/ Barry York

Diaconal Rescue

Those who know me pretty well know I have a unique neighbor. I even wrote about Gail, a widower, here a few years ago (see Being Schooled on Being a Neighbor). In recent months, I have witnessed the Lord bring together a combination of providences regarding Gail, our deacons, and the church worthy of testimony.

Gail, who turns 83 tomorrow, has battled abdominal cancer over the last year. During the winter, with his body weakened with cancer and the treatments for it, he fell susceptible to pneumonia and other ailments that put him in the hospital and rehab care several times. When he returned home after the last hospitalization, Miriam and I, along with a friend, Barb, in the church, sought to check on him more often. As he was still out almost daily driving his car for breakfast at his favorite restaurant, running errands, visiting his older siblings, etc., we did not check on him daily.

However, a few months ago, between a Tuesday night dinner where Miriam sat and visited with him and a Thursday morning visit from Barb to clean his home, Gail sat down on a large, plastic bin in his basement, which gave way underneath him. Sadly, he spent nearly a day lying on his back on old drapes. As he humorously put it, he was like a turtle on his back, unable to get out. Though in good spirits when Barb found him, he again had to go to the hospital to recover from dehydration.

With Gail not having family nearby and feeling a sense of responsibility, I knew we needed more help. So I asked our church plant's deacons to meet and explained that I believed we needed someone to check on Gail morning and evening. The deacons immediately responded and devised a plan. Using the Connections app, the deacons put together a plan called "Gail Watch." They put together a schedule where people in the congregation could sign up for slots to call or visit Gail, with the evening slots having three times a week where people could bring a simple meal. After a service one Lord's Day, they explained the plan to the congregation and helped people desirous to download the app to participate.

What a blessing this action of the deacons has been! We see the cars of church members across the street visiting with Gail. When we are there, Gail mentions the conversations he had with people, comments on a meal that was brought to him, or shows a picture a child has drawn for him. The blessing is mutual, as people in the church share the encouragement they have received from Gail. In addition, he finally agreed to wear a medical alert button and has been coached on using his cell phone. Miriam and I have so much more peace about him now.

Through this situation, the Lord has orchestrated an even greater testimony to His grace. For years, Gail has attended church with us but politely refused to join. Formally a member of a large mainline church, he had been hurt by people in the congregation and turned off by the politics of such things as the LGBTQ movement. Yet a few weeks ago, in a private discussion with him about the Lord's Supper, the need to belong formally to your Christian family, and going through the membership vows of our church, Gail got a big smile on his face and said, "Let's do this!" Earlier this month, he met with the elders, was accepted into membership, and publicly professed his faith before the congregation.

This coming Lord's Day, we will celebrate communion with Gail at the table, Lord willing. As he just received news the cancer has spread further, I'm not sure how many times we will have together to do so. Yet, as I sit there with him, I will do so rejoicing over how the Lord used diaconal mercy and the love of a congregation to break down walls of hurt and resistance. "Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God...The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless" (Ps. 146:5, 9).

Barry York

Barry York

Sinner by Nature - Saved by Grace. Husband of Miriam - Grateful for Privilege. Father of Six - Blessed by God. President of RPTS - Serve with Thankfulness. Author - Hitting the Marks.

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