Money was scarce back in ’53 after dad died of cancer. Thus, when 8 year-old Helen asked Mom for an old, discarded purses instead of a toy, Mom gave it to this worn, huge, black monstrosity with a shoulder strap. Helen carried it with her everywhere. When my older sister insisted on taking it to the strict, old-fashioned, Pentecostal church we attended, Mom agreed.
Our church was one large room and we ‘separated’ in groups about the place for Sunday School.
Monty Sammons, the minister, could be heard teaching the adults over all the others. His voice BOOMED, zipped, around the four walls so that none paid much attention to any BUT him.
The adult congregation was listless, devoid of all enthusiasm. Preacher Sammons worked himself into a kerchief patting sweat, with gaudy animations--arms swinging broadly, here and there. He punctuated his words with vigorous hand clapping, jumps, thumps and actual HOPS! Monty’s nasal voice rang LOUDLY rose with a steady pitch, in hopes of stirring the crowd to passionately give testimony of their faith.
“Lord, fill us with your spirit! Let us RISE and GLORIFY thy name!”
'Amens,' vaguely audible, sprang up but lacked enthusiasm. Flustered, the Pastor shook his head and fists skyward. “Let us pray that the Lord will renew our weary souls and fill us with gracious thankfulness for His never-ending mercy.”
There was a shuffle as his ‘class’ rose from their pews to turn around and kneel down on their knees.
Who could talk during prayer? All the teachers brought all their students upon their knees as well.
When everyone kneeled, the old purse tipped over and its clasp came undone. With eyes devoutly closed, no one noticed a dozen or so tiny mice scampering out of the opened purse . . . one at a time.
Most females wore dresses to church then. Those long folds of dangling cloth drew some of the mice that then began scampering nimbly up the bare, fleshy legs of the women. Other mice raced around the hardwood floor.
Suddenly, shrieks pierced the silence. “Oh, Lord!”
“Heaven help me!”
Women throughout the church began climbing on the pews, shrieking and calling God’s name. The men, unaware of the reason for the commotion, glared at the women as if they were suffering from mass hysteria.
Pastor Salmon’s eyes joyfully twinkled as a thick-as-jam smile spread ear-to-ear. “Thank you, Lord, for this outcry in your name!” Joyfully he raised his face heavenward in thanks just as several folks cried, “mice.”
Some of the men, suddenly springing to action, made attempts to catch the mice while others tried to calm the women. In their haste and fumbling manner, the adults were comical.
A few women, fanning their skirts but still uneasy, began looking up their own dresses to check for invasive mice. Even more laughable, some asked their spouses to look under their dresses. Male after male stooped to peek underneath their spouses' skirt.
The children, beside themselves with laughter, encouraged the mice to run. The four-footed little creatures responded by scampering, without hesitation, in every direction. Despite the church doors being flung wide open and some of the rodents fleeing, the boys--being boys--discretely practiced ‘catch and release’ just to keep the church in chaos.
Now aware of the cause of the commotion, the minister continued to smile broadly. “When we need Him, we call upon Him without hesitation. Truly His blessings are worthy of constant praise. Through the smallest of his creatures He has awakened our dismal spirits with a jovial smile.”
None of the mice suffered capture or death that day but, later, the minister’s wife complained that their house (next to the church) was overrun with mice. Though they served a purpose that Sunday, they eventually met a disastrous fate.
Helen received no punishment as Pastor Salmons adamantly concluded that the mice were the result of his prayers.
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