Miss Elizabeth, the Michael Jordan of Sunday School teachers

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By Vicki Scott

Before she passed away a few months ago, Elizabeth Ann Coan, a.k.a Miss Elizabeth, asked me to speak at her funeral. This request came as a surprise, honor and a burden. What can I say about someone who taught Sunday School here at First Baptist Reeltown for 50 years? Nothing I say will do justice to this very special and Godly woman.

Elizabeth was an active church member who touched so many lives with her love and wisdom. She had a friendly and welcoming smile with a twinkle in her eyes that made this nobody feel like somebody. She loved unconditionally and was humble, kind, giver and a server. People like Elizabeth had a hard time receiving blessings from other people. A person who is a blessing is like that.

Elizabeth possessed several unique characteristics that make me laugh when I think of her. She had what I like to call a “Mae West drawl” when she liked what she saw. For instance, she saw my husband Alan in a suit and said, “Wow, he looks rawthur handsome in that suit!” I told her I was going to have to keep my eyes on her. In response, she just smiled with that twinkle in her eye.

Another example was when I visited Elizabeth in the hospital and her daughter Regina was there.  While we were talking, a male nurse came in and Elizabeth asked him for his phone number. She said she might want to call him some time with that Mae West drawl. Regina, Alan and I were laughing when I brought that up not too long ago in front of Elizabeth, who just smiled and said, “He was rawthur handsome.”

Another twinkle in Elizabeth’s eye was reserved for her grandchildren. She would not go to Florida without them, and I kind of understand that now.

Elizabeth taught both of my children in Sunday School and that alone deserves a special crown. They were almost grown up before they left her class. The church held several “move up” ceremonies and graduations in efforts to move children out of Elizabeth’s class, because they never wanted to leave, especially our son Joseph. He only liked two Sunday School teachers, and one of them was Elizabeth. Our daughter Eva loved Sunday School but Joseph did not. He did, however, love Elizabeth.

One time I asked Elizabeth if I could sit in her Sunday School class in order to see what the children loved so much about it. It turned out that I learned a new and better teaching style. Elizabeth had three and four-year-olds in that class, which included Eva and Joseph, give or take. During the class, Elizabeth distributed coloring sheets that related to that particular Sunday School lesson. While the children were coloring, she was telling them the biblical story behind it. It looked like the children’s attention was only focused on the coloring and the activity in the class, but I learned differently on the way home. After asking several questions about the lesson, I realized my children learned the lesson and retained everything Elizabeth said. What a wise woman! The children loved her, and it was obvious that she loved them.

I recently read about a study that included a certain number of students who were from an impoverished area with no hope of a successful life. On finding these students and where they were in life 25 years later, all were successful and made a good life for themselves. Further studies found that those students had one teacher in common and living in a nursing care facility by that time. The woman was visited by the researchers, who asked her secret to their success.

“I just loved them,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.

I Corinthians 13:13 says, “So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest is love. God is love. Without faith, we cannot know the love of God. Without hope, we would not endure our faith until we meet Him face to face.”

Miss Elizabeth exhibited all three gifts, especially the greatest of all. I cannot imagine how many lives were changed because of this lady teaching 50 years of Sunday School. All I know is that she touched our household. Thank you, Elizabeth Ann Coan, for giving so generously to the Lord. I am a life that has changed!

Vicki Scott may be contacted at lily200383@yahoo.com.

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