Saturday, July 21, 2012

Alma Galloway: A mentor and friend gone

Mrs. Alma Galloway
One of my mentors is gone. Mrs. Alma Galloway. She was 102.

When I was a student at Presbyterian College, I became part of Mrs. Alma's Sunday School class for all ages which she led at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Clinton, SC. As the teacher, she decided that our only curriculum would be the Bible, and in that class I learned so much about studying the Bible and letting it speak for itself.

But her Godly influence in my life and the lives of so many others went far beyond that. Mrs. Alma taught me much concerning prayer and relying on the Holy Spirit's work.

Mrs. Alma was known all over my hometown of Clinton, SC, as  a prayer warrior. Whenever she would show up at a church service in town, even when I was a child, before I knew her, I remember hearing people remark, "Mrs. Alma Galloway is here tonight." It was said with some measure of informing us of the elevated importance the meeting must have.

Mrs. Alma and her husband Bruce had been caught up in the Renewal when it came to Clinton in the early 1970s. She once told me that they were just ordinary school teachers and good Presbyterian church goers when one day her son asked them when they were going to get serious about their relationships with Jesus. Everything changed for them then. They got serious about Jesus, and they encouraged others to do the same thing.
Mrs. Alma and her husband became leaders in that early 1970s renewal in Clinton. They were called "Mama G" and "Papa G" back then, and the names stuck. I didn't know Papa G personally, but I have heard many stories of his powerful witness to Christ.

Two decades later, the embers of revival still glowed in Mrs. Alma's eyes as she recounted to me vignettes from the "Share Group," Bible studies,  prayer meetings,  and renewal meetings she and Papa G hosted for many years with Presbyterian College students and people from the community.

They hosted those meetings in their "Son Room," a large, comfortable, informal room on the back of their house, just inside the back door. The PC campus was just across the tree line from her home in Pitts Meadow. Many of those students made decisions for Christ, commitments to ministry and missions, and dedications of their lives to serve the Lord through their professional vocations.

Then one day in the early 1990s while she was sharing the Word of God with me, Mrs. Alma made her Son Room available if I wanted to lead a college Bible study and have a time of prayer. Soon the Son Room at Mama G's was filled again with PC students, and today they are scattered abroad serving the Lord in church and mission work, and in homes and professional vocations, putting Christ first in their lives. I tried to keep a prayer meeting or Bible study going there all year, and Mrs. Alma was always thrilled to see us coming, often counseling with young men and women afterwards, praying with them and charging them to honor Christ in the challenge in which they found themselves. Often I have heard her say, "Well let's just pray about that right now," and she would grab hold of their hands and intercede.

Since Clinton was my hometown, the meetings went on through summer school. I remember a particularly powerful series of Bible studies we held one summer in the Son Room that I called the "Him Alone" series, a selection of incidents in the life of Christ from the Gospels in which we looked at the same event in every Gospel where it appeared, in order to grow in our experience of Him alone. Insights we discovered in that study are still bearing fruit, even in my current preaching series on the Gospel of Luke.

Mrs. Alma taught me a lot about prayer. She would lead the prayer time and then I would do the college Bible study at her house. Here's how her prayer time worked: She asked for a prayer request. One would be given, and she would stop and say, "Now who feels led of the Holy Spirit to pray for that need?" It would be quiet for a moment, and then someone would say, "I will," and they would take that need to the Father. Then after the 'Amen,' Mrs. Alma would ask, "Now what else do we need to pray for this evening?" There would be another quiet moment, and then a request. She would say, "Now who senses the leading of the Holy Spirit to pray for this request?" There would be another moment of mildly tense silence, and then someone would say, "I do," and they would pray.

The prayer meeting went on and on that way, and after dozen or so of those meetings I began to notice a pattern. Prayer requests started out rather more on the surface and unattached from the heart. Then with each successive prayer need, the requests gradually got deeper and closer to the heart, so that on occasion we would end our prayer time in weeping prayer together for some great need close to the heart of a student present. Mrs. Alma was never overwhelmed by a request, always steady in her leadership in prayer. She was a magnificent prayer warrior.

I have called her way of leading a prayer meeting the "Galloway Method." I use that prayer meeting format often in prayer meetings including the Wednesday night prayer service. I like the way she took only one request at a time so that none would be lost in a hail of requests.

I also appreciated that she encouraged people to listen for the leading of the Holy Spirit to pray for a particular request, since it taught them the importance of responding to His leading. She was also urging all those in attendance to participate by listening to the Holy Spirit themselves and responding to Him. I also liked the increasing intimacy with the Lord that the Galloway Method produced among the people present. I do not remember one prayer time I ever had in Mrs. Alma's Son Room in which we did not somehow have an encounter with the vastness of the Person and work of the Lord.

Mrs. Alma and I were such good friends that she began to invite me yearly to her family Christmas dinner in mid-December, and I would acquaint myself with that host of her loved ones for whom I have heard her pray for untold hours. I once made her a crown of thorns from an old locust tree in my back yard, and she was thrilled with it and hung it over the portrait of Jesus in her Son Room.

Unfortunately, the verse in Proverbs is true that "a gossip separates close friends" (Prov 16:28). That is what happened to my friendship with Mrs. Alma. I hurt a long time because of it, and our relationship was never to be the same again.

The last time I saw Mrs. Alma, I had come back to Clinton to visit family, and I wanted to see her. Mrs. Alma was in her apartment at Frampton Hall in Clinton, a residence for seniors run by the Presbyterian Home of South Carolina. At first she did not seem sure about who I was. Then quickly she warmed, and we talked about old times and the college friends who had gone on to do great things for the Kingdom across the globe. Then the distance returned, and she was noticeably confused. She asked if I was part of the nineties group of college students with Rhett or the seventies group with Herb. I reminded her that I was in the nineties group, the group with Rhett and Christian and Thomas and others. She just couldn't get ahold of the memory.

Mrs. Alma was in the early stages of Alzheimer's. I noticed she had brought to her Frampton Hall apartment the crown of thorns I had made her nearly fifteen years before. I pointed it out to her. Oh yeah, she knew that Gene had made it. I told her I was Gene. She stared at me blankly for a moment, then asked me again if I was in Herb's group or Rhett's group. We prayed together, and I left there pretty sad and a little angry that someone had robbed us of such a good Kingdom friendship

Not long afterward, Mrs. Alma's home with that Son Room full of memories would be sold. Her dear family would have great responsibilities ahead of them taking care of her. Mrs. Alma would move to the excellent care of the Alzheimer's unit at the Presbyterian Home.

I received an email this week that Mrs. Alma had passed away on Wednesday night. How appropriate that it was prayer meeting night. By God's grace, Mrs. Alma has full knowledge and recall now in Paradise. She has moved from prayer time with her Lord on this earth to face time with Him forevermore at His Throne.
Mrs. Alma's Obituary:
Clinton -- Alma T. Galloway, born in Tipton County, Tennessee on April 4, 1910, went to be with her Jesus on July 18, 2012 in Clinton, S. C. at the age of 102. She was the loving wife of A. Bruce Galloway (deceased) for 50 years. She spent 6 years at Thornwell Orphanage, attended Maryville College in Tennessee and graduated from the University of South Carolina. Alma and Bruce taught school at Joanna, Trenton, and Clinton and were much loved by their students. Some of these students have been taking care of her the last 7 years at Presbyterian Home and the family would like to thank them for all they did for her. She was owner of Alma Galloway Interiors, her work can be seen in many homes and businesses around Clinton. She was a member of Bethany Presbyterian Church and taught Sunday School. Alma is beloved by her family and close friends. Most of all she loved her Lord. She is survived by all four of her children, 13 grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. Her children are: Betty and Ryan Eklund, Sara and Joe (deceased) Cooper, Bud and Jean Galloway, and Jodie and Tess Galloway. Alma mentored many young women and young married couples. To quote her: "my aim is to teach them how God wants to be Lord of their everyday lives". We will all miss our beloved "Mama G". The family had a private burial service on July 20. A memorial service will be held in the Chapel of the Presbyterian Home, 801 Musgrove St., Clinton, SC 29325 on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 4:00p.m. officiated by Rev. Herb Codington and Rev. Ryan B. Eklund. The family will be available after that service. Memorials may be sent to the Galloway Mission Fund, Bethany Presbyterian Church, 106 Fawn Road, Clinton, SC 29325. Condolences may be sent to the family at Gray Funeral Home of Clinton is serving the family.
Memorials may be sent to the Galloway Mission Fund, Bethany Presbyterian Church, 106 Fawn Road, Clinton, SC 29325.
4:00PM at Presbyterian Home of S. C. Chapel on Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 (map/driving directions)