I’ve met some remarkable people in the church over the years, but there was one woman I will never forget. She was a summer “replacement” teacher. One of those saints of the church who agreed to work with the children while other teachers got a few weeks of rest from that most important of discipleship tasks: raising up the next generation of disicples.
Her name was Inge Schutle. She was not a particularly gifted instructor. She was not eloquent; indeed she spoke in broken English and was a bit difficult to understand. She knew her Bible no better than anyone else. She wasn’t hip to the ways of teenagers in the 1970s, yet she agreed to teach the Junior High Sunday School one summer when no one else would.
Some of the students made fun of her accent, but she pretended not to notice. Near the end of the first class she taught, Mrs. Schutle told us a story. She told us how she and her husband had been separated at the outbreak of the Second World War. Her young husband had been conscripted for the German army. He didn’t want to go. He didn’t believe what Hitler was telling the German people. But it didn’t matter. He had to go to war. The young couple wrote to each other weekly. A year after they parted, her husband’s letters stopped coming. Mrs. Schutle contacted the authorities and was told that he had been killed. She was broken hearted. She was bitter. She decided to leave Germany. She went to Britain to live with distant relatives. During the war, her home town was bombed by the allies. Had she stayed in Germany she would likely have been killed by the bombings.
Mrs. Schutle had been given bad information about her husband. He had not been killed, but only wounded. After he healed, he was forced to fight again. Somehow, he managed to survive the war. He came back to their home, only to find it destroyed. No one knew where Mrs. Schutle had gone. “She is probably dead,” they all said. But something told Mr. Schutle that they were wrong. Something told him that the woman he loved was alive. He began to search for her. It took five years, but one day, he knocked on a door in a suburb of London, and Mrs. Schutle answered the door. “At first,” she said with tears in her eyes, “I didn’t recognize him. When I finally did, I could do nothing but cry.”
Eight junior high students sat in a circle around this old lady’s chair as she concluded in her broken English, “Children, it was God who told my husband not to give up. It was God who led him to me again. And children, if you trust in him, God will never disappoint you. If you wait on him, God will come and he will bring you joy.”
I don’t remember anything else that Inge Schutle taught me. But I remember that story. Without a doubt, Inge Schutle is one of the reasons I am a Christian today. Her story is one of the reasons that I believe in a God of love, a life of hope, a vision of a better world and a better way. She is one of my saints.
Who will you remember on this All Saints Day?
See you in church,