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More Than She Could Ask or Imagine

A small-town, Sunday school teacher’s faithfulness now reaches around the world

The winter days were short, and the nights were very cold in Kannapolis, North Carolina, in the 1920s.  When their chores were finished, she and her six siblings huddled around their small, mill house fireplace.

“Our faces would be red from the heat and our backs red from the cold,” wrote Nannie Mae Jordan, author of the Free Bible Teachings resources, in a personal journal.  “When the bucket of coal or the wood would burn out, we would go to bed, but only after our devotional time.”

“We didn’t have much money, but Mother and Dad taught us about God and how to accept His gift of love, Jesus Christ, and how to treat our fellow man. They gave us the greatest heritage anyone could ever have,” she wrote.

While she was warming her face and hands fireside, God was kindling a flame in her heart for His word.  As the seasons passed, her heart burned brighter with the desire to know, understand, and share the biblical stories of God’s love with others.  What started in nightly family devotions around a fireplace in a mill town matured into a calling to teach Sunday School weekly at her church.

Making Her Calling Sure

“My mother taught Sunday School it seems all my life until she entered assisted living,” said Nannie Mae’s daughter, Joyce Carter.   “I substitute taught children one Sunday for her when I was probably eight years old. She was sick in bed.  I remember the lesson!  It was flannel-board teaching.  She taught children, then teens, then college students and was asked to be the teacher of a class of 125 women.  She taught that class of adult women more than 25 years.”

“The women’s class became smaller and smaller with deaths and people moving out of town.  When she was teaching and I visited her class, and I went every time I was in North Carolina, she probably averaged 50 to 65 women, all ages. Even women in their 40s and 50s opted to come to her class. She was loved and she loved each one in her class.”

“She would have a get-together quarterly or monthly at a restaurant, always making part of the occasion the presentation of God’s Word.  She visited the sick from her class in the hospital and sometimes visited the sick in her home.  She often took a gown she had just purchased for the sick one. She made multiple phone calls during the week, checking on them,” Joyce said.

Nannie Mae prepared her Bible lesson each week, reading and researching dictionaries and commentaries, handwriting the verses, quotes and insights onto 4-inch x 6-inch index cards. Then, she recorded what was on the cards using a handheld tape recorder. As she listened, she prepared meals, cleaned house and washed laundry during the workweek.  By Sunday morning, she knew it! She had prayerfully hidden God’s word in her heart, in order to teach with excellence on Sunday morning, and relied on the Holy Spirit to strengthen her.  After church, she put a rubber band around the little, dog-earred stack of truth and tucked that week’s lesson inside a plastic tub under her bed.  Every Monday morning, she started the whole process again, year after year, for a quarter of a century, teaching first at Elm Street Church of God and, later, at West “A” Street Church of God.

In 2006, Nannie Mae moved from her home of 69 years to Morningside of Concord, an assisted living facility.  Her three children, Joyce, Mendall Jordan, M.D., and Judy Jordan, M.D., helped care for her over the next four years.  Her children slowly downsized Nannie Mae’s belongings.

“I saw storage containers under a bed.  They were full of her lessons,” Joyce said.  “I took a few lessons down to her and read a few to her.  She could no longer speak.  But she listened.”

Joyce told her mother that the lessons should be published.  Not knowing how or when, she made it her goal to share her mother’s Sunday School lessons with others.

Nannie Mae Tilley Jordan Bost passed away the week before Easter 2010, her favorite holiday, at the age of 92.

From a Mill Town to Cyberspace

Back in Arizona, nearly a decade after rediscovering the containers of her mother’s Sunday school lessons, Joyce shared with a friend about her desire to publish them for others to have.

“Joyce told me about her ‘project,’” said Jerry Knight, Joyce’s longtime friend at North Phoenix Baptist Church.  “I was working at the church, and they decided to retire me.  God said, ‘I have something I want you to do, and you can’t give it the attention it needs if you’re working.’    Today I’m a typist of the (index) cards and a formatter of the work before sending it to Michael (the website designer).  God knew exactly what I needed to get over not feeling useful.” 

“This has helped me so much more than I’ve helped.  Each lesson I type is like being in a Bible study class!  Each one I type seems to bring a special message to me from God,” said Jerry.  “And, I have learned so much!  I’ve been in Bible study classes always, but her perspective brings me fresh knowledge.” 

One of Jerry’s greatest joys about being on this journey with Joyce is seeing how God helps them every step of the way.

“Joyce and I have had many lunches and conversations about our moms and their love of the Lord.  We know when we get to Heaven, we’re going to get together with them over coffee and talk about this project and other things,” Jerry said.

Michael Grice, the website designer, recalls the initial conversations with Joyce and Jerry.

“I thought this would be a Herculean effort and honestly did not know if she would see it through. I only heard the boxes of notecards described and could only imagine it. I thought it would be a super daunting task,” Michael said.

“I think what we have today comes very, very close to what Joyce imagined. I think the work that she and Jerry do is harder than she may have imagined, but necessary,” he said.  “I hope it helps them fulfill a promise to Nannie Mae.”

The team of three officially started this journey in 2018. Nannie Mae’s first Bible lesson was published online on the new website, freebibleteachings.com, Oct. 4, 2019.

“Our top reasons for sharing Mother’s lessons are that visitors to the site will receive eternal life/salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, that they will understand God’s Word better, that the lessons will equip Christian parents in teaching their children about God and His Word, that the resources will equip Christians to share the Word, and that believers will be encouraged by God’s Word and His lovingkindness/grace toward us,” Joyce said.

It’s apparently working, according to Michael.

“I remember the first time we got someone use the comment form to ask for more information. I thought, Wow! Someone is actually reading this!” Michael said.  “I also remember the first time I checked analytics and saw that people from the other side of the world were visiting the website!”

As of July 2022, there are 138 free Bible lessons online that were written and taught by Nannie Mae Jordan over her lifetime.  And the team has only begun.

“We’ve only made a dent!  There are about 1,000 lessons!” Joyce said with a laugh.

His Word Endures Forever

The internet was still in kindergarten when Nannie Mae graduated to heaven.  She could have never imagined that her humble, handwritten, Bible lessons, which she stored under the bed in her home on a dead-end road, would one day reach people into perpetuity around the world.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.   Ephesians 3:20-21 – NI

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