As I have said, I grew up going to church. My earliest memories include being dressed up as a sheep for the Christmas concert, earning badges in Pioneer Girls and hoping week after week that I was well behaved enough to win the "Quiet Seat Prize" at Sunday School.
I had many great teachers through the years. But none compare to Russ Schroeder.
I was seven years old when I first walked into Russ' classroom. Back then he was Mr. Schroeder and I was the new kid in class. I felt nervous and awkward because for the first time in my life I wasn't in a class taught by my aunt and filled with my cousins. I was alone. With strangers. And the teacher was a guy with a purple puppet.
It didn't take long for Russ, uh, I mean, Mr. Schroeder to win me over. Week after week he would lead us in games and singing. He used puppets and props and anything else he could get his hands on to illustrate his point. He never spoke down to us just at our level.He never raised his voice at the rowdy group of kids in his class. In fact, the louder we got the quieter he would talk. It would take him seconds to have us calmed and intensely interested in what he was saying.He was like magic!
And what he was saying, what he was teaching was life changing. It was from him that I first learned about being a good steward of the gifts God has given you, about faith and hope and the substance of God's never failing love. I can remember clearly teachings he did, the props he used and the words he said. I can remember countless times in my life when I was despairing and Mr. Schroeder's voice would come out of no where reminding me that God is always with me and that He loves me like I am the only person in the world.
As I grew Russ and his wife Carol remained people of influence in my life. I babysat their children and then when I became an adult we volunteered on the same team together at church. Carol has been to my baby shower's and I have attended both of their kids' high school graduation ceremonies. And now their kids teach my kids Sunday School.
I see Russ & Carol nearly every Sunday in church and there isn't one Sunday when I don't say a silent prayer of thanks that I know them, was taught by them and inspired by them. I know that my faith journey would not have been the same if I hadn't spent those years in Mr. Schroeder's class.
Thank you Russ for knowing God and for showing a whole generation of Sunday School kids the way to Him!