A few weeks ago I got a phone call from one of my small group leaders named Lauren who asked if I could come by her house and meet with her and her family. I had a feeling this call was coming at some point, but we had prayed for months that it wouldn’t. Lauren’s dad had been fighting cancer for several years and where hope had been, now was the realization that the end of his life was near. I have performed many funerals in my short ministry career but never have I had the opportunity to sit with someone and discuss their own memorial. Challenging doesn’t beging to describe it, but I can also say that it was a tremendous opportunity to encourage her dad and to affirm what a tremendous job he had done raising two remarkable daughters.
You need to understand a bit of her Lauren’s journey to truly appreciate this story so here it is in a nutshell. She is a graduate of our youth ministry and gave her life to Christ near the end of high school and has never looked back. She has served as a leader in our ministry for 3 years now and pours herself into her small group girls week in and week out. While she diligently led and prayed for her group, she was also praying for her dad in the midst of his illness that he would come to know Christ as well.
Lauren would send texts and ask people to pray for her as she had conversations with her dad, asking us to pray when she gave him a Bible, sharing the wins and losses in her sharing Jesus with her dad. There were times in the past years where you could sense fear and discouragement from Lauren about her dad, but she always remained hopeful even as his health declined and her dad could have easily hardened towards God.
As our discussions around memorial plans wrapped up Lauren leaned in and said, we also wanted to talk to you about baptizing my dad and my sister. The look on her face as she said that was something I will not soon forget. Her dad had given his life to Christ not long before we met that day and you could see the joy on Lauren and her sister Georgina who had spent years sharing their faith with their dad as now he was sharing his desire to take this step of baptism. Georgina is graduating high school this year and had been thinking about getting baptized for a while so the thought of taking this step with her day was one she could not pass up.
We wasted little time and a few days later, I met the family at their house again and found Lauren, Georgina and their mom meeting me at the door and behind them in his house coat and swim trunks was their dad. We made our way down to their hot tub and where first Lauren, her mom and dad watched as I baptized Georgina who no sooner was she under the water, but was back up and helping her dad into the hot tub. Georgina sat beside her dad keeping him stable and comfortable as he we went through the standard baptism questions and then carefully helped me as we baptized her dad.
The water was warm and Richard enjoyed feeling buoyant so the three of us decided to stay in and spent the next hour in the hot tub while Lauren and her mom sat beside and I was able to just listen as they shared countless stories and memories about their family.
We don’t know how much longer Richard has, but do have certainty about where he will go when he does pass on. Its days like that, that remind me that lives are transformed when we are bold enough to talk to people about Jesus and its moments like this that put the toughest days in perspective and make it all worth it.