Simple. Affordable. Brilliant.

Val Mayhew is a name largely unknown, unsung and unhonoured, yet her gift was in daily use by hundreds of thousands of potential church members for more than 40 years.

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I do not think I ever had the privilege of meeting Val Mayhew; nor do I know very much about her personal life beyond that she was a long-time teacher at our Napier church school (NZ) and retired there. But when I heard she had died, I knew this was my last belated opportunity to tell the world of the tremendous gift she gave to the South Pacific Division.

Val Mayhew is a name largely unknown, unsung and unhonoured, yet her gift was in daily use by hundreds of thousands of potential church members for more than 40 years. 

" . . . for at least four generations of children . . . those simple lessons provided a daily 'dose' of Bible knowledge for all those potential church members."

Back in the latter half of the 1960s, while our family was stationed in Cook Islands, I received a letter from Mrs Mayhew. She had been asked by someone (probably the then Division Sabbath School director) to write a simple English edition of the Primary Sabbath School lessons suitable for use in the island missions. In order to accomplish this task she needed answers to a series of questions: Did the island children have access to Bibles? Paper? Pencils? What songs did they sing in Sabbath School? Did they speak English?

I answered as best I could while applauding the whole idea as it was something sorely needed. At that time there was only one lesson in common use for the whole range of children’s ages. Sadly, it left much to be desired in user friendliness, especially for children and their parents for whom English was a second language.

Mrs Mayhew came up with a format that was brilliantly simple. Each lesson story had a stated aim or theme. There was a section for each day of the week from Sunday to Wednesday with time for memory verse review, questions and Thinking Time, which honed in on life application ideas to be gained from the story. Thursday focused on memorising the verse for the week, a simple activity and suitable suggested songs. Friday was the day for the child to take family worship using the Bible story, memory verse and songs.

This lesson book was made available right across the Pacific and was instrumental in giving countless thousands of children the means to develop a saving relationship with their Saviour and Forever Friend. This lesson book was the only teaching resource in the hands of the children’s Sabbath School leaders in 90 per cent of the churches in the islands.

The children were not the only ones to benefit from the use of these lessons. Many of the ministers in the village churches made use of the Bible stories and Thinking Time questions when preparing their Sabbath sermons.

In time, full quarterly sets of resources were made available at minimal cost to complement Mrs Mayhew’s lessons. There were song pictures (and cassettes with the tunes), theme pictures and other teaching aids. Quarterly workshops were conducted to help the leaders know how to use these aids.

The wonderful thing is that for at least four generations of children, particularly of primary age, those simple lessons provided a daily “dose” of Bible knowledge for all those potential church members.

Mrs Mayhew’s byline was never attached to her three-year cycle of lessons, so no-one really knows the name of the one responsible for this wonderful means of evangelising the children of the Pacific. However, having personally spent 26 years working with the children in these islands, I have thanked the Lord and Val Mayhew innumerable times for the blessing of those simple lessons.

Those lessons may have been superseded by the Gracelink Sabbath School curriculum, but, for simplicity yet comprehensive coverage of the Bible stories, I would still vote for Mrs Mayhew’s contribution.

What’s more, the lessons sold for a mere 50 cents, so it was within the price range of almost every family.

Valerie Mayhew, I salute you.


Maye Porter writes from NSW, Australia.

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