“The Only Factor” by Neal Murphy

February 9, 2024 - I did not know it in the middle 1940s when I was in elementary school in San Augustine, Texas, but I was breaking the law.  In fact all we students were lawbreakers.  Some of you might recall this event that the courts now say was very detrimental to our very souls.  Yet, most of us grew up to be intelligent and useful citizens in spite of the learned judges’ opinions.

Once a year, without fail, the principal would report to each class room that there would be a general assembly in the auditorium at 10:30.  I usually had an idea what was going to occur, and I was excited about it.

Several hundred six to twelve year old students would be herded into the large auditorium for a special program.  Yes, I was right.  I could see the large felt board on the stage and there she was, Mrs. Ohly.  She and her husband, R. M. Ohly from Tyler, Texas, toured from school to school sharing Bible stories with all the students.  Now she was on our stage, and she had a magic board.

She always began her presentation with these words, “Good morning, students.  My name is Mrs. Ohly – O-H-L-Y.”  As she told stories from the Bible she would use cutouts of the different characters which she would place on the large board and they would magically stick.  I never figured out how that worked.  As she related stories of Noah and the Ark, Daniel in the lion’s den, the birth of Jesus, Jonah and the whale, and many others, she would illustrate the stories with the figures placed strategically on the magic felt board.  Her stories always captured our young imaginations. If I had only known what damage she was doing to my mind I would have exercised my right to stay in my class room.

After her stories were over, she always gave each student a small New Testament to take home and read.  We then returned to our studies refreshed and just a little wiser in the ways of God.  Perhaps we did not realize that at the time. 

Unfortunately our Supreme Court and Federal judges now tell us that it is illegal to hand out New Testaments on school property.  It is now against the law to pray out loud – perhaps you can sneak in a silent prayer just before a mid-term test.  There are no more Christmas carols sung, in fact there is no more Christmas.  The religious holiday has been replaced by “Winter Break”.  Students are in serious trouble if they even mention the name of Jesus on school property.

I am sure that Mr. and Mrs. Ohly never realized what terrible law breakers they were for those many years of poisoning thousands of young minds.  No doubt they are both gone on to their rewards by now, but I am one student that appreciated and enjoyed their ministry.  I keep hearing people ask the question, “What is wrong with our schools these days?  Why are the kids so unruly?”  I am sure that Mrs. Ohly and God are looking down at us now and saying, “We have the answer!  Look up!”