Just as the pandemic was rearing its ugliness in March 2020, Mary needed to resign from her education position for health reasons. She missed her students, the interactions, and challenges. Most of her students were very poor and had little support at home. Mary’s daily advice to her students was, “Choose and take measured risks.”
Shortly after retiring, the love of Mary’s life unexpectedly died. Quarantined, Mary became increasingly lonely. Her husband had given her purpose, and their time sheltering at home together had been full and sweet. Even though her loved one had died, Mary felt there still must be a plan for her. She kept thinking, “I am still here!”
Mary put a camping chair in her car and began visiting with friends. She sat in her camping chair, socially-distanced, on their driveways. Yet, Mary was still lonely. She Googled “grief support groups” online and stumbled upon a support group facilitated by an LCMS church.
In Mary’s fog of grief, she saw glimmers of hope and was uplifted by the kindness, love, and support of the grief leaders. She wondered why they were so kind and welcoming. Mary wanted to know more. She began watching the church’s online worship services and was invited to try one of the online Bible studies that the church offered. Mary felt gentle nudges, being pushed in a direction she had never been before. She now began thinking “God has a plan for me. I am still here!” She wanted to participate more, but she didn’t own a Bible, so how could she participate in a Bible study?
It was arranged for Mary to come to church and pick up a Bible. Mary measured her risks, and honestly shared that she was afraid, due to the virus, to come into the church. Could she meet someone outside the church and pick up the Bible? After arranging a meeting time, she pulled into their driveway, and there was the church’s recently ordained LCMS associate pastor and a young woman, a new Concordia graduate and director of church ministries, waiting for her. What a surprise — they were sitting in camp chairs! They had several different Bibles waiting for her! Visiting there in the cold, the three of them talked, shared, and prayed. The pastor told Mary about each Bible and offered suggestions about which of them might best fit her needs. Mary came away with two Bibles: an English Standard Version and a journaling Bible. She later commented that she was “blown away” that the pastor and the young woman stayed and camped out with her and that “the Bibles were free!”
Mary knew very little about the Bible and was hesitant to join an online Bible study. She was afraid people would think she was stupid, and that she would have nothing to contribute. But Mary decided to take another “measured risk.” The people in that online study embraced Mary’s interactions with joy, insight, compassion, and understanding. Within weeks, Mary began attending online services and two online Bible studies. She recently attended a monthly Zoom LWML Bible study and gathering. Mary began donating to the church’s food bank and asked for addresses of shut-ins so she could send prayers and comfort.
Mary describes her faith walk as “measured steps.” She timidly put her toes in, then her foot, her ankle, and now Mary is up to her knees in the waters of faith! With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:3). It is exciting and humbling to witness her becoming close to her Lord!
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isaiah 43:1b–2a).
How do you hear Jesus calling you, reaching out to you? An excellent resource for learning how Jesus is calling you is “God’s True Desire for His Children,” written by Patricia Willoughby, 2019. Her study is found on pages 235–239 in the online 2019–2021 reSOURCEs for Planning Programs.
“A true friend encourages us, comforts us, and supports us like a big easy chair, offering us a safe refuge from the world” (Anonymous). Mary has found her true friend, Jesus, who has been seeking her out and calling her His own.
Jesus meets us wherever we are. He knows our needs and yearnings. People sat on the hillsides to hear His Sermon on the Mount. Jesus spoke: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:3–4).
If we were listening to our Savior on that hillside in today’s social distancing climate, we would all be in camping chairs, talking, sharing, and listening to Him. Where can you take your “camping chair?” With whom can you share Jesus’ kindness, love, and grace? You can use chairs outside — or phone calls, emails, online studies, or written notes, depending on your comfort level.
Dearest Jesus, thank You for Your everlasting love for us. Thank You for never giving up on us and for reaching out to us. Enable us to find ways to reach out to others with Your love, compassion, and kindness. Help us to measure all our daily choices as service and love for You. In Your precious name. Amen.
LWML Chesapeake District
We would love to hear YOUR stories! Please send them to the Vice President of Gospel Outreach here.
Thanks from the Gospel Outreach Committee!