A Tribute To A Great Woman
Many of her friends called her Mrs. H. because of her long and hard to pronounce last name. She was the middle of five sisters born in the early 1900's. Born Helena Louisa McAulley she was raised on a small farm near Americus, Kansas. As I was growing up she would tell me stories about her pony Prince, her one room schoolhouse, ice skating on a frozen lake, her very stern and stubborn father and many other things associated with her childhood.
While working in a cafe in Hutchinson, Kansas she met a man named George who worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and eventually married him. He was then transferred to Houston where they had two sons, Dennis in 1948 and Jackie in 1950.
In 1956 a friend had discovered a church in downtown Houston which was different than other churches she had attended in the past. It was called the Berachah Church. She invited Helena to go with her to a service one Sunday morning. She did and when she returned home she was beaming with joy. "It was so great" she would say "They actually taught the Bible in a way that I could understand it." At the time she was a member of a Baptist church and was teaching a Sunday school class. For several years she attended both churches. Having learned many new Bible doctrines she began teaching them to her Sunday school class at the Baptist church. Her class became excited about her teachings and began telling everyone in the church about it. More and more people started attending her class and this caught the attention of the deacons and the pastor. People started asking why the Baptist church didn't teach this way. Eventually, this became a problem for the leaders of the Baptist church and Helena was asked to leave the church. When she did leave she formed a Bible class in a private home where she would be free to teach the true Word of God without any denominational influence. She would continue teaching in her home and others for the next 30 years. The classes were made up of many people that she would meet in her daily life, people who would not ever have attended a church. Neighbors, salesman who happened by, children from down the street, a couple of drunks, relatives, sons and daughters of people in her original Sunday school class would make up her classes over the years. Helena had one goal; to get the Word of God to anyone who would listen however she could. She lived a life of studying and teaching.
One day in 1954 Helena received a call to inform her that her father who was not a believer in Christ was dying and not expected to live much longer. She immediately left for Kansas to be with him. She had witnessed to her father many times before but he had refused to accept the Lord as his savior. Not long after she arrived she went to his bedside and made one last attempt to witness to him. After a brief conversation he said "I believe." These were his last words. He became unconscious and died immediately. As a result of this her mother also believed and she died in 1965.
Her oldest son Dennis accepted Christ at a very young age but her youngest was a holdout. He was simply to shy to walk down the isle to the preacher at the Baptist church. Realizing this, one day in 1958 she sat Jackie down on her bed and explained to him that he didn't have to walk down the isle to be saved all he had to do was believe that Jesus died as a substitute for his sins on the cross. She asked him if he believed that and if he did he should say a prayer and tell God. He said yes and then they prayed together.
Over the years many people were saved because of her relentless pursuit of "teaching the Word of God to those who care to know" as she would often say. Mrs. H. was a kind and gentle person, stern yet soft spoken and innocent to the ways of the world. For 53 years she lived in the same small house in South Houston, Texas. She hung a plac in her hall which read "Only one life will soon be past; but only what's done for Christ will last"
In her last years I visited with her often. She was unable to walk and could do nothing more than sit up and talk. We would reminisce about her childhood days. She would enjoy talking about her pony and her Bible class days. She would receive occasional letters and cards from people who had been in her classes. I would read them to her because she was unable to read any longer. She remembered many of them. She would tell me stories about Jeff and Virginia, T.C. and Opal, Richard and Linda, Mary Ann, Patty, Hazel and Charlie her dog.
One day she was transported to a very nice nursing facility so that her caretaker could have some time off.. She was to be there for 5 days. At 2 am on the morning she was to come home Helena went to be with the Lord. She was simply taken home in her sleep. She had no pain or suffering of any type. She was alone, her work on earth, being completed, she was ready and now she is absent from her body and present with her Lord to receive her rewards in Heaven.
"But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." 1 Cor. 2:9.
I know she will be remembered in the hearts of many especially those who attended her Bible classes over the years. She did the work of the Lord and made a great difference in the lives and the eternal futures of many. She was indeed an "invisible hero." quietly doing the will of her Lord. Personally, I am honored to have known her for she was my teacher, she was my mentor, she was my inspiration, she was my helper and my guide through life and I am especially honored to have had her for a mother. Her memory will last for a long time but her work for the Lord Jesus Christ will last for eternity.
Helena L. Heckathorne 1914-2003.
Helena with her grandson
Brian, now GJCN Founder,
In the early 1990's