About two months ago I joined a team of local pastors who volunteered to be on-call chaplains at St. Elizabeth Hospital. Every two weeks one of us is the on-call chaplain and another is a backup. A few weeks ago it was my week to be the backup, but I was heading to Spokane for a couple days so Krista and I could be with my family. I told the chaplain I’d be away and unable to provide backup for three days.
The evening before Krista and I left for Spokane, the phone rang. A 97 year old woman had suffered a massive stroke and was not going to make it through the night. Her family was with her and understandably distressed. “Could you go be with them at the hospital?”
Krista and I were fixing dinner when the call came. Nothing was packed for our early morning departure. I already notified the chaplain I was unavailable. The day had already been a long one. I was feeling extremely reluctant.
But I did go. As I approached the hospital I prayed, “Lord, this is way over my head, so it’s going to have to be all you. Help me to point to you.”
When I arrived in room 311, I was greeted with a wonderful surprise! This beloved woman was Esther from Heritage House! Esther always joined the worship our deacons and I host at Heritage House on the 4th Sunday of the month. At first I didn’t recognize her without her bright red lipstick and earrings!
Lying there in the hospital bed was an expression of God’s creativity, generosity and love. A created life. A blessed life. A difficult life too, I’m sure, but a life of knowing her Lord and Savior. Here she was, standing in a doorway that was both an exit from life at Heritage House and an entry into face-to-face communion with Jesus. Those were sacred minutes I spent with Esther and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Sacred.
It was a tremendous privilege and blessing to sit at Esther’s side in her final moments of 97 years of life on earth. I'm certain God orchestrated things so I could be there. I had gone to the hospital with reluctance and uncertainty - hardly the mark of mature discipleship. Yet God received my broken offering, my reluctant willingness to respond to a need, and he turned it into a two-way blessing. I think I did point Esther’s family to the hope found in Jesus, and I think I did minister to Esther’s heart even as she went in and out of consciousness.
And I too was blessed! I saw God turn my reluctant heart into a grateful heart. I saw God calling one of his disciples home as Esther finished the race. I got to bid farewell (for now) to a woman whom I will miss in worship at Heritage House. And in case Esther’s family wasn’t absolutely sure about this, I got to tell them how much the other Heritage House residents enjoyed Esther’s presence.
I’m so grateful God received my imperfect offering and used it for his purposes. I trust God has done and will do the same with what you offer Jesus, whether it’s your time, your skills, your stuff, your thoughts, your money, your passion, your hopes, or whatever. As we enter into a new season of ministry and a new academic year, allow me to encourage you to respond to God’s call. There are many opportunities for you to serve and get connected here at Community Pres (many are highlighted in this newsletter). You might be surprised how the Lord will bless you even if you have a reluctant heart!