Determined to clean and sort through the attic, I climbed the gray painted steps, pushed open the oak door, and flipped on the lights. Thirty years of out-dated furniture, toys, clothing, books, and other paraphernalia cluttered the large room. My eyes locked onto a yellow and orange covered journal lying atop a huge antique trunk. I plucked the diary from its resting place, curled up on a green-plaid couch next to the alcove window, and turned to the first page.
June 12, l977
This journal is one of my graduation gifts from Dad and Mom. I will try to write often.
Woo-hoo! I graduated from nursing school. The Cleveland Clinic Hospital offered me a staff nurse position in the surgical department. I accepted. My first day is July 1.
Dad says I am not the only nurse in the family. His Grandma Hannah took care of people in her community. He told me a cool story about her, which I will record here.
My paternal grandmother, Hannah Bentley, was born in 1869 in Letcher County, Kentucky. She married in 1886 at the age of seventeen, bore eight children, losing two of them before they reached the age of three. My father, the youngest, was born in 1896. In 1902, Grandpa died in a timber accident leaving Grandma alone to raise six children between the ages of six and thirteen.
“Hmm... I forgot about this wonderful story.” I said as I switched on the pole lamp and turned the yellowed page.
Grandma, a praying woman, went to the Lord and asked Him to show her what to do. Within a month, a neighbor bought the farm and Grandma’s widowed brother, Uncle George, invited her and the children to move in with him and his three teenaged sons, which she did.
Grandma insisted the entire family attend church regularly. She was disappointed to see the same few people attending services each week. Grandma later told Dad she prayed that day for the Lord to use her to win souls and build the church membership.
One night a month later, a neighbor raced to the farm in a horse-drawn wagon, banged on the door, and asked Grandma to help his wife who was in labor. He said she had suffered all day and half the night. He knew something was wrong but the former granny woman died a few months earlier and she, Grandma, was the nearest female he could find. Grandma gathered a few supplies, jumped into the wagon, and drove off with the man.
Before doctors and hospitals appeared in rural parts of the country, older women delivered babies, treated wounds, and provided folk remedies for ailments. The people called them granny women.
Grandma Hannah discovered her calling that night. Her patient delivered a healthy baby boy at dawn. Soon, she delivered babies and tended to ailing people all over the county. Her services were free if the family agreed to let her pray, share the gospel with them, and attend their local church each week. If they did not agree, she charged one dollar. In thirty-five years of ministry, only six families refused.
Within the next two years, a spiritual revival arrived at Mitchell’s Creek and Harlan County. Hundreds trusted Christ as their Savior. The small church’s membership increased to several hundred, requiring a larger sanctuary. Preacher Hall baptized scores of new converts every week in the Kentucky River.
Several months before Grandma died in 1948 at the age of seventy-nine, the townspeople renamed Mitchell’s Creek, Resurrection Creek. Because of Grandma’s obedience and faith, God poured out His blessings on the town. The community produced numerous missionaries, ministers, teachers, writers, and other workers for the Lord.
“Just goes to show what can happen when you surrender your life to the Lord.” I said as I gently closed the book.
Footsteps sounded on the attic steps and the door squeaked open. My husband Jim stuck his head around the door, pointed around the room, and said, “I thought you were going to clean up this place.”
I put the journal back on top of the trunk and said, “I got caught up with the past.”
Jim gave me a quizzical smile and asked, “Past? What do you mean?”
I nudged him out of the doorway, closed the door to the attic and said, “I’ll tell you all about it downstairs while we eat lunch.
* * * * *
Hannah Bentley, my great-grandmother, died before I was born.
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