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‘Mother Wallace’ reaches Chicago one child at a time

By Becky Walters Reigel

Whenever people speak of Wilma Wallace, they almost always use the words mother or grandmother — with good reason.

Wallace, 68, a lifetime resident of Chicago and longtime member of Southside Tabernacle (Assemblies of God), is the mother of 10 children and two stepchildren, grandmother of nearly 50, and great-grandmother of eight.

And she’s "mothered" so many others in her neighborhood and in the church over the years, that even she has lost count.

"I have always loved kids. I was baby-sitting when I was 10," Wallace says.

"All the kids call me grandmother — every child in the church … and the ones that are my children’s ages call me mother."

It’s true, says her daughter, Laverne Davis, business administrator at Southside Tabernacle. "She’s grandmother to everyone, everywhere she goes. On her block, she is everybody’s grandmother. She’s the kind of person you can go to her house and eat. She sits down and listens to you."

Demetrius Balentine, a 16-year-old Wallace taught when he was a preschooler, agrees: "She’s like the grandmother of the church. She’s the teacher. She’s someone you can pray with, talk to, laugh with … someone you can count on."

That’s "Mother Wallace" for sure, her pastor, Spencer Jones, says. "You can count on her like you can count on the sun coming up. She is a kid fanatic. I’ve never seen anyone who loves children as much as she does. She’s just a mother figure. The kind of person you can talk to, go to and she’ll understand and pray with you. She’s greatly admired."

Wallace’s mothering, hard work and faithfulness are making a difference, Pastor Jones says. Presently, Mother Wallace teaches a class of Southside’s 2- to 4-year-olds — 12 of them in all, but she’s taught children of various ages for years. She’s also been an integral part of the southwest Chicago church’s evangelism and bus ministry, often filling a bus herself.

"She almost packs the bus every Sunday morning," says Pastor Jones. "It’s incredible. If I had five or 10 of her, I wouldn’t have room to put people here. She’s heavily involved in door-to-door evangelism two Saturdays a month."

And Wallace doesn’t stop there. She cooks meals for those who have lost loved ones, serves on the church’s missions board and is a faithful prayer warrior. "Every week, we have 24 hours of prayer from Friday night to Saturday evening," Pastor Jones says. "She always takes the last three hours from 3 to 6 p.m."

Many prayer hours are spent for the children she teaches. "I just pray so hard for the children," Wallace says, and she knows God is answering. She’s seen many students make decisions for Christ over the years. Some, including David Burson, youth pastor at Southside, have become ministers.

A life transformed

Mother Wallace is also a testimony of how God can transform a life. "My mother was an alcoholic for over 20 years before the Lord saved her," Davis explains.

Mother Wallace says she was delivered from alcoholism nearly 15 years ago — but the road to restoration had begun years earlier, through a series of events.

Nearly 24 years ago, Pastor Jones’ wife, Kathy, knocked on the Davises’ door to leave a message for a neighbor who wasn’t home.

As a result, Davis accepted Christ and began attending Southside Tabernacle where she’s worked at various positions in the church office for 22 years.

Though some might call the series of events "coincidental," Jones is sure the visit was in God’s plan for Davis and her family. The "wrong door," he says, turned out to be the right one — and the first step toward a spiritual awakening for the family.

"Since I came to church I had been praying God would save my family," Davis says. "We started inviting Mom to church on special days. She lived on the east side [of Chicago] then. The first one He saved was my mother."

Since then, her husband, oldest daughter, father, a brother and a sister have also accepted Christ as Savior.

The change in her mother was immediate, Davis recalls. "After the Lord saved my mother, she stopped drinking and became busy in the church."

"I gave myself fully to the Lord there," Mother Wallace says. "I had backslidden."

Now she uses her testimony of God’s delivering power to encourage others.

"I tell them all the time," she says, explaining that God delivered her from alcohol while she was praying in her kitchen. "I just lost the taste for it — I prayed to lose it."

So much to do

In the years since Mother Wallace recommitted her life to Christ, she’s joined Davis in praying for family members’ salvation. Children — and grandchildren — are "coming in," she says.

Her grandchildren have been a part of her evangelism thrust. "The grandchildren, I raised up in church," she says. "I put them on the church van."

Now, more than 20 are serving the Lord.

At 68, Wallace says God is still working on her and molding her life. She refuses to let age – or health problems – keep her from serving the Lord and others.

Some at the church, including her daughter and Pastor Jones, have expressed concern that Wallace may be taking on too much with the job teaching the 2- to 4-year-olds. "We try to get her to slow down," Pastor Jones says.

"I say, ‘Grandmother, after all these children, you still want to work with kids?’ But she loves them," Davis says.

There’s so much the little ones need to learn, Wallace says. "I teach them Bible verses and little songs … and also manners, to be quiet when someone’s talking, to raise your hand, to not speak before you’re spoken to."

Plus, the rewards are great, she says. "It just makes my heart feel good. I like to have them all around me. It just lifts me up."

Poor circulation in her legs sometimes causes her to have trouble walking, but Wallace has too much to do to slow down. "Satan’s a liar," she says. "When the Lord tells me I’m healed, I’m healed. I’m not going to be helpless."

Or idle.

She has people to pray for; preschoolers to teach; hearts to comfort; and a city to reach – child by child.

"Someone asked me to teach 2- to 4-year-olds and I said, ‘I’d be glad to take that age.’

"Whenever someone asks me to do something, if I can do it, I do it," Mother Wallace says.

She pauses, then continues with conviction: "Oh yes, I’ll be glad for Him to use me."


Becky Walters Reigel lives in Springfield, Mo.

 

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