In 1980, Reba Sorrells and her late husband, Cleo, sought a volunteer organization to help them fulfill a simple goal: spread the Gospel to detached communities. Their church recommended Word Bible School, a correspondence Bible study course aimed at third-world and impoverished communities. Essentially WBS Teachers, like Reba, guide students through a five chapter Bible study program. As a retired teacher/principal, the educational component of WBS appealed to Reba. “This program improves literacy and teaches the Bible, truly worthy causes.” To date, Reba has taught over 2,500 WBS students, mostly children, in the U.S., the U.K., Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria and the Philippines, to name a few. She also recruits and mentors new teachers for WBS.
“Many students are third-world villagers, so course completion is difficult for them. Receiving completed lessons, correcting them, and returning them takes about five months. In that time, villagers frequently move, or worse pass away. My promise is to correct papers and mail certificates of completion within five days. In their lives, days make a difference.” For 26 years, Reba has kept her commitment by dedicating 20 volunteer hours each week.
To her students, Reba is both teacher and pen-pal. “Children ask for my picture. I guess there’s a shortage of garden scarecrows out there. I don’t send photos, but with each lesson I send encouraging notes or various pamphlets I collect from my library and church.” If you ask Reba how much material she donates yearly, she modestly replies: “Whatever it takes for each child to receive a treat with every lesson. I send books, commentaries, pamphlets, and, of course, Bibles.” In reality, Reba’s donations of reading materials are vast. One community in Nigeria actually turned her donations into the Ebonyi School of Preaching.
Her one regret is not saving the countless letters from her students. “My room at the living facility is limited, so I don’t keep letters. I’m inspired to watch my students’ reading/writing skills improve with each letter they send me. For many, English is a second language and education isn’t a priority. These lessons help.” More than anything else, her students ask her to visit. Her reply: “Lead a good life, and I’ll meet you in heaven.”
Reba is not paid for her time and refuses to boast about her service. “I can’t claim 26 years. We had a car wreck that took my husband’s life. I didn’t return to WBS until I could walk again. You should subtract those months.” In addition to 26 years as a WBS Teacher, in 1993 Johnson St. Church of Christ presented her with a plaque recognizing 50+ years as a Bible Class Teacher. Reba and her late husband, Cleo, received the 2006 Texas Lonestar Lifetime Achievement Award from Governor Perry for their life of service.