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The sisters’ connection

By Joan Rhoden

Perched on top of a grassy knoll in Bedford, N.H., is a cozy, white, clapboard "Cape." It has been there since 1850, sheltering ordinary people, living out mostly ordinary days. Occasionally, it has witnessed an extraordinary event.

I am one of its occupants right now, willingly held hostage by two little girls who haven’t lived here yet. My assignment is to help my daughter (on bedrest) keep life ordinary as we anticipate an extraordinary event in our family — the birth of twins. "My sisters," their older brother proudly proclaims.

Thoughts go back in time to another white, clapboard house on a quiet street where seven sisters were born. Not in the same year, but close enough in succession to grow up together. "The Garns Girls," they were affectionately called. Born into a home of strong male influence with a protective father and two older brothers, these little ladies made their mark. Gail, Ruth, Esther, Miriam, Mary, Berta and Bernice were a force to be reckoned with.

In spite of facing the uncertainties of the Great Depression years, their home exuded confidence. This family literally shared their way through hard times. And God generously blessed them materially and spiritually in return.

Mother Garns provided a good role model. Early in the 1900s, even before the Azusa Street revival, she experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit at a Methodist prayer band. Although a soft-spoken woman of few words, she had an indomitable spirit. A "velvet brick" reputation followed her as a charter member of the Bethel Assembly of God in Hagerstown, Md. Her girls blossomed under her nurturing and became as hardy of character as she.

Most of what I know about the history of these sisters came from my mother who was Berta, next to the youngest in birth order. Her influence on my life is impossible to convey on paper. Stories of how she and her siblings grew up could fill volumes.

As a child, I was for the first time willingly held captive, watching them intently and absorbing their life values. No one could ignore these small, feisty women who collectively planted churches, managed farms, taught school, nursed sick people to health, took the gospel to foreign lands and reared godly families of their own. They loomed larger than life in my mind, each of them enticing my respect and accountability.

Now some new little sisters are about to make their grand entrance. What qualities of the seven will be passed on? Certainly a smattering of physical traits will surface. Will they have the short, stocky legs we have teased each other about for generations? Some red hair and freckles? Possibly dark brown eyes to go with black curly hair?

What really matters is that the spirit of the seven sisters never fades. A zest for life, thirst for knowledge, tenacity to finish a task, self-respect, a heart for God and a desire to serve. These traits are not genetic; they must be intentionally transmitted by example. Psalm 71:18 (NIV) pleads, "Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come."

It occurs to me that I am an important link — niece of the seven, grandmother of the two. By my choices, I can strengthen the chain of spunky little ladies making a mark on the world for God’s kingdom. The connection is up to me — for now.


Joan Rhoden lives in Fairfax, Va., and is the wife of H. Robert Rhoden, superintendent of the Potomac District of the Assemblies of God.

 

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