The answer had been in front of her the entire time. She put her plan together and rousted her husband, Mr. Preston. He would be the architect of her grand idea. But the Holy Spirit hadn't found Mr. Preston in quite the same way and he balked. But the good Mother could be very persuasive and Mr. Preston, along with a group of close friends and neighbors, met at his garage in the back of his house. And over a few busy days they converted the garage, which had been previously used for storage, into Mother Davis's church - The Apostolic Overcoming Holy Mission.
Over the coming years, each and every week, she and a group of loyal parishioners met for Sunday school followed by a brief church service in that old garage. When my family met Mother Davis, we had just moved to the neighborhood. She made it her business to serve as the unofficial Welcome Wagon in the area. My mother, being the sole head of household, seemed relieved that there was someone out there who understood the difficulties faced by a single mother of six. Mother Davis invited us to church on the coming Sunday.
And we were there. Her services were simple. A few songs, a few scriptures, a short sermon and we were done. I think her objective was as simple as well - take a few well-meaning people and do the best she could to convert them into devout Christians and good citizens.
As she got older she slowed and her Sunday sermons had to yield to the demands of her age. However well intentioned, she could no longer keep up with the pace. But in her heart she still maintained a deep passion for her calling and a tremendous love for the children in our neighborhood. And so her church became a Sunday school for the neighborhood children. She recommended churches for the adult congregates, yet every week, she maintained her Sunday school offerings for the children alone. Adults were welcome to attend, but the lessons were geared for the younger crowd.
We always started with a song. One of us got to beat the drum while another banged away on the tambourine. Mother Davis always led, and we followed. After our song we talked about a scripture or two and she explained to us what it meant. And then we finished with a song. Once we were done, the good Mother took a meager offering. And it was never used for the church. She would count the money and then have us run to the store to purchase chips and candy for the entire Sunday school class. Mother Davis knew that in such a poor neighborhood, this might be the only time some of the children received a treat. On Christmas, somehow she managed to have toys for all the children in the neighborhood.
She taught us well. We all respected her. And years after we stopped attending the Sunday school, we could not visit our old neighborhood without going by and seeing the good Mother Davis. She died many years ago, in the mid-seventies. But her memory and legacy will live on in the minds and hearts of those that were fortunate enough to attend her old, garage church and Sunday school. There is one song in particular that she loved. Each time I hear it, I think of her. And as a tribute to the memory of this beautiful soul, I end with that song, performed by Mississippi John Hurt.