I recently interviewed my great grandmother, Alys Arionus, about her faith and life at 99 years old. I have long viewed her as a pillar of faith and was quite unaware that her walk in Christ began much later in life when she was in her forties and raising the last of her children.
I found her finishing her last week in physical therapy after fighting off an infection, bored and working on a crossword puzzle from the newspaper. Alys always seems caught off guard when people come visit her, even at home, and thankful for every moment she has with someone. I sat down and pressed record to see how her life in Christ has changed throughout the years. She told me about her rough first day attending church, her belief in prayer, and answered some questions from Tirzah’s readers. Enjoy!
Editor’s note: this interview was transcribed for print.
What led you to church? How old were you when you found God?
I’d already been going to church, but I didn’t know Jesus for a long time. When Kay [her youngest daughter] was born, I wasn’t raising my kids in that. Grandpa [her late husband] didn’t believe, so we never went to church. It didn’t bother me to tell them. Finally, it came to me, well, we lived near a couple that lived behind us, and she would go Sunday morning at 11 o’clock sharp with some other people too. I knew exactly where she was going, and she was going to church. This neighbor told me I should be going too, so, finally when Kay was 5 years old, I decided we were going to go.
We went, and she liked it. We were a little late because I didn’t know. To me it was a big church. A lady came in and asked, “Are you Mrs. So-and-So?” and I said no, and she walked off into Sunday school. She just left me standing there, and finally the pastor came out, and I said I wanted to get Kay in Sunday school. I came back upstairs and there was an adult Sunday school class that I was also late for. Anyways, they put me in a front seat in front of everybody and never bothered to ask my name. I was rather put off by that. I went to the second service and sat in one of the back pews. There was a lady there named Darlene, and she recognized I was kind of ignorant about the whole thing. She helped me with the bulletin because I didn’t know anything. It was all Greek to me, so she helped me, thank the Lord. I finally got home about 1 or 1:30…but that afternoon I wanted to do it all over again, the whole thing.
Next Sunday we finally got a little bit wiser, and we got there on time! I really credit Darlene for that. I’ll never forget her. I kept going. Finally when Uncle Sam tapped Keith [her son] on the shoulder, and he had to go into the military. Diane wasn’t driving yet, so Grandpa took us for a while. I started taking a membership class, and all the sudden one day he wasn’t going to take us anymore. But I wanted to keep going no matter what. I finally became a member and was confirmed. Kay was baptized. I kept going to Sunday school, and one day someone asked if I wanted to teach. I wanted to do something to help. All in that one Sunday I had three different people ask if I wanted to teach, and I said ok, I might as well! (Laughs). I did that for about ten years.
How did you feel about religion growing up?
Well, we lived in the country, of course, and a lot of people in the country didn’t go to church because they had cows to milk and all that. I suppose if you had the time to go but we didn’t. There was a pastor from a small town, and he would come to the one room schoolhouse I went to and do Sunday services in the afternoon during the summertime. That’s where I was baptized, me and my sister. We even had a Sunday school. The whole neighborhood showed up; there wasn’t anyone that wasn’t a believer.
Lisa from New York asks, “Did you have phases in your life when your faith was tested or when you faith was strongest?”
I suppose living with an unbelieving husband would be a test. I felt stronger when I was amongst other Christians because I felt like, “Oh, I am safe. I’m safe here.” Or when things went right and you felt like God answered your prayers.
Erica asks, “Have you ever felt mad at God? How did you move past that anger?”
I guess it’s stupid to answer but if He doesn’t see things my way, (Laughs) which is dumb because He’s not going to see things my way. I might be angry once in awhile, but I get over it pretty fast because I know He’s there and I know He’s in the right. He is right at all time in whatever He decides. There’s no way for us to understand.
Aleksandra from Austria asks, “How do you deal with crisis? In your faith or in your life?”
Well…I haven’t had any real crisis, maybe lately I’ve been wondering about my health, and I didn’t need this at this age. It’s more of a set back though and not a crisis. I want to live to be 100, and I don’t know if God wants me to do that, but I really want to. After that I could just leave anytime.
She also wants to know: “How do you cultivate a good heart and good thoughts?”
(Laughs to herself) Thoughts aren’t always that good! But we have to realize that God knows what we’re thinking all the time. There’s something in the Bible that goes, He knows when you’re down or uprising and He knows exactly what’s in your mind.
You know my downsitting and my uprising, you understand my thought afar off. –Psalm 139:2 (AMPC)
That’s kind of odd to realize that He does that and to live with that knowledge. But He does forgive and forget. That’s what comforts me. He forgets our sins and forgives them.
What would say to young women struggling to live a Christian life?
First of all, they should make friends with someone who is Christian. Get some kind of counseling or just spend time with someone who is a Christian. It’s important to have people who aren’t too negative.
Why is prayer important to you? When or how do you pray?
I don’t pray as much as I should, I know that. I like to use Portals of Prayer, that’s really neat. There’s so many insights I would not have thought of and there’s Bible verses to look up. Prayer is important because it connects you with God.
You have a life line there. You’ve got a straight shot to Him, I guess, because He’s there all the time with you.
I tie all my Christmas cards together with a rubberband and take one off the top, pray for them, and add it to the bottom. I do the same the next day, card by card by card. I read it somewhere, that idea, and I’ve been doing it for a long time because it’s such a neat idea. Sometimes, that person might have a special need I don’t even know about. I pray, “God bless this person today. Let them have a good day.” You don’t always know what that person really needs.
How did you get involved in the church’s prayer chain?
I’ve been doing the prayer chain at church for a long time, but I don’t know how long. I enjoy it because I get to know people better and their problems, and I know that God could help with the medical problems, cancer-type things, and He works through our prayers, through doctors and nurses and the medical professionals. He decides, it’s His decision if this person is going to be healed or not. We’ve had healings, many healings and cancer especially, and there’s been a few who haven’t made it. Now, why was He healing this person but not that person? I don’t know. I can’t answer that.
Many of Tirzah’s readers wanted to know what modesty meant to you.
Modesty should be very important to everybody; the way they dress, sometimes people notice a lot about women. If she dresses in tight clothes or a deep neckline. Sometimes, they are innocent and don’t think about how they look like to somebody else. As you mature, you know, you notice that more and want them to see other things about you.
What advice do you have for the young women in college or elsewhere who struggle with negativity from non-Christians in their life?
It’s hard to be with other people who are so negative like Grandpa was…I kept going to church and did Bible study. That’s what she can do, just keep going and pray for these other people. What else can you do? Prayer is a powerful tool. God hears and acts on them, maybe not the way you want Him too, but she should have a time for herself to read the Bible and pray and refresh her own soul, her own spirit.
What is God teaching you right now? What have you been reading?
I like when we study certain books. Lately, the women were in Job and our pastor couldn’t be there. There’s a lot in Job, negative stuff, because these friends of Job are not really good for him…because they blamed him for losing everything as if he’d done something to deserve it. It was good for us to go through that, just the women, and do it for ourselves. I would like to go through Genesis again because there’s so much stuff there.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Do you realize all the stuff that’s in the heavens, in the earth, under the mountains and the dirt, in the waters; that people use for creating stuff throughout the years, like the telephone and radio…there’s stuff in there people can use and He gave them their hands and fingers and minds to do that? I’ve been thinking about that stuff lately… there’s just myriads of stuff that He’s given us to use the right way…we don’t always use things the right way, that’s for sure, but it’s just mind boggling to think about all that. I wish we would start with Genesis and go through that…maybe I have too much time to think (laughs).
What are your favorite pieces of Scripture?
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. –Romans 8: 20-21
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. –Ephesians 2: 8-9
For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. –John 3:16
…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. –2 Chronicles 7:14-16
Do you have any other advice for myself, for my sister Miranda, and other women our age?
Pray. Constantly. Pray, pray, pray. I don’t pray enough either. Attend church because that keeps you close to God, other people and other Christians. I know it’s hard for younger people, I’m sure, like Miranda [great-granddaughter] when she goes to college. Stay the straight and narrow! That she should still keep reading her Bible once in awhile and say a prayer.
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