Dear Mrs. Wybenga,
It was third grade. That was a tough year for me. That was the year my mom spent time in a mental hospital after attempting suicide. I was 8.
That was alto the year that you were my Sunday School teacher. I honestly don’t remember much about the actual class. It was a Baptist church so I am imagining we heard Bible stories and did little crafts while our parents sat in big church. I can’t remember the particulars but the love I felt, that struck deep.
And you showed up week after week. Do you know how much that meant to a girl whose own mother left unexpectedly one morning in an ambulance and then stayed away for more than a month? You showed up week after week.
I remember going to your house once or twice for a special activity with the other girls in our class. It was a small group of third graders. Again, I don’t remember the activity, it didn’t matter really. You had invited us into your home. You made time outside of the Sunday morning commitment you had made. You had time, for me.
I remember your home was quiet. So unlike the chaos of my house filled to the brim with my two brothers and the six teenage foster girls that lived with us. At any moment, my house could erupt with a shouting match, name calling, swearing that would make a sailor blush. I heard stories that an eight year old should never hear, stories of sex and abuse. Your house felt calm and peaceful, which is how I felt whenever I was with you.
Oh how I needed that respite, that quiet space. It often felt like my whole childhood was defined by the drama. Everyone knew our family, if not for the group home kids that lived with us, than for my mom’s mental health issues. You though saw me, little me. And you told me that Jesus loved me, little me.
People, after hearing my story, often ask how I turned out so normal. My answer always points back to God and the people that showed me God’s love.
Many, many years ago, you gave up your Sunday mornings to sit with a group of third and fourth grade girls. You told us stories about God’s love, His protection, His provision. You listened to us and made our silly ideas and random prayer requests seem like the most important thing in the world. Because they were. Because I was important to you, I believed I was important to God. And that belief was deeply planted, the roots holding me tight when I sometimes forgot myself.
So thank you. Thank you for all those Sundays. Thank you for the prayers I now know as an adult that you prayed for me. Thank you for sharing your life, your home, your time, your Jesus with me. You made a difference in my life.
For all the girls,