Charlotte Gray is shown above with her daughter, granddaughter and great grandson.
“The Lord can’t bring anything back to you that you haven’t learned in the first place,” Charlotte Gray said.
This simple truth proves the importance of a ministry that Gray believes is becoming more relevant with every day that passes. This ministry is Bible Drill.
“Our generations now are not looking at God,” Gray said. “And we’ve got to give our kids something to hang on to. They don’t live on the mountaintop all the time. We’ve got to give them something to hang on to down in the valleys.”
Gray has seen her share of valleys over the decades.
“She lost her three sisters, she lost her husband, she lost a son, she lost a grandchild, she lost a great-grandchild. Now, when you just think about that right there and all the loss, do you see how easy it would be to just step aside?” said Susan Waggener, Gray’s daughter. “But she didn’t; she’s faithful. She’s always been faithful to the church, faithful to her Lord, faithful to her faith.”
Gray has not wavered because sacred words have been written on her heart. The truth of scripture resides within her, ready to combat the lies of the enemy and face the toils of this world. Over the years, God has used Proverbs 3:5-6 to remind her of His helping hand and perfect plan.
“The Lord really has told me I don’t know how many times on this: ‘Lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He’ll direct thy path.’ And I keep saying Lord, you just show me that path and help me to follow you in it,” Gray said.
While walking in the path set before her, Gray has ministered to generation after generation of children through the Bible Drill program. She first learned of the program when her then fourth-grade daughter (Waggener) came home one night and asked if she could participate.
“I had never even heard of Bible Drill,” Gray said. “I grew up in a country church and I had really never heard of Bible Drill.”
Now, over 50 years later Gray is still involved in Bible Drill at First Baptist Church in West Memphis.
Bible Drill challenges students to memorize all the books of the Bible as well as key scriptures. This challenge changed both the lives of the kids she led in Bible Drill and her own. She watched a young man who complained about being at Bible Drill every week become a deacon in her church as an adult. She persevered as her own loved ones passed away. Her steadfast spirit inspired her family and beyond.
“The impact she has is beyond me. It went to my friends. It went to my brother. It went to my family, my children,” Waggener said. “The dropping the pebble in the water and the ripple effect; you can’t see it. She will not see it until she reaches eternity and hears the stories of how her staying faithful to this one event…has changed so many lives.”
Gray’s Bible Drill ministry even reached out across denominations and ages, with parents of children who went to different churches joining in on Sunday nights to learn Bible verse after Bible verse.
“Every so often, we would sit down in the floor in a circle, and I would ask the kids, ‘ok what is your favorite verse and why,’” Gray said. “The reason that they said why and what that verse said to them just totally amazed me. I mean they saw it from a different angle, and I thought the Lord uses all of this to speak to them.”
From grandmother to granddaughter, Gray’s faithfulness and love for children has been passed down.
“She has a heart for children. She has a heart for the Lord. She has been through so many life circumstances, so many hardships, and she has always been faithful. She has never wavered in her faith. If you know her, you know that she’s going to put you first. She’s just the best,” said Dr. Rachel Pool, Gray’s daughter and an education professor at Ouachita Baptist University.
Pool has seen her grandmother’s influence on her family as a “strong Christian woman [with] strong work ethics, [who] really loves the Lord.” Gray has inspired Pool as she teaches Ouachita students about the “Master Teacher:” Jesus.
Just like Pool’s mother (Waggener) and her grandmother (Gray), Pool has been able to recall the verses she learned in Bible Drill during heartbreaking seasons, including the loss of her sister, Rebecca, and her daughter, Riley. For her, comfort was found in another Bible Drill verse –Psalms 119:105: “You word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.”
“We don’t know the path God has given us, but we know He’s always there with us. It’s going to be difficult, but He’s there holding us. He’s providing us hope,” Pool said. “He will always be with us. He has the best intentions for us. He loves us. He died on the cross for us. This is not our home. We’ve got another home coming. And so, just hold fast. Hold tight. Don’t lose hope. There’s peace that passes all understanding. Just carry on and find you a good support system like my grandma to help you when times are tough.”
Over the half of a decade she has spent working with Bible Drill, Gray has volunteered with several churches and even spent time as the regional coordinator for the various Bible Drill competitions.
“My first contact with Mrs. Charlotte began with a phone call at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention about eight years ago. We learned immediately that we both shared a passion to teach and encourage children and youth to learn the Word of God through Bible Drill, and a friendship began. I am thankful that through the years Mrs. Charlotte has proofed drills, consulted, and been a prayer warrior for Arkansas Bible Drill,” said Leah Jo Wilson, a longtime Bible Drill volunteer. “I have seen countless lives including children, youth, church leaders and parents be impacted by her knowledge of the scripture and her boldness to tell us why we should be memorizing scripture and key passages. Not only does she encourage us to learn but leads by example. During this past year while staying home during COVID, Mrs. Charlotte inspired me most by taking the time to memorize all 75 Bible verses of the Red Cycle Children’s Bible verses while proofing the drills.”
Gray knows God will use what she learns to bring her closer to Him, just like He does with the children she leads in Bible Drill.
“You drive over here right now and go to her kitchen table, and I can tell you what you’re going to see,” Waggener said. “You’re going to see a Bible open and you’re going to see the Bible Drill verses.”
You can learn more about how to start a Bible Drill program at your church by visiting www.absc.org/bible-drill.