Two years ago yesterday, my dear friend, Tena, left this world and met our Lord face-to-face. I miss her.
Tena was unique. I have never met anyone like her and doubt that I will ever will. She was an intelligence officer, a security clearance investigator, an alto, a fashion icon and a kick. She could embarrass and delight and frighten you in a single moment. You never knew what she might say.
I have never been so proud of my church as I was those last eight months of Tena’s life. It started when we learned that she was in the hospital after having a seizure. Within a month, we had all heard of the diagnosis – a brain tumor that was most likely cancerous. It explained a lot.
She was scared as were all of us who loved her. She wouldn’t show it most of the time – keeping her tough exterior and witty tongue at the ready. But, she knew that the prognosis wasn’t good. The docs debated and tests were run and we watched as our dear friend got sicker.
Eventually she needed someone with her round-the-clock and she seemed to think that moving into a care facility or hiring a professional was too huge a step. And she was unreasonable with loving family members. Her church friends stepped up.
We stayed with her for every moment for almost two weeks. She had always been very independent and brain cancer didn’t change that. I told her that we were going to stay and she wanted to approve the list of names.
One woman drove over an hour to spend shifts with her. Another became an expert in helping with medical procedures. Another talked with her during one shift and remained silent during the next one after Tena, sick and confused, had said in frustration “too much talking!!” I worked to keep the schedule working for everyone. It was amazing, woman after woman called me to see how they could help. I have never seen such love and care and sacrifice from people, many of whom who barely knew Tena.
Yesterday John and I visited another friend who likely has only a few days left on this earth. As we prayed with him in that front porch, the sun shining and our friend struggling to pay attention, my heart thanked God again for God for His church.
My church was there for me at every step of my walk with God.
Don’t define the “church” as only those who gather with you for worship.
– “Church” includes that friend who prayed with me at work.
– “Church” includes distant friends and relatives who are only connected to me via Facebook but care about me when I struggle and celebrate with me when there is victory.
– “Church” includes that special lady at the self-check-out section of our Walmart; she and I have shared so many words of faith together.
– But, mainly “church” is, for me, that group that gathers together and praises, prays, learns, serves and grows together at Pensacola First Church of the Nazarene. They have been there for me, in good times and in bad. In times of struggle and in times of growth. They are my church and I am theirs. And, we welcome anyone and everyone who seeks Jesus.
The church was created by God to give us a place to worship, to learn, to share, to care and to serve. Church isn’t about the hospital visits or casseroles or even the fellowship. Church is about seeking and serving God together. Church is the Christian community of faith.
Are you struggling? Go to church and get involved. Don’t go to church and sit, waiting for something to happen. Talk to someone. Share your heart. And, if it doesn’t help you get closer to God, go to another church.
Go to church, Friend. I will meet you there.
Jill (just one of God’s kids)
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” I Thessalonians 5:11