It’s my worst nightmare for something to happen to one of my children and I know I’m not alone. Sometimes, my friend Molly and I will talk about it together and we almost can’t say the words aloud. We whisper, “I don’t know what I would do if anything happened to…” and then fill in the blank with the names of our children. It seems if we whisper these words than we can remain safe and separated somehow, but we know this isn’t true. After 12 years in ministry I am well aware that tragedy can strike at any time and any place and it doesn’t matter if you are the best mom or dad or grandparent or the most faithful person or not. It doesn’t matter if you go to church every Sunday and say prayers of thanksgiving and praise, all of us are vulnerable and that is so, so scary.
When Pastor Melissa’s son slipped into the Mississippi one evening at the end of April, her worst nightmare came true. As her friend and partner in ministry, I felt as though my prayers weren’t sufficient. I longed for something tangible to do in order to help her, in order to take away her grief and sorrow, in order to provide her with the miracle that she needed so that this nightmare could be over. But I lacked the power to do any of this. Instead I joined the masses of people who prayed for Melissa and her son Chris. I joined the choruses of voices rising up to God pleading, “Let him be okay.” When word was received that they had found Chris and he was dead, my prayers changed to “God help Melissa and Austin and Tom. Help them get through this.”
What I didn’t expect to have happen was for Melissa to be the one to proclaim hope and comfort to me, but that’s exactly what she has done since Chris disappeared and she continues to do today. Melissa started using her blog in order to keep people updated, but also to work out her grief through writing. She has posted Chris’s poems and reflections and more than anything preached the Gospel. If you haven’t checked out her blog, I encourage you to do so: http:// diariesofamissiondeveloper.wordpress.com (we also have a link on our webpage). Melissa wrote an entry before Chris was found about Miracles. I have included her entry in this newsletter. I hope you will read it and enjoy it as I have.
What I have recognized in the past few weeks is the huge privilege it is to walk alongside Melissa at this time and to be partners with a congregation like Tapestry. People often ask me about how Tapestry is doing. How many members does it have now? How big has it grown? We always want to quantify things (I get it. I ask too.) But what I have seen over the past few weeks is something so much greater than numbers. When I walked into worship on Tapestry on the Sunday evening after Chris disappeared, I felt an incredible Spirit of love. Evelia was greeting everyone as they came in wearing a “Find Chris” tee-shirt. She hugged me and I was so thankful that we knew each other, not well because of language barriers, but we still knew that we shared in grief together. We shared in our care and prayers for Pastor Melissa and Chris. I watched Tapestry care for each other and Pastor Melissa at worship over the next few weeks. At times, people would literally lean their body against Melissa in order to envelope her in their presence and love. They were present with her in body, mind and spirit. And in spite of the grief that was present in that place, community and love pushed out the darkness and presented light. It was beautiful. This is what a community of faith looks like when it is so closely knit together. They cry tears for each other. They hold each other. They literally lie on each other to convey the message “you are not alone.”
But this experience has done more than just shown me the strength of Tapestry, but also the spirit of love and care of all of you at Shepherd. Every single worship service I have attended at Tapestry since Chris disappeared, I was greeted by members of Shepherd. You have shown up in this partnership with prayers, with cards, with question and by physically being present. Thank you!
This partnership we share with Tapestry is one that God has blessed in so many ways. It has helped us look beyond ourselves in order to reach out to new people, but it has also taught me a lot about how to learn from other people, how to support a new congregation and the power of what can happen when we work together and allow God’s Spirit to lead us.
Thank you for all you do. Thank you for your prayers and generosity. Thank you for following God’s Spirit.