Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Mourning -- A Crowded Club

We had the great privilege of making a trip to Wynne, Arkansas, yesterday, to share our testimony in a Sunday School class there.  This class is led by our dear friends and "While We're Waiting" alumni, Rex and Mary Jones.  The Jones's invited us to come quite awhile ago, and after several months of trying to find a date that would work for all of us, we finally made the trip yesterday.  And what a great day it was!

I'd like to tell you about the day in reverse order...if that makes any sense.  The highlight of the day was the Sunday School hour, and I want to save that part for last.  So, I'll start with our lunch, which was also a highlight.  We had lunch at the Jones's house with Rex and Mary and their daughter, Tori, and another couple, Steve and Kim Dillard.  Kim and I have been "e friends" for two or three years now, but had never actually met until yesterday.  I honestly can't even remember exactly how we became acquainted, but I do remember why.  Her husband, Steve, was diagnosed with an oligodendroglioma brain tumor back in 2002.  They were originally told that it was inoperable, but Dr. Yasargil, a surgeon at UAMS, was able to successfully remove it. His tumor returned in April of 2010, and they have been in the battle anew ever since.  We have talked often over the last couple of years, comparing chemo medications, side effects, etc. What a blessing it was to finally meet them in person.  They are a wonderful example of grace and peace in the midst of a difficult life situation.  Thankfully, Steve's most recent MRI showed shrinkage of his tumor...Praise the Lord!

The worship service at the church was also a highlight.  (Are you getting the idea by now that the whole visit was a series of highlights?  OK, good.)  Well, the worship leader for the day was none other than Dennis Jernigan.  Dennis Jernigan has written many of the choruses which are sung in today's churches..."Nobody Fills My Heart Like Jesus", "You Are My All In All", "There Is a Fountain", and many more.  He had been at this church leading a weekend conference for music pastors.  What a nice treat for us!  He shared his remarkable testimony about how God has set him free from homosexuality.  He has been married to his wife, Melinda, for 27 years, and has nine children.  If you ever have the opportunity to hear him in person, jump at it!

Now for the real highlight of all the day's events...the Sunday School class.  The Jones's, knowing what the topic of our testimony would be, invited everyone they knew who had lost a child or other loved one into their class that morning.  They even asked the regular members of the class to attend another class across the hall, to be sure there would be enough room for visitors.  The class ended up being standing room only, as more and more people came in who had suffered significant losses, many of them who had lost children.  It was humbling, actually, to speak to a whole room full of these folks.  Afterward, we had the opportunity to visit with many of them, and what a blessing that was.

But here is what we came away with...Just as that Sunday School classroom was crowded, this Bereaved Parents Club is crowded.  This is a club that no one...ever wants to be a part of...yet there are so many of us!  Wynne is a relatively small northeast Arkansas town, with a population of only 13,000 people, yet here was this Sunday School classroom in a relatively small church which was standing room only, filled with mostly bereaved parents.  And they represented probably only a small fraction of the people from Wynne who could have been there.  That's a lot of hurting people!

We believe that God has a plan for "While We're Waiting" to reach out to people just like these folks throughout the state of Arkansas, and maybe even someday around the country.  Will you pray for us as we seek to follow His leadership in how to minister to this unfortunately crowded club?


Beth Ratliff said...

My husband and I were in the Sunday school class this past Sunday. It was so encouraging to hear your story and to see how the Lord is carrying you through.It has been 8 years since we lost our precious, Shelby. I can honestly say that He has carried me all the way. He has filled my heart with peace that only He can give. It is my prayer that others will see Him at work in our lives through this journey.
"While we are waiting",

Beth Ratliff

Jill Sullivan said...

Thank you, Beth...I'm so glad to know that you were encouraged by our story. I'm encouraged just by your comments here! Won't that reunion be wonderful someday?! Waiting With You....Jill