Paula Thompson - 1939-2013 - The Tape Lady
There is no way of knowing how many thousands of cassette tapes passed through her hands and later when the transition to CD's came how many of those passed through her hands. She had a very unique knack for being able to remember the sermons that Brother Harrell preached and then recommending certain ones for what she felt like would be a help and encouragement to those who were inquiring.
Anyone who has heard Brother Harrell preach, is aware of his pulpit gifts but I do believe that he would have to say that Sister Paula was very instrumental in his preaching getting out of Bridge City to the rest of the world. We are indebted to this faithful saint of the Lord for her years of service!!!
This morning, I spent some time thinking how much assistance and help that she had given me over the years. I also began to think of all the sermons that Brother Harrell had preached on Pilgrim's Progress and wondered which one that Sister Paula (as they called her in Bridge City) would fit as. It didn't take me long to consider that she would have been one of the four daughters of the porter. Specifically she would be named Discretion.
I had a long phone conversation with her in March 2011 as the church in Bridge City was approaching the fortieth anniversary of Brother Harrell. The history that she gave me of herself and how she got involved in working with running the tape ministry at Bridge City. She started working in it 30 years ago.
She started attending Bridge City UPC in 1980. She relocated from Indiana because of a sister who lived in Bridge City. Prior to her arrival in Bridge City she hadn’t attended church of any kind for over twenty years. Formerly a Jehovah’s Witness, she had walked away from all trappings of religion at a relatively young age. When her sister started attending BCUPC, she told the person who was making tapes to send some of Brother Harrell’s sermons to her in Indiana. She told me that she would get ten at a time and would listen to them all in one day. Although she had little respect for ministers and had never sat under a pastor, Brother Harrell’s preaching connected with her because as she said, “I was spiritually starving to death.” She couldn’t wait to get those tapes out of the mailbox. She would later realize how important that tape ministries are to churches.
So when she relocated to Bridge City, she started going to church there with her sister in 1980. It wasn’t too long before she received the Holy Ghost when an evangelist named Richard Nyhart came through and preached a revival.
In 1983 after some difficult health issues arose she was unable to work any longer. She approached Brother Harrell and asked him if there was something around the church she could volunteer to do. It just so happened that the lady who was taking care of the tape library moved away and someone needed to undertake the tape ministry at BCUPC. When some families relocated away from Bridge City to various parts around the country, they requested for her to mail them tapes. This is how the mail-outs started. It then grew until they were going out everywhere.
She started with some old equipment that only one tape at a time could be duplicated. Then they moved up to three and then up to six at a time. Before the tapes were replaced by CD’s she was mailing out 200-250 sermons per mailing to 15 states.
She related that there never had been a sermon that Brother Harrell preached that she did not get something out of it. She knew the sermons well enough that if anyone asked her what might be good for them at that particular time she could recall and recommend something to them. Periodically a ministers would call the church and ask if there is a particular message that might lift their spirit and she would always be able to fill the bill.
She related to me how that one women had a catastrophic and tragic event to take place in her life. She was fighting with a lot of despair over the situation and just happened to ask Sister Paula if there might be a sermon that Brother Harrell had preached that might help. She recommended “A Dark Place” to her and in a short period of time, she had called for twelve copies of the sermon to give out to others. Additionally she took several of them to work with her and passed them along to people who came to her office and would begin to tell of their own struggles in life.
When I asked her if there were any sermons that had stood out to her over the years, she gave me the following:
• An Ear Bored by an Awl
• Moab Is My Washpot
• You Can’t Carry Your Own Cross
• You Can’t Choose Your Own Cross
• Consistency, Thou Art a Jewel
For those of you who haven't read the posts of the pastor that she was devoted to getting his ministry out, I am listing all of the posts honoring Brother Harrell for his 42 years of service at Bridge City.
Thanks for reading. . . .
A Life of Preaching--A Salute to Rev. John Harrell--UPC Bridge City, Texas--Part 1
A Life of Preaching--Rev. John Harrell--Part 2--A Pilgrim's Progress
A Life of Preaching--Rev. John Harrell--Part 3--Stability
A Life of Preaching--Rev. John Harrell--Part 4--Helping Preachers
A Life of Preaching--Rev. John Harrell--The Top Five Sermons—5. Getting Used to the Dark
A Life of Preaching--Rev. John Harrell--The Top Five--4. You Don't Choose Your Own Cross
A Life of Preaching--Rev. John Harrell--The Top Five--3. Four O'clock In the Morning Courage
A Life of Preaching--Rev. John Harrell--The Top Five--2. Oh Consistency, Thou Art a Jewel
A Life of Preaching--Rev. John Harrell--The Top Five--1. A Perceived Slight