Often when I think about resurrection I remember Etta Simpson. I met her several years ago when I took a group of teenagers and adults from my then congregation to Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Mound Bayou was the first community founded in this nation by former slaves. It's located in Bolivar County--one of the poorest counties in the nation. We'd gone there work on helping restore and old run-down building that was going to be used by the local chapter of the National Council of Negro Women for an afterschool program and day-care center.
Etta Simpson was the President of the Council at the time. Miss Simpson, as everyone called her, was a retired schoolteacher. She walked with a cane. She could have just rested on her laurels and enjoyed her pension, but instead she put in dozens of hours a week to help the children of Mound Bayou.
The old building was an absolute disaster, and we worked hard. We carried off huge trailer loads of trash and broken furniture. We ripped down ceilings and painted walls. We scrubbed and cleaned. We were pleased with what we has accomplished--but secretly, I wondered if our beginnings would ever get finished.
I should have known better! For Etta Simpson was a woman of faith. She knew the truth of resurrection! And she was determined to see to it that that old building rose up from the rubble!
About nine months after we left Mound Bayou I received a package from there. With a letter from Miss Simpson. It seems that since we left, her own life had taken on a measure of uncertainty.
"Dear Pastor Danner," the letter began, "I hope that everything has been going well with you and your congregation and family. The next week after you left my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer . . . ." That would seem to be enough to stop most of us in our tracks. But not Miss Simpson. Her letter went on: ". . . but he is doing very well at this time. I want you to know that we members of the National Council do not have enough words to express our gratefulness for the unforgettable gesture that you and our congregation did for us last summer. It has taken quite a while for us to get the building in shape for use. We have now completed the restrooms, the reading room, the fellowship hall and the kitchen . . . Give my love to all and may the Lord continue to bestow his wonderful blessing on you and your church family. With love and thanksgiving, Etta T. Simpson."
I shall always remember Miss Simpson--and what better time to do so than at Easter?