One of the first people recorded as saying, “My dog ate my homework,” was a priest whose dog ate part of his sermon notes in 1905.
As an elementary school librarian in Oldham County, Melinda Hadley hears students using similar excuses after returning mangled books.
“Even in the library when a kid brings in a book that got eaten by their dog, I offer them grace,” said Hadley, 49. “You don’t have to mention Jesus or God, but you can talk to them about grace. I have dogs that used to run around with my books, so I believe them if they bring the book in.”
Offering grace is just one way Hadley uses her job as a ministry. Before becoming a librarian 16 years ago, she was a teacher for eight years.
“It’s not the same as having your own class of kids because they’re not with you all day,” Hadley added. “You might see them once a week or once a month, depending on how often they come into the library, but I still try to get to know them and be a positive influence in their life. Yea, our library’s not quiet. Those days are gone.”
Hadley not only tries to learn the names of more 530 students from kindergarten through fifth grade, she also remembers the reason why she is there.
“I’ve got a little red dot on the top corner of my computer screen because I am one of those people who can get in the zone at work and forget what my purpose is. I’m really here for the kids or for the other adults,” she said. “(The dot) is from a sermon years ago … It’s to remind me that God has put me here. Look at the person that you’re interacting with and don’t worry about the tasks.”
While Hadley doesn’t have a stage to speak to thousands of people about Jesus, her job is meaningful ministry, not mundane work.
“I would not consider myself a minister, but God can use anybody,” she said. “You just try to shine your light. The world can be a dark place. Somebody, sometime will ask you, ‘Why are you the way you are?’ and then you can have that conversation. It’s being intentional and looking for opportunities, ‘How can God use me today?’”
Signs of the times
Melinda Hadley’s husband, Chris, also sees his work as owner of Hadley Sign Solutions as a ministry.
“A lot of people think that once you’re saved, you have to go into seminary right away in order to be effective,” said Chris, 53. “You can be effective either in your neighborhood or workplace. I work with several guys on a daily basis that I know aren’t saved … I’m hopeful that how I act toward other people and treat them has an effect on how they respond. I’ve seen a change in a few people I’ve dealt with over the years.”
One was a Kroger employee named Tim.
“He’s going back to church now and he told me one time, ‘It’s all because I see how you treat people,’” Chris added.
Chris has been in the sign business for 33 years, but he also is beginning to find success in the barbecue business.
After watching the TV show “BBQ Pitmasters” about six years ago, Chris casually told Melinda he thought it would be cool to judge barbecue. He eventually took a class in Munfordville, Kentucky, to be certified to judge barbecue competitions.
And in August 2018, he started his own business called Southern Smoke BBQ Catering.
“Believe it or not, if you do it every weekend, you can get sick of barbecue,” Chris said.
“And he’s married to someone who doesn’t like barbecue,” Melinda added.
Two is better than one
The Hadleys grew up attending church occasionally, but it had very little impact on their lives.
“Neither one of us grew up with that foundation,” Melinda said. “Even though I went to church, we had the fancy Bible on the coffee table that you couldn’t touch. I couldn’t tell you anything about it. We just went.”
While Chris was attending Murray State University in 1986, his girlfriend’s dad offered him a summer job that paid about double minimum wage to do maintenance work at a hospital with some stipulations.
“Making double the money, I’d stand on my head and gargle peanut butter if that’s what it took,” Chris said. “He said, ‘The only stipulations I have are two things. There’s a guy at the hospital who said you can stay with him and you have to go to church with us.’ Of course, as Baptists, they were going Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening.’’
After attending church for a little while, Chris accepted Christ and was baptized at 19.
He joined the military from 1988-1992, but before his deployment a cousin invited him to play basketball at Southeast Christian Church on Hikes Lane.
When Chris returned to the Louisville area in 1993, he returned to Southeast.
By this time, Chris and Melinda were dating, and she hadn’t been to church since high school.
“When I went to college, I even started doubting if there was a God or not,” Melinda said. “Then I met Chris, we started going out, and he wanted to start going back to church. I’m like, ‘I don’t know, but all right, I’ll go with you.’ We started going to Southeast and, to be honest, I started looking for things to not like and really couldn’t find them.”
Melinda was baptized in 1996. Chris is now an elder at Southeast.