facebook script

Can't find something?

We're here to help.

Send us an email at:

[email protected]

and we'll get back with you as soon as possible.

Thank you, Miss Nellie and Rev. Broyles

Pastor praying with woman at church

Retired pastor John E. Harnish reflects on how we measure the influence one Sunday school teacher or one caring pastor can have on a person’s life.

Retired Pastor, Michigan Conference

In my book about the great missionary evangelist E. Stanley Jones, I told of his Sunday school teacher, Miss Nellie Logan. She was there when he was converted as a teenager, and she kept up a steady correspondence with him for 40 years as he traveled the world. Jones’ book about Mahatma Gandhi inspired Martin Luther King, Jr., in his commitment to nonviolent resistance.

My brother tells the story of one of his predecessors at Hyde Park UMC in Tampa, FL. Rev. L. M. Broyles met Jim Dombrowski when he came to Tampa as a senior in high school following the death of his parents. Broyles took an interest in him and eventually recruited him to teach Sunday school.

When Dombrowski returned from World War I, Rev. Broyles encouraged him to go into the ministry. He eventually went to Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he came under the influence of Reinhold Niebuhr and the social gospel. In 1932, Dombrowski was one of the founders of the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, which became a training ground for leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr., James Lawson, Andrew Young, and Rosa Parks.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Maybe it all would have happened anyway, but is there a way to measure the influence of one dedicated Sunday school teacher or one caring pastor? In my book, I titled the chapter about Nellie Logan, “The Power of One,” because most of us can point to one or two people who played a significant role in our lives at a crucial time. It’s the power we all have, no matter how insignificant we may feel — the power to touch another life in life-giving ways without knowing where it might lead.

In my brother’s article about Dombrowski and Broyles, he quoted a poem from Helen Kromer’s For Heaven’s Sake, a musical we performed in college:

One man awake,
Awakens another.
The second awakens
His next-door brother.
The three awake
Can rouse a town
By turning
the whole place
Upside down.

The many awake
Can cause such a fuss,
That it finally awakens the rest of us.
One man up,
With dawn in his eyes,

Thank you, Miss Nellie and Rev. Broyles. Thank you to the Sunday school teachers and pastors who touched my life. Thank you to the folks who use their power — the power of one — to change lives and sometimes even the world.

Last Updated on October 9, 2023

The Michigan Conference