You Can Make a Difference in at Least One Life

by Elmer Towns

Every Sunday School Teacher Should Know that: (Part 1 of 3)

Every Sunday School Teacher Should Know that: (Part 1 of 3)

I was first introduced to Sunday school by Jimmy Breland, a Sunday school teacher from the Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia. Jimmy was a door-to-door salesman at the end of the Depression in the 1930s, selling Jewel Tea coffee. As he had his wares spread out on my mother's living room floor trying to sell her something, I walked into the room.

"Where do you go to Sunday school?" he asked me. "What is Sunday school," I asked the enthusiastic coffee salesman. He told me it was a place where they told stories, sang songs, colored pictures, and played on a sand table.

"What's a sand table?" I asked innocently. Jimmy could see my interest in the sand table. I was like a fish on the line, so he reeled me in slowly.

"If you come to my Sunday school, we'll make a sand mountain and show you how Jesus walked across the mountains." That was the first time I remember hearing the name Jesus. Then he continued, "We'll put a mirror in the sand and it will become a lake; I'll show you how Jesus walked on water."

"Like walking across Savannah River!" I explained in wild enthusiasm. Then I told my mother: "I want to go to Sunday school."

"Not so fast," mother retorted. She and my father spent their time in taverns, drinking and dancing. They were trying to get away from God and the church. My mother thought the enthusiastic coffee salesman might represent a cult so she asked, "What church?"

"Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church," Jimmy Breland answered. Since my mother had been married in a small Presbyterian church in South Carolina, that answered her first objection. Then she asked, "Where is it located?"

When she found out it was about five miles away she said, "He's too little to walk that far; he'd get lost."

"See that big black truck out the front screen door?" Jimmy Breland asked me. I could see large gold letters on the shiny black panel truck, "Jewel Tea and Coffee." Want to ride in my truck to Sunday school?" "Yeah" was all that I could say.

"Wait a minute." My mother had another excuse. She knew the neighborhood around the church had gone bankrupt during the Depression, and there were a number of houses that were unfinished shells with ditches in the yard. She mentioned I would play there and get hurt. Her last response was: "Wait till he goes to the first grade, then you can take him to Sunday school."

A few months later, in September, 1938, I entered the first grade. And the following Sunday morning I was waiting on the front porch. I had on starched white short pants and my hair was greased down with oil. There was a misty rain and soon Jimmy Breland came driving down the street in his truck, splashing through the mud puddles. He took me to Sunday school and I never missed one Sunday over the next fourteen years.

Jimmy Breland was more than my taxi driver to Sunday school, he became my teacher who taught me the Bible and Christian values of life. He became my shepherd, who happened to drive by the schoolyard and saw me in a fight. He saved me from being beat up. As he drove me home, he asked, "What would Jesus do?"

He became my counselor, mentor, and because my father was an alcoholic, he became my substitute role model or father.

Jimmy Breland, with only an eighth grade education, never became an officer in the church, never owned a home, nor did he ever own a car. He always got a job driving a truck because money was tight. So, I went to Sunday school in a Jewel Tea truck, an Atlantic Richfield truck, a linoleum truck. But I was not the only one to ride his truck. He also picked up the four Aimar boys from the next block and the two Drigger children from five blocks away.

I was not the only one influenced by Jimmy Breland. Nineteen in my class of twenty-five went into some form of full-time Christian service. When I told the story of Jimmy Breland at the National Children's Workers' Conference in San Diego, California, a lady came hurrying down the aisle to tell me she and others in her class were also influenced by Jimmy Breland eight years after I was in his class.

Without a lot of education, church office, or public recognition, Jimmy Breland made a difference in my life and many others. You can do the same thing. You can influence a life.

From What Every Sunday School Teacher Should Know, Copyright 2002, Regal Books, Ventura, CA 93003

Used by permission.