In 1929, young Elsie Viren was the efficient, capable new secretary to the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church. By the time we Pipers arrived 51 years later in 1980, her days were filled with teaching Sunday school, visiting the church’s elderly and shut-ins and working 2 days a week at her manual typewriter in the office blessing all of Bethlehem’s missionaries with regular letters.
After more than 60 years devoted to the Lord and Bethlehem, it was a sad day when Elsie knew she wouldn’t be driving anymore—and later, sadder still when she couldn’t come in to the office. In the months that followed, sometimes she found my name on her “important numbers” list and called me from her room at the nursing home, wondering whom she had been visiting and when someone was coming to pick her up and take her home or back to the office.
During Elsie’s last Easter season, my husband went to visit her as she lay in bed, weak and fading. He read an old familiar story to her. But it wasn’t familiar anymore. She looked as if she might be asleep, until she heard the words, “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last.”
Her eyes flew open in horror. “Oh no! They killed Jesus?”
My husband told me later that she was comforted when he gave her the news that Jesus did not stay dead.
I thank God that although Elsie may have forgotten what happened to Jesus and someday I may forget, Jesus will never forget nor lose the ones he died for. Praise the Lord, the power of the cross is not dependent on my memory. The power of the cross depends on our Jesus who said, “My Sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one [and nothing, not even lost memory] will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28).