As I See It
By Billy McCord
In June 1997, I was appointed h to be the pastor of Coffeeville United Methodist Church. Upon arriving in Coffeeville, a nice reception was given for us in the home of Bob and Marie Pittman. It was at this reception that I first met Sarah and Herschel Saucier and Ellen, the oldest of four children. Ellen was 48-years old at the time and it was obvious that she was mentally disabled as well as some physical disability. I immediately observed that while she was disabled, she was a very well-educated person and knew a great deal about current events.
Some people have a tendency to bring up theology or church doctrine at gatherings with the new pastor but not Ellen. During the reception Ellen came over and asked, “Brother McCord, do you love Jesus?” I said “I sure do and how about you?” Her answer was loud and clear, “I sure do love Him, I really, really, do.”
Before or since I have never heard anyone express their love for Jesus as sincerely as Ellen did. She really did not express any interest in theology or doctrine only her love for Jesus. Until her death on Aug. 29, 2005, that was her story to tell to anyone who would listen. I strongly believe that this is what Jesus meant when he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3).
As I conducted the first few worship services, I discovered Ellen knew from memory the hymns of the church. She knew not just a few hymns but most if not all of them. She sang the hymns as though she meant every word, which she did. She did not, however, want any verses to be skipped. She sang these hymns from memory, and it confused her to skip a verse. The creeds were said from memory. Ellen had the best memory of anyone I ever knew.
Ellen was for whatever was right. She accepted no excuses for wrong doing. At one point a young man was charged with setting fire to a church. Ellen simply said, “He should not have done that because Jesus will not like it a bit.” I replied, “Well said Ellen.”
Ellen accepted no excuse for not watching the United Methodist Hour’s Time That Makes a Difference. I had a 9 a.m. appointment at a small church twice a month. I did not have an opportunity to watch the program on those Sundays. When I got to Coffeeville, she would always ask, “Brother McCord did you watch the Methodist Hour this morning?” My reply was always “No Ellen I could not this morning.” Her reply was always, “Well you should have because Connie was very good today.” Ellen loved the preacher, Dr. Connie Shelton, and wanted everyone to listen to her.
Ellen’s mother, Sarah Ellen Collins Saucier has written a book about Ellen title Ellen, My Joy. It is a delightful book and a real witness on Christian faith. Ellen’s funeral was the hardest and easiest one I have ever done. It was hard because I did not want to give her up. It was easy because I knew God had a very special place for Ellen. Sarah quoted from the eulogy I gave at Ellen’s funeral which summarized what I really felt about her. Among the things I said was, “Her life taught us there are qualities more important that physical strength and productivity: qualities like love, trust, sympathy, patience and honesty. Ellen has touched all of us in a very special way. She has made each of us different and better people. Life was joy for Ellen. She has never let her disabilities define her.”
I wish that every person could have known Ellen.
I realize that a number of my readers did not know Ellen. I hope that in some way this column has introduced you to the most precious child of God I have ever know. I thank God that she came into my life for a very few years. Her parents, Sarah and Herschel Saucier were special parents to a very special woman. As you are called upon to deal with disabled people, open your hearts to them and those who are caregivers. I am convinced you will be blessed because of it.
McCord is a retired school administrator and an elder in The United Methodist Church. He is pastor of Shady Grove UM Church in Calhoun County and is president of the Calhoun County School Board. Contact him at P.O. Box, 337, Bruce, MS 38915 or firstname.lastname@example.org.