Comfort One Another
By Dr. Daniel Pann
Sirens wailed past the house in our sleepy town. We looked up in time to see the State Police, Sheriff and local Law enforcement go racing by. This was unusual for everyone to be involved. When emergency strikes, the various agencies respond individually, but not all together-unless it is really big.
My wife called up our daughter and asked if the scanner was turned on.
"No, but it would be."
In a few minutes she called back to say there had been a shooting outside of town in a trailer park, and the place was blocked off.
We live in a rural community of 9,000, about forty miles from any big city. Still, it was just a short time before our windows were shaken by the sound of whirling helicopters flying in news teams.
Several hours went by before the phone rang again. By now it was early evening, and the news was not good. One of the elderly ladies in our church had been shot and killed. As the story goes, she and her sister (both in their sixties) were sitting in lounge chairs underneath a shade tree. A man across the street had been engaged in an ongoing feud with the sister. Words had been roughly spoken toward a little girl, and the sister responded in defense. This angered the man, who went inside his trailer, took hold of a rifle, walked across the street and shot the sister.
Our church lady had run inside her home, and he fired two more shots into her front door. Betty was struck and killed instantly.
The murderer fled to another town and was apprehended there. Later, I would meet the rest of the family at the hospital. It was a sad sight to see the remaining sisters clinging to each other and sobbing uncontrollably. Words seemed inadequate.
It reminded me of another tragedy many years before. I was pastoring out west in a small cowboy town when the phone rang. An elderly lady had just been notified that her only son and his wife were shot and killed by undocumented workers at their ranch. They had been lying unattended for a few days before anyone discovered the bodies. The culprits were later found driving around in the stolen vehicle.
I buried husband and wife in matching oak caskets underneath the simmering Arizona sky. His momma's head sagged against her chest as quiet tears flowed uninterrupted down a weathered face. I tried my best to comfort her.
Then there was John. I first met John at my mother's home. She had survived two other husbands-Dad died of an aneurysm, and Mom's second husband succumbed to cancer.
She was lonely, yet full of life. God put her and John together, and soon I had the privilege of marrying them.
Both brought a spring to each other's step, an added reason to get up each morning and, more importantly, they provided mutual companionship. They could be seen going down the road together, ready to split a meal at the restaurant, or observed buying an ice cream cone with the senior discount. On Saturdays, they would make the rounds of yard sales, looking for that special bargain. If it cost more than a quarter … well, that was too much.
At first we thought John was slowing down due to being a few years older than Mom, but in-depth testing revealed he had cancer. All the years of asbestos exposure was finally taking its toll. Within months, he went from a winter vacation to a wheelchair and, ultimately, a Hospice bed.
In his last days, Mom never left his side, sleeping on the couch or the recliner next to the bed. We had to get him up to use the facilities and all that other stuff. I spent the last week at their house, sleeping in the spare bedroom as he got to be too much for her to handle.
Two days before his last breath, they went on a date. We put him in his own bed and they held hands all night long. I had just stepped out to run an errand with my wife when Mom called me on the cell phone. John was dead.
What does this have to do with the church? Each one had professed faith in Christ, each one attended church, and each one gave the church an opportunity to minister. The Bible says in I Thessalonians 4:18 that we are to, "…comfort one another…"
This is not just an admonition to individual Christians, though it should begin with us, but one for a body of believers as well. We were able to pray, weep and encourage the surviving family with a promise of the future and hope for reuniting. It wasn't just the meal, or the flowers. What really spoke to hearts was the personal touch and genuine expression of Godly compassion.
Too often we are calloused or detached with someone else's pain. Rest in this, God sees all we do in His name, and He rewards accordingly.
We held services for a brother and sister about a year ago. The family came from across the States, and our church was packed. Most of them could not speak fluent English. Cruz and Janey were Hispanic, and died within a day of each other. Janey had cared for Cruz since his heart attack, and when he fell to the last one, she must have missed her brother too much, for shortly thereafter, Janey joined him in Glory.
Our church fed the family tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tamale and more. That certainly stayed in their memory, but what really stood out was when we opened the service with a prayer in Spanish, and closed with an "Adios Senora Janey, Adios Senor Cruz."
As a church, let's try and minister to the need of whomever we make contact. God is watching us.
Dr. Daniel E. Pann pastors Hillsdale Baptist Church in southern Michigan. He and his wife, Cindy, enjoy their adult children and three grandchildren. He is the author of, 'A Pregnant Woman Beat Me' and 'Fished All Night for Nothing.' You can contact Dr. Pann through his website at http://www.drpann.com