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'Thank you, Mrs. Bettie'

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By Michele Roberts

Springdell Baptist Church organist Bettie Robertson got an unexpected surprise on Sunday when she was honored for 40 years of service to the church.

Church members worked together to plan the special day for Robertson, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer more than three months ago. But that diagnosis hasn’t stopped Robertson from continuing with life as usual, as she still plays the organ for the church, still teaches Sunday school, still works at The Eye and Laser Center in Lancaster and still volunteers at Springs Memorial Hospital and HOPE of Lancaster Inc. Those who spoke during the service made reference to her faith and faithfulness in the midst of any storm that has come her way, including this latest one.

“There are very few times in life that you get to see the Holy Spirit lived out, and I’ve seen it lived out in your life,” said choir member Regina Davis, speaking to Robertson. “And I want to thank you for being such a godly example to me and my family during the 16 years we’ve attended this church.”

Others agree.

“Mrs. Bettie, you have more faith than I have seen in most people during my life and that tremendous faith is such a blessing to all,” said Sunday school student Anne Reynolds. “I am so thankful for your leadership; you are one of the best teachers I have ever known.”

Robertson was presented with several gifts from members of the congregation, including a handmade “cancer” quilt, presented by Linda Shehane and Gloria Cauthen. The quilt contained panels with different words of encouragement, such as “Cancer cannot silence courage” and “Cancer cannot kill friendships.”

Jill Newman and Lindsey Tolbert presented her with a corsage and memory book that included notes, pictures and cards. The Rev. Donald Tillman presented Robertson with a plaque that commemorated her 40 years of service to the church, which included the quote from Johann Sebastian Bach that reads, “The aim and reason of all music is the glory of God.”

Part of the surprise of the service included attendance by The Eye and Laser Center employees as well as about 40 family members who made their way into the sanctuary after a perfectly ordinary start to the morning service. Robertson’s surprise and delight was evident as the family members took their seats in pews marked with pink bows.

“This is really a big surprise,” Robertson said. “I don’t know what to say. I saw those bows this morning and my first thought was that we must be having a wedding here this afternoon, but when I asked a couple of people about it, they all said they didn’t know what was going on. Then I saw all the folks from The Eye and Laser Center and I thought, well, something must be going on, but I really didn’t know what.”

Robertson said she deeply appreciated the service.

“Since I received this diagnosis three months ago, I have never before experienced such an outpouring of love and kindness, even from people I don’t even know,” she said. “But I would like very much to get to know you all. This diagnosis didn’t scare me. My children are grown and my grandchildren are almost grown and I’ve lived a good life.

“I’m ready to meet my Lord. Whenever it happens, whether it be tomorrow or on down the road, I am in His hands. I haven’t shed a tear over this yet because God has a plan and it’s all right with me. I’m really waiting for that home, that’s what it’s all about. I don’t want people to be sad when I go, and I hope to meet all of you again soon.”

After the service, Robertson’s family, along with the rest of the congregation, enjoyed a meal in the fellowship hall of the church.