Class teacher leaves a lasting impression

Published 8:12 pm Monday, September 22, 2003

By Staff
Did y'all ever have something you needed to say to someone, and didn't quite know how to say it?
I'm sure most of y'all have, in fact, probably all of us have, and, in some cases we tell the person in question what we need to, but, in most cases, we don't.
And typically, in those cases where we don't, we wish that we had. It's just really, really hard to tell someone you care about just how much they really mean to you.
Such is the case for me this week. And I'm gonna surprise y'all a tad as to who I want to talk about, because I know I have this pretty deservedly wild Southern boy image, but the person I want to pay tribute to is my Sunday School teacher, Dale Washburn.
That's right, Dale Washburn. To give y'all a little history, I grew up attending church over in Juliette, first at the Baptist and then at the Methodist churches there. In my late teens and early twenties, I pretty much stopped going, as I was more interested in worshipping pretty girls on Saturday night than I was in worshipping God on Sunday morning.
Then, I got married back in '81, and Deb and I started attending Vineville Baptist Church. To be totally honest, I didn't like going there at first. It was such a large church, and I was used to attending such a small one, so I quickly decided that I could do without it. But, at that point, something happened that totally changed my feelings about things.
It happened one Sunday morning. We'd just attended church and were about to walk over to Sunday School. The class we'd been attending was about as thrilling as the warning label on a can of bug spray, and I was dreading yet another week of it. But, on this particular Sunday, our teacher couldn't make it, and we were told to attend another class.
So, Deb and I, by pure random chance, wandered over into Dale Washburn's class and sat down.
Did you ever just meet someone and like them right off the bat? That was the case for me with Dale. If you don't know him, he's an old Jones County boy, has lived here in middle Georgia all his life, and he and his wife Donna have four great kids. One important thing that I learned very quickly in that first class was that Dale loved his daddy.
He talked about him several times during the class, and I could tell that their relationship was very, very close. That played really well with me, and I already felt like Dale was my friend by the time that first class ended.
I knew I'd found my teacher. Deb and I came back the next week, and we are still coming back today.
I've never seen a man more suited to teach someone like me about God than Dale. He doesn't just cram a bunch of goodness and rules down your throat, instead, he talks to you and uses humorous examples to reinforce his stories. He also freely admits that he is less than the purest among us, and I like that he's so honest and open. I guess, if the truth be known, that if it weren't for Dale I would've stopped attending church years ago.
I know that church is important, and I'm not proud to admit that, but all too often I feel like I'm hearing the same things pounded into me over and over and over again. It's just too much sometimes, just too much goodness and things I'm not supposed to do, and I get my fill of it. But with Dale, it's different. With Dale I can see God, and with him teaching me I feel like I'll have a chance to end up in heaven, instead of over in hell dealing cards with Satan. For giving me that chance, I'll owe Dale forever.
I guess now I should belatedly tell y'all why I'm writing this. Dale has taught our class for a number of years now, and now feels its time for him to move on and let someone else do the teaching. I know he feels this is best for our class, and that he has nothing left to offer. But, as for me, it hurts my heart to see him go. I love Dale, and I need him around to keep me on the right track. So Dale, whether you stay or go, just know that you've brought God much closer to me, and if I end up in heaven it'll largely be due to you. And I'll never be able to even up that debt, my friend.
And, with that, I can't say much else. See y'all next week.

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