The Rev. Martha Halcome has a timeless gift of teaching the young and old alike with parables. Inspired by Christ's example of teaching in parables as told in the Bible in chapters Matthew, Mark and Luke, she paints a picture with words to help others gain insight into the word of God.
Born in 1929 to Joseph and Farris Mitchell, the Rev. Halcome was raised in a Christian home with her six sisters.
"I always loved Jesus even when I was a little girl because my parents told us how good he is," she said.
Halcome recalled her salvation experience at age 14 when she gave her heart to the Lord on the last Sunday night of August in 1943.
"When the preacher gave the altar call, I could feel conviction all over me," she remembered just like it was yesterday. "I wanted to cry and run to the altar. I held onto the bench and trembled. The preacher talked about the rich man dying and lifting up his eyes in hell. My heart fluttered and I ran to the altar that night and I have never had a desire to go back on God."
When Halcome's father died, she left school and took a job working in a laundromat for 50 cents an hour to help out at home. Later married to Carl Pickens, they had five children - Gloria, Donald, Patricia, Karen and Michael.
Her husband died at an early age and Halcome found peace and assurance by getting involved in the work of the church and taught Sunday school to ages from juniors to adults.
"I played my gospel records and went to church every time the doors opened," she said. "I found that when teaching the children, I could talk to them in parables and they could understand. It got to be a big thing and everyone wanted to hear them."
Years later, she married the Rev. Ed Halcome who often preached in tents and in trailer parks out of his gospel caravan. As the pastor's wife, she faithfully visited the church family and brought words of encouragement to those in nursing homes. During their radio ministry on WGFS radio in the 1970s, she acknowledged her gift of intercession for others and led the prayer for the sick.
"Ms. Martha has always been an inspiration to me," said Cheryle Thompson, a volunteer at the Gospel Mission Church. "When I came to the church, she was one of the first people I met. She is a wonderful person and a blessing in my life - a prayer warrior that I can call on."
Halcome continued to share her parables with her husband in hopes that he would use them in his sermons. At that time, he did not believe in women ministering in the church. She recalled an inner battle as she tried to keep quiet in church.
"When I had a chance to sing a song or testify, I would have to tell something because I was bubbling inside," she recalled with joy. "After a while, people began to ask me to tell the parables."
Her husband soon realized that her ability to teach in parables was a gift from God. She was licensed and ordained as a minister of the gospel by the Gospel Mission Association, on July 19, 1978.
"She and her late husband are founders of the Gospel Mission Association and Church," said Rev. Wayne Whitley, pastor of the Gospel Mission Church in Almon. "She is well anointed and reaches out to bless others. Mrs. Halcome is very kind and has a good attitude. She has been an inspiration and a mentor -- helping and teaching me to grow in the nurture of the Lord. She is like a mom and I esteem her highly. As one of our senior ministers, she continues to give insight to our youth and seniors."
When she is asked to bring a Sunday school lesson, she refers to it as "eating with grandma". She reminds the class how grandmothers are - they give you what they have and you better eat it.
"I can tell them many things about Jesus," she said. "I relate it back to my childhood when my mother would say if we ate all our food, she would give us dessert.
"That's the way it is in the Christian life," she added. "Jesus has so many things for us to do and he gives us the sweetest promises for doing what he has asked. The things that Jesus asks us to do are not hard. You have got to be born again and get on the right track and you won't have any trouble living right."
Halcome attests to many times when God has healed her through the power of prayer. She said the hardest lesson she learned in life was to turn loose of what she asked Jesus to handle and has found joy in trusting him. Her church family often talks about her wisdom.
"I tell them I got wisdom by praying," as she has interceded in prayer for her five children, 16 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren. "My married grandchildren call me to pray and ask me questions about the Bible."
At age 79, Rev. Martha Halcome attests that she doesn't have a pain anywhere and feels great. Her son-in-law, Ed Nolan, has put her many parables on CD - "Messages from the Heart". Favorites include "the Fruit of the Vine" in which she compares the church to grapes - people clinging together - sweet, full of sap, with seed who have been cured by God's son to perfect his purpose for their life. She tells a parable about the importance of the lad's lunch that Jesus used to feed the multitude; and how the Christmas tree reminds her of Jesus.
"I tell the church people that I'm not sick - I'm old," she said reflecting on the abundant life God has given her. "I've been here a long time and someday I am going home to be with Jesus."