09/19/12 — Her front yard is her church

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Her front yard is her church

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 19, 2012 1:46 PM

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Nettie Green stands in her front yard on Patetown Road holding a poster board with a daily Bible verse. The ordained minister said she performs the ritual weekday mornings as a way to encourage passing motorists.

A Goldsboro woman with a penchant for street preaching has discovered a mission field right in her own front yard.

Nettie Green spent years in New York City feeding the homeless, so she has always been willing to meet people wherever they are.

An ordained minister without a church, that doesn't stop her from finding a way to share the word of God.

Her driveway serves as her pulpit and passing motorists on Patetown Road her congregation, at least on weekdays between 7 and 8:30 a.m.

"I am a church, if I never get a building," she says with a smile.

The idea to stand outside each morning -- quietly holding up a stark white posterboard with a single Scripture verse handwritten in black letters -- came to her while sitting at her living room window.

The 69-year-old retiree had given up her position as a volunteer at the canteen at Cherry Hospital, finding herself with time on her hands over the summer.

"I'm used to working," she said. "Lord, I have put in applications -- nothing. The Lord brought me back to a time when I was in New York."

The Wilmington native moved to New York City in 1969 and lived there until 2003. She discovered a passion for serving others, cooking soup and feeding the homeless, oftentimes on foot as she would seek out those most in need who were living on the sidewalks.

She recalled her own plight 11 years ago. While the nation turned its eyes to New York on 9/11, she was fighting her own battle.

"I was in the hospital, having respiratory failure, in a coma -- 27 pints of blood, 14 units of plasma, trach in my neck, heart failure three times, dead two days, no life in my body," she said. "I was in a coma about three weeks. Doctors wanted my son to pull the plug on me. But the Lord raised me up and I'm here by the grace of God.

"I went through such an ordeal because they didn't think I was going to make it. But God didn't see fit, He saw fit to raise me up."

The experience taught her much, about not making excuses, about not wasting the time we're given.

So as she sat gazing out her window, watching the steady flow of traffic that passes by her home across from Goldsboro Builders Supply -- a thoroughfare for motorists heading to Wayne Christian School, the hospital or other places on Wayne Memorial Drive -- she had an epiphany.

"It was like the Red Sea -- they were going down and coming up -- it's so crowded out there," she said. "I'm actually up early anyway, sitting here, you've got to do something.

"Watching the road and seeing all the cars coming back, big trucks, one came by the other day and almost blew me off the corner where I was standing (blowing his horn) and gave me the thumbs up."

Since starting the ritual over the summer, she has developed quite a following. Horns will honk, drivers will slow down or wave, passengers will sit up and take note, she said.

"Between 7:15 and 8:15, my goodness -- and these kids, they're just waving, they're excited. Some are leaning forward looking, it's really awesome," she said. "So many people come up in the driveway, that it's just such a blessing.

"One lady almost had tears in her eyes -- 'You just don't know how you make me feel,' she said. A school teacher came by, said she prayed for me and my family, I made her day, it was a blessing."

Ms. Green tries to be faithful, she says, unless it's unavoidable.

"Sometimes I have to go to the doctor and the doctor I go to (in Wilson) doesn't work in the afternoon," she said. "It bothers me. I don't want to miss (a day). It's a blessing. I enjoy it."

"Miss Nettie," as many call her, battles a few health problems -- a nerve condition on her face, a blood clot in her leg -- but shrugs off any temptation to complain or let it slow her down.

"I don't let that stop me because many people have afflictions. I don't have time for that," she said. "This body is going to decay but when I stand before Him, I want Him to say, 'Well done.'

"I just take my medication and go about my business. Bless the Lord, because He gets me up."

The faithful servant is on a mission, which means rising each day with the right attitude.

"Before I go out, I'm always in prayer," she said. "I make sure I pray over it and pray for those folks that see it, that they'll go home and read that Scripture.

"It's nothing about me. When I'm standing there, I'm praying that I'll be a vessel, that's all."

She's not a fair-weather sign-holder. As the temperatures get cooler, she still plans to be at her post.

"I'm equipped. I have got some boots and a big old bear coat," she says, with the exception of rain, but mostly because of her sign. "It'll run.

"But I'm going to keep it up as long as I can."