I love my parishioners. I don't mean to post only a "mushy" blog post. However, I feel a little giddy this morning, kind of like I did 32 years ago when I first started dating Mary Kay. Back then, when we were both students at the University of Akron, we didn't have email, instant messaging, cell phones, and blogs. What we did have was a tiny little building with thousands of tiny little mailboxes for all the students. I found Mary Kay's box soon after our first date. For the next 15 months - until we were married - I stopped by her box with a love note every day. I never lacked something to write down. I was giddy with love.
That's how I feel this morning about those who have made Church Requel their church home. This past week I found myself encouraging one couple back into their faith and marriage. I also had the privilege of counseling another couple planning to get married. And I'm talking with two different men who are struggling through job transitions. What great opportunities for a pastor to love!
I'm also investing time, energy, and love into parishioners Frank and Theresa - and loving the relationship that has developed as a result. One Sunday not long ago, 65-year-old Frank was reunited with his estranged family. The very next day he learned the shocking news that a tumor has invaded his brain. "How could God allow such a terrible thing to happen the day after his life looked so promising?" he asked me.
I suggested that perhaps God had given him this gift of family knowing how much Frank would need them in the challenging days ahead. Thus began a dialog that resulted in Frank praying for a Christian faith, despite his doubts. Can there be a greater joy for a pastor than to see a parishioner struggle for his faith to know Christ as Savior and Lord?
Tomorrow, Frank and Theresa will both be baptized at Church Requel. Yesterday I visited their humble home again, this time with a video camera in hand. We recorded his testimony, which will be played before his baptism in front of his family and friends.
Frank talked honestly about his health struggle, his family struggle, and his faith struggle. At the end he told me his prayers have changed. He said he has eliminated one little two-letter word, which has always been there before: "IF." He used to start his prayers: "God IF you exist." Now, he says, he begins simply, "Father God."
Have I mentioned how much I love my parishioners? Frank's faith has reinspired my own. He doesn't know it yet, but tomorrow his faith will also reinspire others. We love you, Frank!