“If you go see Mr. Campbell today, bring him a vanilla milkshake from Carls; he loves them.”
We had just finished worship and everyone was cleaning up around us. It was a joy to see all of our people working together and ensuring all of the pieces of our mobile worship service were put away. We had a wonderful service where many gifts of the body were lifted up, including our neighbors Adam and James joining our worship band on the tambourine.
While I was hot from the outdoor worship and wanted to go home to recharge, something was telling me that I needed to go make a visit. I have learned to listen to that voice. I dropped off our leaders, and went directly to pick up a small shake (and a strawberry cone for myself, of course!)
When I am driving around town, I often will see our neighbors walking, biking, or moped riding around the streets of Fredericksburg. Growing up as a military kid, I never quite laid down roots, so it is nice to get to know a town and the people in it.
Our little city has become even smaller as I see many of our Micah family members in and around different parts of our community. Yesterday, as I was pulling out of Carls, I noticed my friend Debbie walking to an unknown destination. She had just changed after church and I pulled over to ask where she was heading. Since the bus doesn’t run on Sundays, she was walking close to four miles to meet a friend.
“That’s a long walk in this heat,” I said, “Come on, hop in…”
Debbie is one of our older Micah clients. She is a grandmother and mother of other clients in our community. She is a sweet woman who cares for those around her. Deb has been living out of her car for some time, until it had close to 300K miles on it and it died on her. She has been working diligently and living at one of the hotels until housing can become available for her (and possibly some new wheels).
I love drives like these with our clients. Oftentimes, it is where I get to know them best because there is something about a passenger seat that opens up people’s souls. I always feel grateful when I have the privilege to hear their story.
As Deb talked, she shared that she had experience working in hospitality, elder care and had compassion when people were hurting. She told me a story of working at a nursing home as part of the cleaning staff and secretly fed an old woman who did not look like she was being cared for well by the staff. Deb’s compassion touched my heart. It occurred to me as we were driving, that perhaps she would be a helpful person to bring along my visit to see Mr. Campbell. I asked her if she would like to join before I dropped her off and she told me she would love to go and pray for someone else hurting in the community.
Mr. Campbell was wrestling with an amputation decision after a severe case of frost-bite this winter. It was my assumption in coming into the room that he would be post-op upon my arrival. Unfortunately, this was not the case and Mr. Campbell was wrestling with a lot of fear and pain.
As we announced ourselves in his room, I immediately noticed a Carl’s ice cream shop painting right in front of his bed (what a tease!). I was grateful for Meghann’s recommendation to bring the delicious treat.
As we talked and checked in, I offered the shake and saw the first smile creep across his face. We were finally welcomed in his space. While he could not take the shake in by straw, we fed him sweet spoonfuls of goodness. He recognized Deb, was grateful for her presence and shared his frustrations earnestly. We asked if we could pray for him and he welcomed a prayer of healing, comfort, and courage. As our visit was completing, we asked if we could come back to see him. He obliged and said, “you better!”
He told us he had made the decision to go through with the surgery on Wednesday. We said we would be back to celebrate with more Carl’s.
While leaving the hospital, Deb turned to me and said, “I really liked doing that, Pastor Chelsea. It made me feel like I was giving back.”
As we were leaving, Deb shared a little more about her story. Grappling with her experiences should have made her hard as nails, yet here she was, caring for others in the way that she should have been cared for in her lifetime.
Then I realized… Jesus was in the car with me.
Jesus, who came with a compassionate heart, who was later rejected, crucified, and yet still came back to save the same people who hurt him (and others who had yet had the chance to do the same). Grace superseded vindication – and love won.
There are many times in this work that I think to myself that in order to be “successful” I have to be the bearer of all of this ministry “weight.” It should be me to make every hospital visit and house call. What I am beginning to realize, however, is that this Call is not reserved solely for the office of “Pastor.”
Quite frankly, it is a prideful sin to think that we are the cornerstone of our ministry and even our life. That is like a house built on sand-it will sink quickly.
Jesus came so that we could find freedom and peace in letting go, and letting Him be the bearer of the weight of the world.
Likewise, we are called to share the load of caring for others in our community by equipping all the saints for ministry in the world; and when I say all, I mean all of the saints. At Street Church, we strive to lift up and recognize the gifts of our neighbors to care and support one another, who have a deeper and more intimate connection with the experience of homelessness and other trials faced by our population.
This is accompaniment.
It is an opportunity to come alongside the work that God is already doing in our community and finding the ways that we can participate as the hands and feet called to do God’s work with our neighbors. It is a recognition that everyone has something to offer God and the world. They have so much to teach us.
As the body of Christ, we are what the apostle Paul claims as the “…household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-20)”
Together, along with the generation of saints who came before us, we are called to build the kingdom of God here, as it is in heaven. We share the load and we are united by Christ.
While God rarely calls the equipped, God always equips the called.
As a community, we are learning what it means to come alongside one another and lift up the gifts displayed in our community and help uncover the gifts that have yet to be seen. We acknowledge that our mission is being done in and through Christ, who is our rock and redeemer, the cornerstone of our ministry as One.
I learned that Mr. Campbell died early Monday morning.
While it breaks my heart that we did not get the chance to have a follow up visit with him or get to welcome him to Street Church upon his discharge, I know that God was present in that room (and I’m glad I listened to that voice to go visit). I give thanks that we shared a sweet "last supper" of sorts and that I had Deb to share the experience with me.
We had the chance to read Psalm 23 and say the Lords Prayer together, holding hands and covering him in God’s grace. I rest in knowing that he knew he was not alone and that friends in the community were praying for him, encouraging his recovery. While he never made it "home" in the Earthly sense, I pray that he was welcomed Home by the grace of the Father who opens His arms wide for our homecoming.
Maybe, he will find a Carl’s ice cream waiting for him there, too…
May he rest in eternal peace and forever know that he was and is a beautiful and beloved, child of God.
Grace and Peace,
Please continue to pray fro our community. I hope you will join us for Dinner Church this Thursday at Fredericksburg Baptist fellowship hall off Caroline Street from 5:00-6:00 for conversation, live music and an agape meal. All are invited to serve and take part in this community event.