Sammie Usrey

Contributed photo Sammie Ussery brings her message to a local church. She is beginning a Christian speaking/writing career and is available to speak for God to any group that needs her. There is no fee and she will tailor her message to the individual group.

The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Though Sammie Ussery has experienced periods of intense loneliness she has always been aware of two constant companions: God and depression.

These became quite obvious to her when she took a job in the late 1980s working for a boss who only added to her feelings of being overloaded.

She had three children under the age of 3, had major surgery, drove from one end of the county to the other every day and was struggling with depression. In addition there was no support from her boss and she felt he did everything he could to make it impossible for her to go on.

“I was running on fumes, until in 1988 I had had all I could take — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.”

She left there to be hospitalized for the first of several episodes of depression, with which she still struggles but has more or less learned to manage with medication and lifestyle.

“I know God had his hand in my recovery because I was wearing out my support system. I was exhausted and so were they,” Ussery said.

“Several years after I quit work and was feeling remarkably better, at church one Sunday the preacher asked if anyone had anything they would like to say. I felt like I should stand up and thank God for his healing because my life was merely an existence before He touched me.

“In my mind I was thinking: ‘What have you got to say that any of these people are going to want to hear? You have been in a mental hospital — a crazy farm — a nut house. They will laugh you right out of this building. Tomorrow they will talk about you at work.’ So I sat in my pew and said nothing.

“That night I went to bed with the heaviest heart of guilt I have ever had. I promised God if He ever gave me the chance to speak for Him again I would not turn it down. I am making preparations to make good on that promise now.”

Sammie Cole-Ussery was born in the foothills of Rutherford County at the very end of the “Baby Boomer” generation into a family situation which set her up for a unique childhood and an endless supply of inspiration for what came to be lifelong challenges.

She was born the youngest of three girls, by eight years, when her mother was 45 years old. Everyone was sure she would be a boy and his chosen name was to be “Sam.” When “he” was a “she” Sam’s daddy was reading a book, she learned only recently, called “A Shepherd unto the Hills,” whose heroine’s name was Sammy Lane.

So “Sam” was officially named “Sammie:” with an “ie” and not a “y” like the heroine, even though there are many of her acquaintances to this day who believe her name is really Samantha.

Being a girl named Sam had its challenges. As a young girl she was solicited to sell Grit Newspapers, an honor only afforded males, by virtue of her name.

The primitive life of the Aulton and Meredith Cole family of Rutherford County consisted of hard work. In the early years it was a dairy farm which meant work, 24/7. But it also meant there were great places to play in the barn and the corn crib or smokehouse and a wonderful space for a play house.

In the spring, summer and fall there was this massive planting and harvesting process that seemed like an unending torturous process at the time. Now it feels like a tapestry of memories woven from the packsaddle worms found among the cotton bolls whose stings are too painful for description, to the over ripened peaches peeled with your fingers while riding on the back of the trailer picking up the filled baskets.

“I lived in a fundamental Christian home back when being a ‘fundamental Christian’ wasn’t a slur against your name,” Ussery said.

“Not only were we fundamental, we were poor by material standards, so poor other family members called us primitive which offended me for years. Nonethess, ‘primitive’ or not we had everything we needed — books, art, music, anything of educational interest to us, if possible, it was made available to us ... and we were loved and we had fun.”

After the recent deaths of their parents, she and her sisters realized that if they were primitive they were blessed to be so.

“We never got up on Sunday morning and asked ‘Are we going to church today?’ If you were alive and breathing you were going to church,” she said.

“It was not unusual for there to be revival services to last anywhere from one to three weeks and we were disappointed when it was over. I remember vividly many of those services. At one of those services I gave my heart to Christ. I can still tell you in great detail the events of that night as well as how I felt the next morning — I felt like a new person. I wanted to be a different person. I felt like a person with a different purpose in my life. I was seven years old. I have not from that date until this ever doubted my salvation.”

Sammie’s primitive up-bringing was preparing her for not only the challenges of being an adult, but also the opportunities which would not have been hers if she had never known the hard knocks of life.

She went to Appalachian State University and finished an undergraduate degree. There she met Tony Ussery of Norwood but at that juncture in her life she was not interested in a long-term relationship.

“He was like a bad penny. He would not go away. Everywhere I went there he was. I would tell him we could be friends and nothing more. He insisted we were meant to be more.”

Sammie had her eyes set on a master of arts degree and someday a doctorate. But the bad penny eventually won her heart and they were married 27 years ago. They married in October 1980 and conceived their first child in December which brought them back to Norwood — the beginning of some of the greatest challenges of Sammie’s life.

Sammie taught psychology at Stanly Community College for eight years and felt that was definitely part of her calling when her supervisor changed and the opportunity to continue there ended.

She taught one semester at Wingate but that too was short lived. For 23 years she taught an adult Sunday school class at First United Methodist Church in Norwood and felt her teaching time was over when that class dissolved. She had accepted that with age this is what happens — young people rise up to minister to the older group.

There were special occasions that acquaintances who had heard her teach or speak in some capacity or another would invite her to special engagements and she felt blessed to do them.

Each year a group from Sammie’s home church goes to the Women of Faith Conference and each year they invite Sammie to go. Each year there hass been some obstacle that has kept her from attending. One year someone came to her after hearing her speak and told her they thought she should apply to speak at the Women of Faith Conference.

Talk about high praise.

“I was extremely flattered that someone would consider me worthy of that kind of praise,” she said.

“But seriously. A southern gal with a hillbilly accent — let’s get real — I dismissed it as someone loving me greatly and I was deeply touched. That night I went to bed and thought about what my friend had said and I could not get it out of my head.

“As a child I was taught that one of the worst personality traits a person can have is self centeredness and for me to imagine myself on stage taking my thoughts to hundreds if not thousands of people felt extremely selfish. I tried really hard to brush it out of my mind. But it would not go away.”

Sometime after that Sammie was just “messing” on the computer and came across a website called ChristianSpeakers4You. She went to the Web site and looked it over well, discovering that this organization was a broker for speakers at Christian events all over the United States, pairing Christian speakers with particular events based on the focus of the event.

She printed off what it took to apply and decided she had nothing to lose in applying despite the fact that the application process was fairly rigorous. They took applications in December and June only and this was October so she had to get busy. She had to have letters of recommendation, a professional photo, a DVD of one of her speeches, copies of other speeches she had prepared, her autobiography, her statement of theology and the greatest obstacle, the completion one of the CLASS Training Seminars which are held all over the United States.

All of these were doable with a great deal of time and effort, but the biggest challenge of all was the training seminar.

It was way outside her family’s budget. Conquering one obstacle after another she completed it and mailed by the deadline minus the training seminar. In February she received confirmation that she was provisionally accepted on the contingent that she complete one of the seminars. Money continued to be an issue.

The last seminar for 2007 was in Nashville, Tenn. and the only one in driving distance. A close friend, Sarah Lee, said the she needed a break and would like to visit a friend there and would love to go with her if Sammie arranged to attend that seminar. Still without the money to do the seminar, on total faith that she would just do whatever she had to do, Sammie committed herself to the Nashville seminar in November.

“Attending that seminar is the single greatest spiritual experience I have ever had in my life besides my conversion experience. I have never been with that many like-minded Christians in one place in my life. We were given tools to launch a Christian speaking/writing business for any facet of it you were interested in and given the tools to fine tune it to your expectations.

“But it was more than business. I felt God working and speaking through every person who played any little part in that seminar from the person who served breakfast to Merita Littauer and her mother Florence who originated these seminars in 1980. If I never get the chance to speak for Christ, I am a better person for Christ than I ever could have been if I had never attended that seminar. God truly uses every experience to mold us for His use.”

If Sammie thought she had challenges before, the challenge really begins now. Now she has to make herself known. People will not want to book someone to speak if they have never heard of them. So now she needs exposure, exposure, exposure. She is preparing a biosheet which will include the topics she will be speaking on for the next two years, having business cards printed, building a web page and writing a lot of letters to local churches and organizations to begin introducing herself at home.

“I think it would be pretty sad to go somewhere and speak and have someone from my hometown or home state in the audience and they not have a clue who I am. I am doing the things they have suggested. This is a time-consuming process.”

Her first big deadline is June 1 when she will submit these things to ChristianSpeakers4U and they will review what they have gathered and decide if they will sponsor her as an event speaker in other places.

She would love to have the opportunity to speak to any group – no group is too small

The price is right. It is free.

She will modify her talk to suit the needs of the individual group. Contact her at ussery00@alltel.net

or (704) 474-5765.



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