The Best Gift

I first met Martha and Harold Shoutis when I was asked to officiate at their daughter, Kathee’s wedding. Being the pack-rat that I am, I still have what I said on their wedding day.  I addressed the wedding guests:

It is always a wonderful privilege for me, as a pastor, to unite together two young people who before they fell in love with each other, fell in love with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Rich and Kathee both know the Lord. As a matter of fact Rich led Kathee to Christ two and a half years ago.

After explaining how God had caused them to meet, come to know Christ, and fall in love, I continued:

Now we are praying that God will establish a home for them. I know this. The home they will establish will have Christ as its center. Its book will be God’s book, the Holy Bible, and their lives will be patterned as the Holy Spirit leads them to bring glory to Jesus Christ and blessing to other lives.

Looking back over the years, I can see how true this proved to be. Especially was this so with regard to Martha who was personally blessed on embracing the faith of Kathee and Rich. Let me tell you how it happened. You see, I had a ring-side seat, but first, let me tell you a little background to the story.

Martha was born in Flushing, New York, to Arthur and Margaret Rosecrans.  Her dad moved here to farm during the Depression.  Because of the move, Martha attended Galway High School, and a fellow student by the name of Harold Shoutis took a liking to her. When the war broke out, Harold enlisted, and they married just before he was deployed. After the wedding, they had a one-day honeymoon, and then he was gone for two and a half years.  Harold was in the 101st Airborne.  As a paratrooper on D-Day, he dropped behind the enemy lines. Like Joe and Tom, whom I wrote about in the last issue of Life in Galway , Harold was also one of Galway’s “unsung heroes.”  Harold was in the thick of the fighting, but he made it home safe and sound.

Settling in a home near his parents’ house on Sacandaga Road south of the village, Harold and Martha raised a family of two boys and two girls: Peg, “Skip,” Art, and Kathee.

Let us fast-forward to the days when Kathee spoke to her mom about her new-found faith. What she shared was unsettling at first. Martha was troubled at all the talk about sin.  How could she be a sinner?  She was a highly moral, decent, and devout person, just like the many fine people I know in Galway. If you knew Martha back then, you would have a hard time not liking her. She has always been a thoughtful, kind, sincere, and caring person. Having a touch of reserve, she put herself forth with a combination of warmth and dignity. She has been and continues to be a woman of character.

However, in the Bible, the term “sinner” is not used to distinguish one person from another, that is, really bad people are sinners, in contrast to others who are good, but it is used to describe us all as we stand before a Holy God. The Bible says “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23), and “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). None of us has loved God or our neighbor as we ought. Essentially, no one is any better than anyone else.  It is humbling to know that we all stand in need of God’s mercy.

What happened to Martha? God was very much at work in her heart. Over time she became aware of her sinfulness (the biblical  view of sin) and of her need for God to save her.  She had to put away the common notion that it is by our own efforts that we are made right before God, and that we possess some quality which might induce God to bless us and gain His favor.

I saw Martha begin her life with God the way every genuine Christian does. It began in humility, having empty hands reaching out to Christ for His promise of mercy and forgiveness.  If you are a Christian you know what I am writing about. This shared experience transcends denominational boundaries.  It is like the bonding between cancer survivors or combat veterans, who share a common passage in life.  As Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount, the portal to the Christian life leads through being poor in spirit to hungering and thirsting after righteousness to finding satisfaction in Christ.

The result for Martha was that she put her trust in Christ alone to save her, and it changed her life. I saw the joy of her new-found faith and her eagerness to learn more about her Lord and His Word (the Holy Bible), for when she began to attend our church, she seldom missed a Sunday with us until she left to live with Rich and Kathee in West Virginia.

Over the years, I have seen her grow in her faith, and I have shared in her joys and sorrows. I officiated at Harold’s funeral in 1990. I was happy for her when she married Joe Apicella in 1997 and grieved with her at Joe’s death in 2003. She was more than a fellow believer in Christ. She was like family to us. Now that she has moved we miss her dearly.

Being a Christian is an integral part of Martha’s life and she would be glad to hear that you found Christ to be, as she did the best gift!

Winter 2010, Issue Three: Pages 3-5


About lifeingalway

Ministry of the Bible Baptist Church of Galway in Galway, New York
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