For the last few months, I have been attending my church and Louis’ church. This morning was my first Sunday off from church since Lent started. It really got me thinking about the meaning of taking a Sabbath. Although I am so glad I went to church with Louis each Sunday, I learned that I missed my Sunday Sabbath tremendously.
When Louis and I first started dating, I did not start attending his church. As we got more serious, we also talked about what would happen once we got engaged and got married. The last thing I would want to do is offend him or his congregation. I was (and am) heavily involved in my church, Commonwealth Chapel. In addition, they have a Saturday night service. Since this service started, I quickly drew fond of the time and it became my regular worship time. It was the beginning of my Sabbath. My Sunday mornings became a precious time between me and the Lord.
After much discussion and prayer, Louis and I decided that I would continue to take Sunday’s off of traditional church. I know many of you might judge me saying…”You don’t go to church with your husband?” and “You’re a pastor’s wife?” “Bad wife!” That’s ok…judge away! :o) But, my Sunday mornings were a form of worship, not just in the way most people would look at it. I am so grateful for our church family at Louis’ church for understanding!! And, we get to see each other about once a month when I attend there and we often do visitation together.
Knowing that I am home on Sunday mornings, Everett (the Gardna) started to visit with me as well. We would cook breakfast together, read the word and watch some Bobby Jones Gospel together on TV. We had “church” together just about every Sunday morning. (I am NOT advocating doing this as the only form of worship for any length of time. Yes…you CAN meet with the Lord any time…day, night, weekend, but there is nothing that replaces the fellowship of gathering together for worship!) Everett would eventually fall asleep on the couch, and the Lord and I continued on together. Sunday’s totally rocked! A true day of rest. In retrospect, it reminds me of the parable of the Lost Sheep. The shepherd left the other 99 to go after the 1. I was going after my 1….Everett. Then, my Sunday’s changed.
After Frank progressed out of ICU, Frank and I mainly spent Sunday mornings together. This allowed Vicky a morning off and Geraldine could worship at her church. Thankfully, Commonwealth Chapel has Saturday evening services. But, even if they didn’t…I wouldn’t have changed these moments with Frank for anything! It was just the 2 of us…no distractions. The first morning I went, Frank said something like it’s Sunday, are we doin’ church or what? So, each Sunday morning, Frank and I would spend time reading the Bible and discussing what it meant. Sometimes he would ask me to help him bathe, clean the blood out from under his nails, assist him in going to the bathroom….all kinds of personal stuff.
For some reason, he would rather me assist him than his nurse. Although it was awkward for me at first and I would resist big-time, the Lord would hear NONE of my excuses (and neither would Frank for, that matter), and I was reminded of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. I learned to perform these tasks with joy and love, and it became an intimate and bonding time for us. I learned what the Lord was modeling that day….service.
We talked about all kinds of things…getting real. Our pasts. Our lives. Our hopes. Our dreams. It wasn’t long before Frank was asking me about what was going on with Louis and me. I often wonder if he just wanted to get the subject and focus off of him and onto someone or something else. So, he too could see that Louis and I were “meant to be”. He also came up with my nickname…”Angel”, short for Guardian Angel. Through our talks and his conversations with others, Frank began to learn what God had done for him….how much God loved him and had a plan for his life.
As much as Frank understood and had truly accepted what the Lord had done for him, we talked about how life outside of the hospital would not be easy. When Frank finally got out, the pull of the street and his past and the realities and struggles of living a righteous life was strong. I have heard time and time again, that if you want to make a change…then you have to change your people, places and things. If you don’t…it is nearly impossible.
Well, we would learn what would happen when Frank didn’t change his people, places and things…
Louis and I continued to get to know one another. Our relationship with Frank, Geraldine, Vicky, the kids and the rest of the family continued to grow as well. Frank graduated from the Trauma ICU to a progressive care unit and eventually to the rehab unit where he would spend most of the day in physical therapy to gain his strength and use of his legs.
One of my favorite memories was celebrating Vicky’s birthday just a little over a month after the shooting! This was a great time of fellowship….and danger! Admittedly, we didn’t think about the potential hazards of having a birthday cake with a bunch (I won’t say how many, Vicky!!!) of lit candles on the cake, when Frank’s roommate had oxygen going. Note to self….NOT A GOOD IDEA! Let’s just say that the smell of smoke got the nurses a jumpin’. <:) But, the Lord spared us of all danger that evening and the staff was full of grace! Thanks for not kicking us out, MCV!!!
As you know, Louis and I had only known each other about 5 weeks at this point. I went from “not sure if I like him” to “when are you all getting married?” in a little over a month! We went from seeing each other weekly to every day. I had prayed for the other ½ of my pair as told in Luke 10:1-7, and it looked like that God had just maybe provided that answer. But, we know that when you are walking in the will of God and He is using you mightily, Satan is not going to take kindly to that at all.
Word about what had happened and what we were doing was making its way through the Christian community in and around Metro Richmond. Again, we are so thankful for the many, many prayers that those communications and emails brought our way. It didn’t take long for Satan to raise his ugly head in the form of a character attack. For a short period of time, this attack distracted us from serving and loving on Frank and his family like we had been called to do and discouraged us a bit. But, Louis and I worked through that…through the grace of God, a lot of prayer and the love of some trusted friends. We are better for having gone through that challenge.
Know that Satan and his army will go ALL OUT to tear us down and to keep us from walking in Truth. Today, I was reading John 10:1-21 and was reminded that Jesus is the Gate and the Good Shepherd. Satan may seek to steal, kill and destroy, but, my Jesus says…
9 “Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 …My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” He also says…18 “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”
As I reflect, this Holy Week…on this Maundy Thursday (the day of Judas’ betrayal, the Last Supper and Jesus washing the feet of his disciples)…the day before Jesus was hung on that cross, that I am so thankful for His voluntary sacrifice. But, as we approach resurrection, I have JOY!!! JOY!!! JOY!!! that He has the authority to lay down His life, but He also took it back up again!!! He died for me…O’ wretched sinner that I am. So, that in his resurrection I can live a “rich and satisfying life” where I am alive, free, and forgiven.
After spending the afternoon talking to the neighbors and kids, Louis and I went up to the hospital to visit with Frank’s family. Because this was being treated as a trauma and a needless to say a crime, Frank’s personal information was being withheld. The operator would tell you nothing about Frank…not even a room number. But, we were persistent and made our own way to the trauma ICU to see what and who we could find.
That was it! We found Frank’s friends and family overflowing out of the small 8′x12′ waiting room. I admit I was a bit hesitant and felt a bit intrusive, but the Lord had directed us to go. There appeared to be some hesitancy on their part too. Not sure about us and our agenda. But, we were there to….again..just be present….to pray…to read scripture…to be the feet of Jesus. No agenda.
We learned that Frank was not conscious. He had been shot 9 times. Upper right chest, left shoulder, left thigh, right hand and 5 times in the gut. Frank had survived surgery that repaired the extensive damage to his gut and other injuries. Geraldine (Frank’s mom) and Vicky (Frank’s girlfriend) were there. Although only 2 people could be there at any time and only a handful were allowed on the list to visit at all, Louis and I were permitted to see him. Admittedly, I was nervous. I wasn’t sure what I would experience.
Because of Frank’s serious condition, we obviously didn’t stay long…just long enough to pray. We also prayed with Geraldine and Vicky. This became a daily occurrence for Louis and me. We would head to MCV – sometimes together, but sometimes separate. After a couple of days, I think they finally realized that we weren’t going away….we were there for the long haul.
We are soo thankful for the many people that prayed with and for us. The folks at Tuesday Night Prayer Service at Commonwealth Chapel regularly lifted all of us up, and we are so grateful for that.
Louis and my relationship went from basically 0-60 in just about 24 hours. I went from barely liking the guy to seeing him every day! We all still laugh about this now. But, Vicky and Geraldine knew we were getting married before we did! During that first week, they regularly asked me (when I was there without Louis), Where’s your husband? I would repeatedly tell them, we aren’t married. I barely know the guy. We are still getting to know one another. I just met him 4 weeks ago, etc. But…they kept asking me where my husband was and Louis where his wife was.
Then finally, we were there together. I was at one end of the room getting to know one of Frank’s friends, Anthony. And Louis was at the other end of the room talking to Vicky and Geraldine. When Geraldine asked – so….when you goin’ to marry her? It’s written all over your face! You’re in loOoOoOve. I (obviously) was ½ listening to the conversation and glanced at Louis out of the corner of my eye, when I saw that Louis had turned a deep shade of RED!
This was a lovely time of bonding, sharing, and communing with Frank’s family. It didn’t take long before we were hugging each other as we greeted and as we said farewell. We were 2 vastly different groups of people in every way possible with very little in common brought together by a tragic event. Now, over 2 years later, we are sharing life together…birthdays, holidays, etc.
Although I am SOOO sorry that all of us had to experience this event, I am thankful for the friends and dare I say family that is now the result!
But challenging times weren’t far off….
Continued from last nights post….The Next Day Part 1
These are complicated questions to answer. There is so MUCH history that goes into it. There are way more questions than answers. Or…answers that you want to hear, anyway. I encourage you to dig deep…ask the questions…seek the answers.
A question like, HOW did it end up like this? Deep-rooted systemic decisions and policies that were made intentionally by people in power dating decades….centuries ago…that have led to the problems we have in the City of Richmond today. If you want to learn more, Ben Campbell, at Richmond Hill, has a wonderful class - Richmond’s Unhealed History – 9 Lectures on the History of Richmond 1607-2009. It offers a whole new perspective….that is NOT what you read in the history books in school growing up. We need more people to get involved in the social justice issues that impact not just the City of Richmond, but the metro area as a whole.
Others may ask…why don’t YOU move? Why do you stay? As a matter of fact, Frank himself has asked me that same question more than once. He thought I would be packing it up after that night. But, I will tell you what I told him. A year before Frank got shot, my car was vandalized when the windows were shot out. It later was stolen and dumped off in Petersburg. People then asked, why don’t you move? If I had moved in early 2007 after that happened, who would have been there the night Frank got shot? God doesn’t NEED us to do a thing. He can do it on His own, without our help. But, what a priviledge it is to be used by my Almighty God. So, He called me (and now Louis) here to SBH. We won’t leave until He calls us some place else. I have committed my life to Him..so I will go where He sends me. Will you?
Just yesterday, Mom sent me a devotional newsletter email called Inspired Faith. I will end this post with that word…
For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.II Chronicles 16:9 NIV
God has called each of us to obey Him in the place He has us. In His eyes we all have a ministry. Many serve Him in a local church through a variety of ministries, such as music, teaching, youth work, or by being a part of the church staff. Others serve on the mission field, on the job, at school, or at home.
God knows you and He knows your heart desires to serve Him. You are someone that He will use to make a difference, to share His love, and to touch the hearts of others. What has qualified you for this high privilege of being used by Him? Is it your talents, your personality, your education, your influence, or your résumé? It is none of these; rather, it is the response of your heart toward Him. God is always searching for those whose hearts are yielded to Him so that He can work mightily through them.
Sometimes we can be led to think that God’s work is dependent upon us, upon what we do, and upon what we know. The truth is that God wants us to be totally dependent upon Him. He is the Treasure, we are the vessels; He is Vine, we are the branches; He is the Living Water, we are the channels through which He flows.
The apostle Peter was someone who needed to learn this important truth. Jesus taught him the futility of trying to get results through his own efforts by allowing him, an expert fisherman, to labor all night and come up empty. Afterward, when He followed Jesus’ word to cast out into the deep, Peter pulled in a catch that was beyond his dreams.
As His servant, remember that your ministry is His idea and not yours. He is the One who knows you, who has called you, and who has equipped you to serve Him. Remain true, remain faithful, remain restful, and remain totally dependent upon Him.
God is not looking for those who are clever, but for those in whom He can be wise; He is not looking for those who are talented, but for those to whom He can be all sufficient; He is not looking for those who are powerful, but for those through whom He can be almighty.
by Roy Lessin, DaySpring Cofounder
Needless to say, I went on to work the next day…until mid afternoon when the kids were coming home from school. I SOOO wanted and needed to check on Anthony and Lil Mike to make sure they were OK. God blessed us with a beautiful day! A few things happened that afternoon….
One – My mom met me here. She just wanted to lay eyes on me and pray. I SOOO appreciate the many, many prayers that were offered up on our behalf!
Two – Lil Mike and Tony were fine! Those kids totally were amazing and so strong.
Three – The community also was wonderful! Frank had grown up in the Southern Barton Heights area, so he was well-known and loved by a lot of people. Since it was a beautiful day, I was putzing around in the front yard…with my plants, etc. The kids had always loved and welcomed me into the community, but many of the adults didn’t quite know what to do with me. Didn’t know what I was all about or why I moved into SBH. That day, I met more neighbors than I had in the last couple of years. People intentionally stopped by to thank me (and Louis) and to ask about Frank. It was an opportunity to not only meet people, but also share what God had done that night. It was a time to pray and encourage Frank’s friends. I had gained a “street cred” that I didn’t have before.
People shared what they did when they heard the shots. The natural instinct of living in the inner city, crime infested area is to run away (if you were on the street), hide in your closet, jump in your bathtub, lock your doors, brace the door with a chair under the doorknob (should the shooter try to run into the house). Yet, Louis and I ran into the street into the fray. We never thought to do anything else. We were Called to be there and to respond.
I often wonder what we would do now. Hopefully we won’t have to find out!!! We hear gunshots all the time….but thankfully from a distance. Needless to say, we were a bit gun-shy (no pun intended!) for a while after that. Late one night we heard a gunshot fairly close. Louis and I looked outside, but didn’t see anything to respond to. But, we quickly shut and locked the door. A little later our door bell rang. Normally, I didn’t think twice about opening it. That night we did…we just yelled through the door. My heart pounded in my chest. I realized that I was more traumatized than I realized. By the way…it was just someone telling us that Louis had left the inside light of his car on. It took a few days before we realized that we trusted God that night, and we can still trust God now. That we must use wisdom, but we could no longer live in fear. God healed me of that.
That day…when I sat outside talking to people, I heard their stories…everyone had one, two, three friends that had been shot~ injured and killed. Some had been shot themselves. I can’t even imagine WHAT this must do to you after years…how it must impact the kids who grow up here. For I have the HOPE in me….and it sometimes is tough. What about those who don’t know the Lord? Many may ask…why don’t they move? Why do they stay? Why don’t they just pack up and move some place safe. Let me caution you (and me for that that matter!) about judging these wonderful inner city dwellers! Remember what the Word says about judging. Matthew 7:1-2, Luke 6:37 and John 12:47, to name a few scriptures, speak to this directly.
to be continued….
Picking up from the 3/20 post The Word Became Flesh… (click if you want to read it before continuing)
I have been really struggling on what to say and how to continue telling this story about how we met Frank and his family. The last thing I want to do is to hurt anyone by my words or release any confidential information. So, I will not give many details, but will tell what I feel comfortable with until I can talk with Frank and his family.
That night, Louis and I went up to the hospital, just a couple of miles from where I live. Thankfully, it was close since Frank had been shot 9 times!
After praying for wisdom, Louis and I walked into the Gateway Building (like a lobby) of MCV, now VCU Health Systems. I’m not sure about Louis and how he was feeling, but I was feeling a bit out of place and nervous. The lobby was FULL for 11:30pm on a Sunday night. I didn’t quite understand. Louis and I were the only white people in a lobby full of black people where it was eerily quiet and heavy when we walked in. Still in a bit of shock, I’m not sure why I didn’t place them with Frank.
But, Louis, having spent many hours and visits in the hospitals with church members, knew what to do. He introduced himself to the receptionist/guard and we asked for a status update on Frank. When a short woman beside me, firmly and loudly stated…that’s my son! What do YOU people want with my SON?!?!? I quietly and quickly introduced us to her and let her know why we were there. She quickly responded, Not YOU people! YOU didn’t help my son! I assured her that we did and quickly explained again why we decided to come up there. I gently guided her over to where the others were located, as they looked at us with a bit of distrust.
After praying for some help and wisdom, I calmly introduced myself and Louis. It was probably helpful that I introduced him as a Reverend! After learning that they had no knowledge of what happened or if Frank was even alive, we shared with them what we knew….where I lived, the events of the evening, we didn’t see it happen, how we responded, what Frank had said to me, and how he was alive when he was taken to the hospital. The distrust from the crowd waned a bit.
We just shared that we wanted to be there for anything that they needed. When one of Frank’s friends said, but you already have done so much. I explained that we hadn’t done all that much, but that Jesus had done it all. We also stated that we were there to be with them and pray with them. Whatever they needed. When another friend said, so what are we waiting on…let’s pray…as he stuck both hands out to grab the hands of those around him. Louis led us in prayer for the family, the doctors and medical staff, for Frank, etc.
Although it often felt awkward for them…and for us, Louis and I continued to hang out with Friends and Family for another hour or so before going back to my house. Some might call it the gift of being present.
Louis and I were up rather late that night…processing, chillin’, decompressing. I am sooo very thankful for the many many prayers that were offered up for us and for Frank and his family during this time. I don’t know for sure WHAT Frank was doing that night or WHY someone wanted to shoot him. I can assume that it was a robbery…but it wasn’t. He still had everything on him that a robber would want. And…based on my extensive (HA!) experience, I don’t think a robber would shoot him 9 times! I can’t help but think it was personal. We could all probably guess and probably won’t be far off from the truth. Whatever it was. I still don’t need to know.
What I DO know is that my God is in control and He loves us more than we can EVER imagine! I do know that…
…my mom and her friends were regularly praying for me (since January 2007)
….the Lord had introduced Louis and me a month before (not in July 2007) for a reason.
…my heart had changed that Saturday night for a reason.
…Louis and I were home and cooked out on the grill that night (instead of going out)
…Louis wasn’t outside when the shoot occurred
…the kids were dropped off early from youth group and they weren’t outside
….Louis remembered to cut the grill off
…we were NOT going up the inside steps
for a reason. There were soooo many things that the Lord did to protect us and to prepare us for “such a time as this”. All this was done, so that we could be there when Frank got shot. Remember…no one else responded. He would have been left to die that night on the street beside my house. That’s what I used to tell Frank ALL THE TIME…God loves him SOOO much that He did all of this AND MORE. We had been there…as the feet of Jesus. Nothing more…nothing less.
I had prayed a year before for the other ½ of my pair…in ministry to Southern Barton Heights. And God had heard and had answered…in HIS time…His perfect time.
Louis and I have been in the ministry business together ever since!
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!!!