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 havent 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
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 Gods
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.