyn Hittenberger is Assistant for the Caribbean Regional Office at Global University and also works with University Communications. For more information about Global University, visit http://think.globaluniversity.edu.