Mildred Peppers keeps going after column

Mildred Peppers keeps going after column
December 03
00:00 2015
Mildred Peppers

Cancer fighter gives up Sunday School Lesson

By Felecia Piggott-Long

For The Chronicle

For the past 17 years, Mildred Peppers, a seven-year cancer survivor, prepared the Sunday School Lesson column for The Chronicle.  But her column has been missing from the newspaper since Oct. 15.

Her absence has caused consternation among Chronicle readers.

One called The Chronicle frantic about not seeing the column. The reader attends Goler Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church. She said her church used the same Sunday school lesson and church members used her column to help them understand it better. She also said Peppers’ column was “very biblical.”

“We enjoyed her presentation of it,” the reader said.

Peppers used the Scriptures from an international Sunday school lesson product to reach across denominations. She retired from writing the column when she began undergoing a new round of chemotherapy.

Peppers recalls that she began writing her column in 1999, when Winston-Salem hosted the CIAA Tournament.  She was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2009.

In 1999, she said, a friend asked her to share her Sunday school lessons with the community.

“I asked my husband, Ronnie, if he thought I should do it. He said, ‘You know you want to do it. Girl, go ahead and write the article,’” Peppers said. “I decided that I would present a slightly different perspective than what the author had written in the traditional Sunday school book. I wanted the readers to know that the Lord will reveal truth in different ways. I don’t want them to be closed because some person with a Ph.D. shared a certain interpretation.”

Peppers continued to explain. “I have thoroughly enjoyed writing the Sunday School Lesson. It was never a burden to me. I did not want to give it up, but during this second round of chemo, I was so sick. I was finding it hard to meet the deadline,” she said. “I thought that the people deserved better than this. Several people have asked me when I am going to start back writing the column.”

[The column will resume in this issue of The Chronicle on the Religion page with a new columnist.]

While Peppers goes through her cancer treatment and recovery, she does not mind sharing her story because her words might help somebody else.  She is grateful for her family and their support. She has three daughters – Frances Peppers, Blanche Sawyer and Joniece Pledger. She and her husband, Ronnie Peppers, were married 34 years before his death.

Peppers is grateful for the Health and Wellness Ministry at Emmanuel Baptist Church because it sponsored a six-week session on colon cancer at church.  Following the sessions, she had her baseline colon screening. Later the cancer spread to the breast and the lung.

First Lady Sarah Mendez has been a great encouragement to her, she said, as she and Peppers walk the common road of breast cancer. Her new chemo cocktail has presented a challenge to her, but she will continue to walk by faith and live the life she wrote about.

Although Peppers is retiring from the column, she still loves Sunday School. She has been a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church for 40 years, where the Rev. Dr. John Mendez is her pastor. She has served as the intermediate Sunday school teacher of teens and as the superintendent. She also taught adult Sunday School classes and many special Christian Education programs.

“Sunday School is the fertile ground for leaders. That’s where you can groom them. They can see themselves in the Scripture and apply it to their lives,” said Peppers. “I don’t mean indoctrination. The Scriptures don’t mean anything unless you can apply them to your life. You can read the Christmas story over and over, but unless you see yourself in the story, what does it mean to you?”

Peppers sees herself in the person of Mary.

“I went through the ostracism of having babies and not being married. I remember the things people said about me. In those days, single, pregnant girls were put out of school and they were put out of church,” Peppers said. “They did not care where you went because you were a bad influence.”

Peppers also sees herself in Jesus.

“Jesus was an outsider. Because of his maneuvers, he became an insider. Society threw me to the outskirts, but Jesus drew the circle bigger,” she said.

According to Peppers, writing the column usually would take about four hours. She would usually read the lesson in the book and in three different types of Bibles on Monday. She would wait until the Spirit led her to write the lesson.

“I get excited when the lesson is in the New Testament. I like to read that part of the Bible that says ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.’ This verse keeps me going. It keeps me humble. Sometimes church folk can get real holy. This verse helps me keep my feet on the ground,” Peppers said.

“I usually taught teens in Sunday school My goal was to make the lesson real for them. I tried to make the Scripture real for them. I let them know that they did not have to wait to get real old in order to love the Word. I let them know that they can embrace all of it and still keep their ‘cool points.’  I guess today, they would call it ‘swag.’

“Sometimes I would stop and read what I had written, and it was saying absolutely nothing. I had to go back to the drawing board,” Peppers said. “The editor Kevin Walker was patient with me. I told him I am a dinosaur in the age of computers, but I will learn. When Veronica Bitting, another church member, taught me how to email my articles, I thought I was something special,” she said.

Managing Editor Donna Rogers contributed to this article.

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