The Francis Asbury Society

Remembering Helen Pielemeier

Posted on | August 12, 2016 | 3 Responses

By Peggy Allender

Helen Pielemeier 2003

I still remember the first time I met Helen Pielemeier. I had just started working at The Francis Asbury Society and the staff had told me that we had some amazing volunteers who would come in and work on our mailings—folding letters, putting on address labels and stamps, folding brochures, and whatever else we needed done. Helen was one of those special ladies who worked tirelessly at our office many hours a week doing whatever she could to help our ministry and further the cause of Christ.

She came into my office: a beautiful, tall, slender lady with a warm smile and friendly demeanor. She immediately put me at ease and within minutes I felt like she and I were old friends. Over the eight years that I worked at FAS we truly became dear friends and I was deeply blessed to have an opportunity to get to know her. She impacted my life profoundly although she probably never knew that and would have been too humble to ever think it. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I remember Helen—humble. She never cared about who got the credit for doing something, she just quietly went about serving in any way she could. She was working for her Lord and that was all that mattered to her.

The churches I had attended never talked about holiness, sanctification, justification, and many other things that I began hearing about at The Francis Asbury Society. The language of an undivided heart and the holy life was new to me and I was, frankly, struggling to get my head around exactly what was meant by it all. I was too embarrassed to reveal that I really didn’t have a clue what they were talking about most of the time! I was a Christian and had loved the Lord all my life, but this was new language and a new way of thinking for me. Most of the messages I had heard while growing up were about getting saved so you could go to heaven. I knew we were supposed to keep the Ten Commandments and love our neighbor and all that, but I had honestly never given much thought to the fact that we were supposed to be living in daily, unbroken fellowship with God and that a holy life was what he wanted for us as we lived out our lives here on earth. My years at FAS, the messages I heard, and the people I interacted with helped me learn what holiness means, and I am so thankful for that. Helen Pielemeier was the one who gave me the first example that I could understand (though she didn’t even know it at the time) and who set me on a path of change in my heart and mind simply by something she did that I observed first-hand.

It was time for the FAS Christmas get-together and Helen called the office one day and said, “Peggy, I just got a call from IGA and I’ve won a $50 gift certificate to the store from their weekly drawing. I’d like to buy a ham with that and have them prepare it for our Christmas dinner so everyone can benefit from it. Oh, and I don’t want anyone to know I’m donating it.” There was dead silence on the phone. I was trying to absorb the fact that the first reaction this woman had when something good happened to her was to want to share it with others. On top of that, she didn’t want anyone to know what she had done. Who does that in today’s world?! I stammered a thank you and she asked me to make the arrangements for the ham. I volunteered to pick her up to get the ham and to take her to our Christmas dinner. All week I thought about what she had done. I thought about how $50 would buy a lot of groceries for her. I also was thinking selfishly about how I probably would have kept the $50 and bought some really nice steaks and extra treats for my family had I been in her shoes (which shows how much growing I needed to do!).

By the time I picked her up for the dinner my curiosity had gotten the best of me. I just had to know why this lady was so different. I said, “Helen, I have to ask you something. We really appreciate what you’re doing. It’s so thoughtful of you. But why didn’t you just keep the money for yourself? It would buy you a week’s worth of groceries.” Without a second’s hesitation she said, “Well, truthfully, I wish someone else had won it besides me, maybe a Seminary family that’s just moved here from another country to go to school. They could use it more than I. I wish one of them had won it.” You could have bowled me over with a feather. Not only had she given away the money to use for a ham for our office dinner, she wished someone else, who needed it more, had won it. I was thinking, is she for real? Who was this lady!

I’ll tell you who she was. She was a Christian woman with a pure heart totally in love with Jesus Christ, her Lord and Savior, a woman who knew who she was in him and who wanted to live her life loving and serving him and helping others. That was my first lesson in what holiness actually looks like in a person, and it’s a lesson I never forgot. As I got to know this precious lady, I saw many more examples of what a pure heart looks like.

Helen was also one of the volunteers who helped transcribe Dr. Dennis F. Kinlaw’s messages from old cassette tapes in our archive collection. Each week or so she would come in and pick up a new one to work on. She used an old pedal type transcribing machine and would sit at her computer and type each word Dr. Kinlaw said on the tapes. When I visited her home I saw where she worked on them, her Bible on one side, a dictionary on the other. The transcriptions were neat, clean, and accurate and helped preserve the work of Dr. Kinlaw for future generations. I wish I knew how many hours she spent listening and typing. I’m sure the tapes she transcribed would number in the hundreds, yet she enjoyed every minute of it.

Helen was one of the most uplifting, encouraging women I’ve ever known. I always felt better just being around her. She constantly encouraged me in my work. We all knew that she prayed on a daily basis for each one of the staff members at FAS and that she loved us unconditionally. She also prayed for and supported the ministry of FAS so that people all over the world could hear and understand the message of holiness.

In all the years I knew her I never saw her angry or sad or depressed. I never heard her speak ill of a single soul. She had an infectious laugh. How refreshing to hear a woman of her age laugh out of sheer joy. Why? Because she had a relationship with Jesus Christ that was real, genuine, and true.

Helen did not have any children of her own, but I can tell you personally that she had a loving, maternal nature. During one of the FAS retreats that I was working, I had to come back to the office to pick up books to take back to the evening session. Dr. Kinlaw was speaking that night, and I called to see if Helen wanted to ride over with me to hear him. She had worked as Dr. Kinlaw’s secretary at Asbury College for many years, and they were dear friends. She was excited to go back with me, and I was glad to have her company. We ate dinner with the group and listened to a wonderful message by Dr. Kinlaw. As we started home that evening, a terrible storm came up. It was thundering and lightning, and the rain was beating down so hard I could barely see to drive. The road was curvy, with cliffs on either side. I started praying, and I knew she was too. We made it safely back to her house, but when I dropped her off, her main concern was for me. As she got out of the car she made me promise that I would call her when I got home so she would know I was safe. It made me feel so loved to know she was waiting to make sure I made it home that dark, rainy night. Now that’s a mother!

I also remember the day she came to my office to tell me she had decided to move back to Indiana to live with her sister and to be near her family. Tears welled up in my eyes and my throat tightened as I struggled for the right words to say to her. In the end, though, it was she who comforted me. She said she would miss all her friends in Wilmore who she loved so dearly, but she felt the time had come in her life to make that change. She was confident that it was the decision God had led her to make, and in that conversation she taught me one final lesson. As we go through the seasons of our lives, we should do so without looking back, without feeling sorry for ourselves, and with confidence and hope that God will be with us through every stage of our lives until he calls us home. We should not fight it or question it, but accept it in faith.

Helen truly lived her life in a way that pointed all of us to Christ. In her simple, kind ways and servant heart she touched so many of us. She always will be in our hearts and our memories and never will be forgotten. I am eternally grateful for the years I got to spend with Helen and for the impact she had on my life.

In his book, Holiness, Truth, and the Presence of God, Francis Frangipane makes this statement: “A holy life is a powerful life.” Helen Pielemeier lived a holy life. Well done, my faithful friend. I will look for your smiling face when I reach heaven. I know you’ll be there waiting for all of us.

Comments

3 Responses to “Remembering Helen Pielemeier”

  1. Esther Coy
    August 12th, 2016 @ 9:35 am

    Peggy:

    Thank you for writing this tribute. My brief acquaintance with Helen Pielemeier extended from my years as a student at Asbury College (early 70s) to moments of interaction with her at Francis Asbury Society functions. She bore a constancy in her demeanor that reflected her constancy in Christ. Your words remind me of her calm, quiet manner. You are right. She refreshed us. You refreshed me by bringing her kindnesses to mind. May we, too, live our lives in such a manner to reflect Christ in our service to him — to have such an influence on those for whom he came. Blessings to you, Peggy. Dr. Kinlaw once stated to me that through the years his concept of “death” had shifted and that he had come to perceive it as a “graduation.” I like that! It helps me entertain joyful thoughts contemplating on Helen’s continued life in the Kingdom.

  2. Mary Stewart
    August 12th, 2016 @ 9:52 am

    Such a wonderful servant – thank you for writing so beautifully about her. Very inspiring!

  3. Lucy Kahle
    August 16th, 2016 @ 10:06 am

    Hello from Emmaus, PA! I didn’t know Helen but I know Stan and Katy Key from their Loudonville, NY church so I am on this mailing list for FAS. I found myself taking notes after reading this testimonial about Helen’s life. She is an example of how I want to live my life, someone to pattern my life after. I am grateful to Peggy Allender for writing this article and grateful to God for leading me to read it and learn from Helen’s life. Love and Blessings to the Keys and all of you working for Christ like Helen did!! Lucy Kahle

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