When you reach adulthood, you often remember those places and circumstances that were important to you in your youth as well as those persons whom you consider to be instrumental in whatever success you achieve. I would like to dedicate this article to such a place, circumstance and person. The one to whom I will feature was a Christian friend to me and many other youth during our formative years. I will never forget her. She is still a bright star in a dark night.
When I was a teenager, one of the most active churches in the Toombs Central Community was the Springhill Christian Church located several miles south of Lyons, just off U. S. Highway 1. The pastor, Reverend Smith, could preach more Gospel in ten minutes that most can preach in an hour. As a result of his preaching and the enthusiastic leadership in his lively congregation, the sanctuary was often filled to overflowing.
One of their leaders, who towered head and shoulders above all the rest, symbolically speaking, was their youth director, Helen Cochran. Helen was a devoted Christian. During her years as the youth leader of the Springhill Church, she proved to be one of the finest examples of Christian living, I have ever known. When those of us who were together during those years meet now and then, our conversation eventually includes our vibrant youth director, Helen Cochran.
I recall the night that we were in the big church yard playing games when suddenly we heard the sound of screeching tires and loud mufflers in the direction of the highway. We turned to see someone gunning a car towards us. The driver steered the car to the center of the church yard and dragged his tires as he braked to a stop. Our game interrupted, we watched in silence. Momentarily, the driver put the vehicle in low gear, pressed the accelerator to the floorboard and what we called then a “J.C.” later referred to as “doing doughnuts.”
We were amazed as we observed this daredevil who was so crazy as to drive into the church yard during youth fellowship and do such a stunt. We recognized the young man as one who had built for himself quite a reputation as a hot-rodder and a roughneck.
At first, no one said anything or made a move. Then, our vigorous youth director was on the scene. In short order, she walked straight to the reckless and irreverent driver and proceeded, in no uncertain terms, to reprimand him for his wayward ways.
At first, the show-off was disrespectful and made some vulgar replies to Helen’s admonishments. Nevertheless the gallant youth leader would not be intimidated by the gross remarks of the ruffian. She continued to advise him on how to amend his ways and get right with God.
In just a few minutes, Helen had given the young prodigal more sound advice concerning the error of his ways than most people get in a lifetime. She had rebuked him soundly but in a loving manner. She had not tried to drive him from the church, but had invited him to repent and join the group.
Faced with the choices, the driver gunned his car angrily and sped away with the tires kicking dirt towards the group. As he raced into the night, I remember Helen’s words, “There goes a young man headed for trouble.”
Helen’s statement proved prophetic. The impudent young man went on his hot-rodding way and entered a life of crime. He did a stretch or two in prison without any favorable results. His career ended abruptly when he was felled by a bullet in a gangland gunfight.
Reading about the shootout in a distant big-city newspaper, I remembered that night years before when a devout Christian lady had confronted him with the choices of the Christian Gospel in a country church yard in Toombs County and how, at least one time in his life, his choices were made clear and he had taken the low road.
Nevertheless, Helen Cochran’s audacity and courage of conviction did not go unnoticed. I had always heard preachers telling us to be Christian witnesses. That night, I saw one in action and it made an impression on me that will last the rest of my life.
Thanks Helen. Your memory will always be a pleasant part of my experience.