Every Pastor Needs an Agnes Livezey . . .

9 Mar

Agnes Livezey was a force of nature. Possessed of immense curiosity, especially about the Word of God, she came of age as an orphan just as World War II was beginning. 
Agnes wanted desperately to continue her education after high school at Bible college but there was no money. She quietly married her childhood love Melvin and began bearing him three children. In between deployments due to World War II.
Agnes did discover, somewhere during those tumultuous years, that she had quite a talent for writing. She read everything she could lay her hands on and, as the best writers are quite often avid readers, so Agnes developed her skills.
After the war, she began selling stories to the Baptist Sunday school papers and to Children’s Bible Hour on the radio. 
Her stories were riveting portraits of children interacting with God’s truth in this world. I can nearly recite a particularly poignant passage from one of them even more than 40 years later.
Agnes was my Sunday school teacher when I was in elementary school. She also taught Released Time classes, which were Bible classes at the local church during the schoolday, in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court decision to not allow Bible instruction by teachers in public school settings.
Agnes then came back into my life in high school when I realized at age 14 that I was not truly a saved person. When I walked the aisle to receive Jesus, faithful Agnes was there, waiting to pray with me and rejoice with me. 
Faithful Agnes raised several generations of children in our church, teaching them faithfully the Word of God. 
Fast forward to the early 2000’s. I had not seen Agnes Livezey since a wedding in 1977. So around 25 years had passed since I last laid eyes on her. 
I began thinking about Agnes. I thought about her for around a month. I thought about writing her a letter to thank her for her influence in my life. 
Something started pushing me to do that soon. It felt like the Holy Spirit sitting on my chest, pinning me down until I did it, to be honest.
So I made time and wrote the letter. 
About a month later, I received an email from Agnes’s daughter-in-law Betty. She thanked me for the letter I had sent Agnes. She said Agnes had taken ill and had had to be hospitalized. On the way from her house, they stopped at her mailbox and found my letter. 
When they got to the hospital, while waiting to be admitted, Agnes read my letter and was delighted by it. 
Things then moved kind of quickly. Upon being admitted to the hospital, Agnes lapsed into a netherworld state in which no one could get her to respond. She died a day or two later. 
As Betty said, “Your loving letter was the last thing Agnes ever read before she died. God gave her that as a welcome home gift from someone she had served on this earth.”
Wow, isn’t the Holy Spirit grand?
Betty later sent me a tape of Agnes’s funeral, conducted at the church of my youth by its pastor, whom I had never met. 
It has been more than ten years since the funeral so my memory of it fades, but I recall pretty well the thoughts expressed by Agnes’s last pastor.
He told the story of Agnes’s early life, which is how I now know it. 
He mentioned that she never did get to Bible college but she sent her only daughter to the mission field, with her young husband, only to receive her back in a coma from which she never recovered. A rare medical condition that created a crisis from which Loretta graduated to glory a year or so later. 
He mentioned Agnes’s writing and the influence she had on generations of children, all over the U.S.
Most of all he mentioned how this tiny lady had such a huge thirst for God’s Word that she would come to her pastor after almost every service to talk about the sermon and ask questions. 
The pastor confessed, “I am a better pastor for having known Agnes Livezey because I had to study ahead of her. Sometimes she asked me questions to which I did not know the answers. I would look those up. But most of all, I often learned from Agnes, from her devoted study and her enthusiastic sharing. There were many times she had studied something I had not or thought about something I had cast aside. I am a better person for having known Agnes Livezey” (not an exact quote–I am not sure what became of that tape). 
I have to add that he was a wise and inspiring pastor to have recognized that he had an Agnes Livezey in his congregation and to have utilized her gifts in his ministry. 
Every pastor needs an Agnes Livezey. 
I pray that I may someday be remembered as the Agnes Livezey in my pastor’s life.

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