By Cherie Miller
As a single teacher for many years in Minnesota, Henrietta Mears was one of those teachers that made the information come alive to her students. Her passion was developed at an early age as she taught her first Sunday School class at the age of 12, only a few years after she accepted Jesus as her Lord. As a professional, Henrietta often taught high school chemistry or was involved in drama productions. Despite the fact that she spent every working day with students, she was always involved in her own church’s Sunday School program. During a trip to the sunny state of California, Henrietta loved the ministry of Dr. Stewart P. MacLennan, at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. Much to her surprise, she was offered a job to be the Director of Christian Education at his church in 1928. There was already a thriving Sunday School program in the church, with over 450 children in attendance. Within two years of her arrival, the classes had exploded to over 4,000 students. One of her challenges was finding attractive curriculum that taught God’s Word well. This need prompted Henrietta to begin to write her own materials for use at First Presbyterian Hollywood.
Other churches heard of the explosive growth of the Sunday School and the depth of the students and wanted Henrietta to share her materials with them. This was the birth of Henrietta’s publishing ministry which is now known as Gospel Light Publications throughout the world.
A woman of tremendous faith, Henrietta lived out her life verse, Joshua 1:3: “Every single place that the sole of your foot will tread upon, will be yours.” Henrietta’s heart was as big as the world as she taught “her boys.” To expand her influence in young men’s lives, Henrietta dreamed Forest Home Conference Center into being. More lives were touched for God under the stars than under the fluorescent lights in Hollywood. Young men, such as Bill Bright, who later founded Campus Crusade, and Billy Graham, who preached around the world, were challenged directly by Miss Mears to follow God. Billy Graham once said of her: “I doubt if any other woman outside my wife and mother has had such a marked influence [on my life]. She is certainly one of the greatest Christians I have ever known!”Mears trained many Christian leaders by her unique understanding of the Christian life. She said, “A bird is free in the air. Place a bird in water, and he has lost his liberty. A fish is free in the water, but leave him on the sand and he perishes. He is out of his realm. So, young people, the Christian is free when he does the will of God and is obedient to God’s command. This is as natural a realm for Gods’ child as the water is for the fish, or the air for the bird.”
Only when we get to heaven will we truly see the impact that this woman of great faith and vision had on drawing little ones to Him. The world lost a great woman on March 20, 1963, when Mears “slipped through that veil. . . . ” Someone remarked, “It was nothing new for her to meet her Lord alone, for she had often done so. This time she just went with Him.”
Cherie Miller lives in Acworth, GA with her husband, Steve, and a newly blended family of seven sons. Steve and Cherie are volunteer youth leaders at NorthStar Church in Kennesaw and write for Reach Out Youth Solutions, www.reach-out.org website for a global audience.