You were there, church, and it meant everything

Dear Fruit Cove Baptist Church family,

You were there.

You were always there.

And for that, we will never forget.

You were there when my brother – and your pastor – received the most heart-wrenching news he would ever receive in his life. His Pam, the absolute love of his life, his confidante, his partner in ministry, his dear Pam, had brain cancer. There is no reasoning, no understanding when that kind of news is delivered. It’s like being pushed off a cliff.

But you were there.

You were waiting at the gates, reaching out, reaching deep for some kind of comfort even as the early diagnosis came in and overtook their lives in an unrelenting storm. Their love never waivered and neither did yours. Bad news hit them at every corner. It was a living nightmare for them. I don’t have to tell you that because, well, you were there.

You did what churches are supposed to do. You loved collectively, prayed earnestly, and you were there. Sometimes it’s the best thing we can do. Sometimes it’s the only thing.

With life in a free-fall for your pastor and his wife, you did what you could to make the landing not as bad as it maybe could have been for them and you did it by being there. You gave them space when it was needed and a comforting hug when that was needed. You cried out to God for them and kept them in your every prayer.

I know it was hard on you too, Church, and it will continue to be in the days ahead. But as my brother so often reminded you, we have a good, good father.

Our Good Father has used you, Church, to be a blessing. He did it by asking you to be there.

Whether it was bringing food every day since this horrible news came into their lives or the show of support exhibited at the funeral for sweet Pam on Tuesday, you were there. Phone calls, text messages, Facebook posts. It was you. You were there.

You have been at the center of their storm and helplessly watched for the past four months as Tim and Pam did their best to cope with a situation that we pray nobody has to ever experience. They were examples of courage and strength the likes of which clearly shows us that, yes, we serve a good, good father. Tim said it was the greatest message they would ever preach and he’s right.

When you didn’t know what to do, you did the only thing you could do.

You were there.

When my wife and I came up for a brief visit at the end of June, we didn’t once leave their welcoming home. We had a near revival in their living room with some straight talk. We experienced a closeness to God that makes you yearn for more. You made that possible, dear church, by providing meal after meal after meal.

You allowed Tim to put all of his focus, all of his energy, and all of his ministry into caring for Pam. Your staff stepped up for him, filling the pulpit with the same kind of great preaching that has come to be the norm at Fruit Cove. Your deacons led and kept the church on task with reaching the needs of a lost world. The church must keep that focus.

You took care of financial and physical needs for them. But it wasn’t just the food or even the money. It was the prayers, the encouragement, the cards and letters, the way you collectively wrapped loving arms around Tim and Pam that meant so much. I have been blessed by watching you, dear church.

You were there.

Always there.

We looked into your eyes on Tuesday as the receiving line curved through the auditorium with seemingly no end in sight. With photographs of Pam and Tim and their family playing on the walls behind us, we looked at your faces and felt the pain you were feeling too. You were hurting yet your compassion ministered to us.

The funeral was a Celebration of Life like I’ve never witnessed. It was two hours long and ended far too soon. Every seat was taken and every eye moist. God met with us in that place.

But you know all that because, well, you were there.

2 thoughts on “You were there, church, and it meant everything

  1. Mark,
    We have been praying for Pam, you and the family and the doctors and nurses since we heard about Pam’s diagnosis . Although I haven’t kept up over the years with Pam, I’ll never forget the sweet memories we had together growing up, especially in our youth group at OABC.

    I was able to watch the celebration livestream from my home Tuesday night. My heart was full of joy, sadness and sweet memories. Pam’s life testimony was beautiful.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Much love,
    Julie Rice Riffe

    Like

  2. You and your brother are such gifted people. You. Beautiful article as always and in the midst of such grief. Both of you have a way with words that reach so many people. How lovely are these pieces chronicling what so many of us watching from the outside were wondering. How does ANY family get through this… is was clear during Pam’s celebration service it was three things as one preacher mentioned… friends, family and faith. Prayers for your family.

    Like

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