Reward: making a real difference

August 4th, 2014

“The church will be here for you whether he lives or dies.”

Those words, delivered quietly with kindness and compassion from my first pastor, were the life-saving breath I unknowingly yet desperately needed.

My husband and I had been dealt one of the most devastating blows a young couple could receive. Our unborn child was going to die. We turned to a local church we had visited a few times… to plan a funeral.

But there was no funeral, at least then. Matthew lived. He was a miracle. Born with severe physical and mental disabilities, he transformed lives for twenty-one years. His legacy stretches far and wide because of pastors who brought the gospel alive during our most vulnerable moments, which included Matthew’s many hospital stays.

They Came to Share

Hospitals are like churches. People enter to be healed and made whole. I learned that a doctor cannot fully do his or her job without the assistance of a pastor, who surrounds patients and their families with prayer and scripture. A pastor is responsible for reminding everyone that no matter how desperate things may seem, God is always present, and we need to turn to God. Peace and comfort prevail, allowing healing to take place.

On several occasions, medical staff confided they could feel the Holy Spirit working. It was not uncommon for a doctor or nurse to enter and find a minister leading a prayer. The hospital staff often asked me to recount Matthew’s story, wondering how we thrived despite overwhelming adversity.

Give Unto Others

Following one of the operations my son endured, I found a tool that helped me and allowed me to share my faith with others. A pastor had left behind a paper entitled What Suffering Is and Isn’t: Nine Maxims to Ponder and Apply. This was written long ago by Cornelius Remple, a hospital chaplain:

  1. Suffering is not God’s desire for us but occurs in the process of life.
  2. Suffering is not given in order to teach us something, but through it we learn.
  3. Suffering is not given to us to teach others something, but through it they may learn.
  4. Suffering is not given to punish us but is sometimes the consequence of sin or poor judgment.
  5. Suffering does not occur because our faith is weak, but through it our faith may be strengthened.
  6. God does not depend on human suffering to achieve God’s purposes, but through it God’s purposes are sometimes achieved.
  7. Suffering is not always to be avoided at all costs but is sometimes chosen.
  8. Suffering can either destroy us or add meaning to life.
  9. The will of God has more to do with how we respond to life than with how life deals with us.

Because I was fed by caring pastors and equipped with tools, I was empowered to share the word of God as well as my faith. I became a disciple who was able to care for others who sought answers.

Being Present

A doctor is unable to fully and accurately diagnose a malady without physically seeing and touching the person. The same holds true for a pastor. How can a pastor preach the gospel without living it?

Jesus laid his hands on the hurting, just as pastors laid their hands on me and on my family. There is power in the physical touch. There is power in handwritten notes and phone calls. There is power in a personal invitation to take life’s hard lessons and turn them into something that blesses others. A pastor challenged me to begin blood drives and ministries to benefit people with special needs. Church leaders invited my husband to teach Sunday school. Eventually he became a board member, and together the church invited us to spearhead a project to benefit the un-and underemployed.

Where it Begins

Our journey of serving, witnessing, and caring for others began with a pastor’s words: “The church will be here for you whether he lives or dies.” Pastors took the time to personally connect with all of us. Relationships were formed.

The most profound discovery I made after connecting with the church is: I can survive but will only thrive if God is in my life. I have a personal relationship with God, which is strengthened through the relationships I have with pastors who care.

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