Sunday, March 19, 2017

God's Resolute Presence





   Yesterday,  I experienced the resolute presence of God's spirit amidst 10 lovely women.

   My friend Sergio Perez was overcome by the effects of glioblastoma  at 4:25 am on Saturday March 18th.  He left as one that was well loved by his family and many many 4th grade students.  Little voices, hands and souls whom he invested in and nurtured in a manly way. His way was gentle but firm and assuring. He was interested in people -perhaps because he knew that each one of them was of great value in the Kingdom of God. He had an unusual gift of remembering names and even decades later could recall them when meeting his former students on the street.

   I only got to know him better in the last year, more his family really, but his imprint upon them was indelible. Their beloved Sergio struggled against this insidious disease for 6 months before it took him. During that time the amount of cards and support monies that came in was staggering. His family covered the living room walls with well wishes from people who loved him.  I have had the privilege of watching the hands and feet of Jesus show themselves from the community through not only astonishing donations, but also through meals, phone calls, cookies, dates with the girls, gardening, plumbing, electrical work, etc. I am left happily stunned.  God has supported this family in a unusual way, with grace-filled miracles sprinkled generously.

   Barbara Haney had a great fund-raising idea to sell note cards with the girls artwork- some imaginative and colorful pieces. Because Sergio hadn't been able to eat since the first of the week, I felt urgency to get on this and so ordered 800 cards at the Biola Print shop, and sent out a call to fb friends for help. Six women responded to my call and gathered in quilting bee form to put packs of cards together. I picked up the cards on Friday and bought envelopes at Kelly paper. (Who gave them to me at a discounted price because of the situation.)


We gathered Saturday morning, only 3 hours after Sergio passed. Taline had planned for the girls to come and help, so she drove them over, Nairi still in her pjs. We fawned over them like mother hens. "Hail to the artists!" I called out as they came in. We built their artistic talents up. They were eager to tell us who had drawn which pictures, what the art represented, how many 1st, 2nd places they had won with their art. Then we incorporated them into the assembly line. Adrine was counting envelopes, Nairi was transferring folded cards to the packaging table, and all the while our women, knowing the Perez's great loss, spoke with them gently about their Baba and loved on them.

Here is an account of the women who came:
Bev, who's school principal husband  suffered with Alzheimers the last 13 years of his life.
Vivian, who lost her husband to cancer when she was 55.
Nancy, a single gal who had recently lost her own parents and serves as a school counsellor. She took up the work station next to Taline and was able to listen and converse quietly with her.
Tami battles cancer currently.
Grace who had come through her own near death experience, guided Nairi's hand as she wanted to cut with the paper cutter. When Vivian, the school nurse, took on that station and Nairi still wanted to 'help', Vivian quipped she didn't want of either of them hurt.


And lastly Marty who is just the sweetest fun lady ever. She told me later:
 When Nairi came by my "scoring station" I was so interested to ask her about the drawing with her family. I couldn't figure out who that fifth person was in the drawing. "That's my sister, my daddy, momma and me. I won 2nd prize of my costume." 
"Oh, and who is that person down here in the corner?
"That's the lady handing out the candy," she answered. Silly me, who would have thought to draw the lady handing out the candy?!


   I am thinking that it was not by chance that God had moved these women to come today. The day when these girls needed love and grounded women who could minister.

   When Nairi had to wait while the "quality controller" trimmed cards, her little 6 year old voice told us we needed to work faster!  Hm.
Someone told me that Taline has steel in her backbone, and that it has served her well during this wearisome season.  It appears Nairi has some of that in lesser degree. Adrine did the work of counting the packs of envelopes, and watching the process more quietly.

   At one point, Nairi turned her head up and wanted to talk to me. I squatted down to her level, and listened as she told me that this morning she wanted to kiss her Baba, but his hands were cold and his feet were cold and his cheek was soft and squishy so she just kissed his forehead as her good bye. After her story she flitted outside with her sister to play with our dog, Oreo.

   Taline and the girls accompanied me to my mother-in-law's house next door and practiced their sales presentation. Mary responded and bought 3 packs and gave them a generous tip. Sales had begun. Adrien quickly realized this was going to entail some math. Not a bad skill to launch her into.  When back at our place, the workers also shelled out cash for their own set of cards. How's that? Volunteers to work and then they pay for the product. Now there is some good work ethic for you!


 I got this note from Barbara,who had dropped by:

 I'm in awe at God's timing for this opportunity to take place today, so the girls could be distracted in a very healthy way.

   I believe this is what Holy work looks like. People caring about others, people who themselves have faced death or grave sickness and loss- squarely and know that God gives strength and cause to keep on living. 

My sister, Terri came over afterward and in recalling the morning to her, I realized this. It is Satan who steals, kills and destroys. Sergio's cancer was an attack. But this death would not deter the life-giving opportunity that was given us, on this morning. And we could share in this sacred moment of inclusive love towards the hurting, by nurturing spirits to enjoy creativity and beauty and by generous mercy towards 3 women who have suffered these 6 months. God and his goodness, even in the face of pain will not be overcome.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Friends Worship Service



Reflection on the worship service in Joy hall Monday night May 27th. 

"Del Chinchen is coming to Granada on Monday May 27, to apologize for his years of deception. He will make a brief statement and then will respond to questions from those who have been hurt by him. "

Because of my history with this body of believers at GHFC, I responded to his invitation not because I was hurt but because I anticipated an intense God-presence.The sin of immorality is part of the human experience no matter how "sanctified" a congregation may be, and being so it needs to be processed in a way congruent with Kingdom living. That is a tall order. Sadly in the body of Christ we tend to be more likely to set ourselves up as stone throwers than fellow grace-receivers. But I know the people in my local body to be well founded on grace as well as truth. So I went because I knew I would learn something.

Joy hall was filled with about 40 of us. Ed introduced Del and Del came to the front to face us. I was moved by his small figure standing in shame, with head bowed; declaring to us his apology for having sinned against his wife, having brought shame to his mission effort, his church, his God and the name of Christ. He spoke slowly and mostly with downcast eyes. Here before us stood a man who was suffering in the weight of his sin. Next to me my husband took out his hankerchief and wiped his eyes. 

Del then opened to questions from us; some details about what was being done to make things right with the women involved, with his wife with his daughters, his family. Del was notably grieved to relay that certain family members wanted nothing to do with him, that other family members were willing to extend grace but needed time for their own healing. He relayed that he is presently living in a monastery in the same city with Becky. He teared up at quoting Becky, communicating his high regard for her. One of those things Becky told Del, was that he should not be ashamed to be on an "apology tour", because it was a form of worship. This is the very reason Jesus came, to pardon our sin. 

Then came response from us who had come; dear sisters who spoke to Del, and affirmed our commitment to him, our love for him and extended God's grace through our little body to him. Our weeping prophet, Chum also thanked Del, for coming; for having the courage to do what needed to be done and assured Del of our love. I don't remember a time I ever saw so many men weep. 

Ed closed by inviting us to prayer. Among the prayers these thoughts came:
Who of us is beyond the realm of doing an apology tour of our own? Who of us could fancy that we could be the one to cast the first stone? We are on equal ground and in God's eyes this is why his son came to rescue us. God, may Del and his family experience restoration. 

Del's was a serious sin, that affected many, but it was not beyond reach of the blood soaked cross. And Del was bringing his sin to the cross and to us his fellow believers who supported him for years with money, prayers and love. Isn't this where sin is best processed if we keep the focus on the cross? God has forgiven, who are we to hold it against Del? 

It was a time of worship. Scripture records, as the last supper ended the little Jesus band ended with a hymn. So it seemed most appropriate that we ended our meeting by singing Amazing Grace.

Talking with Del afterward he said that before the meeting he considered it would be a meeting of closure of his relationship with Granada. Looking up at Fred and I he said, "But that is not what I heard tonight. I heard that you welcome me back."

It has been said that in the Friend' tradition, business meetings are 'A worship meeting where business gets done." Becky was right. May 27th was a worship meeting; a worship meeting where an apology for sin was made.  Thank you Del for taking a hard but neccessary step. We will pray for you and all those affected, to experience God's deep grace.