Church Heroes I’ve Known

Reading this blog, you could get the impression that everything is falling apart in the church. That certainly is not so. There are a number of areas where the church is thriving. One I want to write about today: the encouraging people who’ve come along side of my life at critical points. I call them church heroes.

Back in 1975, I was married just before my senior year in college to a woman who was in remission from leukemia. Marj and I lived in Easton, PA while I finished up my studies. However three months in, the leukemia returned with a vengeance and a month later, a few days before Christmas, she died. (See the side bar, A Walk with God to Remember for the details.)

Chestnut Hill Hospital in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where Marj was treated for her leukemia.

In the midst of it, the Body of Christ went into action. A day before she died when she went into a coma, the pastor from the church we attended near Easton, sent two couples to come an hour and a half to where our families were. I knew them from the InterVarsity group we had all been a part of. They came and stayed with Marj’s family and I, and supported and prayed with me through the time of her death. They were the extra presence I needed at the time that told me that God was there.

Fast forward to 2012, I had been married to my second wife, Diane, for 19 years, when she was diagnosed with a return of endometrial cancer from five years before. The only way to treat it was a massive surgery called an exeneration, where they take out the bladder, vaginal area and part of the rectum. It was a 12-hour long surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, an hour and a half away from home.

Johns Hopkins Hospital, where Diane had surgery for her cancer.
Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD, where Diane had surgery for her cancer.

My wife’s sister and her husband came, but more amazing was one man in our small group at the time, who came down and was with me for most of the time of her surgery. While we were there, he and my brother-in-law decided to form a fund for the huge bill we anticipated even with our good insurance. In the three weeks of her recovery at the hospital, a number of others that we knew from past churches and groups came down. One couple even came three and a half hours! After she was released to a local hospital for rehab, our church along with the fund then contributed extensively for our bills, brought food to our home for many nights and even sent some of the youth to mulch our gardens. And of course the cards were overflowing.

Lanc regional
Lancaster Regional Hospital, where Diane had her recent heart catheterization.

Fast forward to just these last few weeks. We have been at the church where I am serving as a pastor three-quarters of a year, and Diane has had another medical issue. This time it was a blocked heart artery. It was taken care of with stents in relatively quick time, nowhere near the ordeal of before, but the Body of Christ once again went into action with cards, visits and food. I joked with one couple, that visited us, “I am supposed to visit you, not the other way around.” They just smiled but we were thankful.

That is the way it’s supposed to be in the church. It’s like a family where each is helping out the other. It’s living out 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (Apparently the church there was good at it, too.)


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