The senior member of the Through the Bible class at Emmanuel Baptist in Overland Park, Kansas, has 99 excuses for sitting back and enjoying the fruits of his past labors. So far, though, he hasn’t used them. Instead, 99-year-old Alva “Al” Lyle — who turns 100 years old in January — continues to play an active role within his church family.
Born when Calvin Coolidge was president and the cost of a postage stamp was 2 cents, Lyle found a place of service in Sunday School where each week, he leads the class in a song from The Baptist Hymnal.
“I pick them out and to make sure we don’t sing a song more than once a year, I keep track of the ones we sing,” he said. “We sang 50 different hymns last year, and everybody knew them.”
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Lyle, who once studied voice, will occasionally sing a solo accompanied by a pianist. Among his favorites are “He Touched Me,” “His Eyes are on the Sparrow” and “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”
And due to his age, Lyle receives a special honor at the beginning of the lesson each Sunday.
“He’s the first person to read aloud from the Scripture passage we’re studying,” said Through the Bible teacher Sandy Peterson. “That is his privilege as the oldest member of our class.”
Both Lyle and Peterson have attended Emmanuel Baptist for about 25 years, and they’ve been friends almost as long.
“He is a delightful man with a sweet spirit, and he is a faithful Southern Baptist,” Peterson said. “He’s been a deacon, an elder, all those things, and it’s been wonderful to see his dedication to Christ, the church and the Baptist Hymnal.”
Years of church service
Over the years, Lyle has additionally served as a church moderator, on personnel committees and as a member of the choir.
Lyle holds fond memories of going to church with his grandparents from the time he was 5 or 6 years old. But it wasn’t until he was 20 years old, living in Brownsville, Texas, and serving as part of the Air Transport Command unit of the U.S. Air Force during World War II, that he accepted Christ and was baptized.
Retired as a mechanic from Trans World Airlines in 1986, Lyle is a widower whose wife, Frances, died six years ago at age 96. Married for 70 years, the two met in church and had two daughters, both of whom grew up to become nurses and are now retired themselves. One of his daughters lives with Lyle.
Accustomed to leading an active life, Lyle still mows the yard, cooks and grocery shops.
“I’m going all the time, and I drive myself everywhere,” he said.
‘Whatever time the Lord gives me’
In his younger days, he fished, hunted, rode motorcycles and enjoyed other outdoor pursuits. He rode horseback until has was 95.
Lyle underwent a triple heart bypass at age 80 and now has a pacemaker. But his blood pressure and cholesterol levels are great, and for a person who’s lived life at full speed for nearly a century, he enjoys remarkably good health.
As he approaches the 100 mark, however, Lyle’s main concern is serving whenever and wherever God leads.
“I’ll take whatever time the Lord gives me,” he said, “and when He calls me, I’ll be ready to go home.”