This may seem a little run of the mill, but I wanted to share something that has been on my heart since Sunday. I have a friend that has some pretty complicated medical and emotional conditions. She has had seizures for about the last three or four years, some of them very mild and some are grand mal seizures. Because of privacy concerns, I will not give specific names.
About a year or so ago, my wife and I began having this young lady come to our house initially on Wednesdays because the Bible study group she was attending was too overwhelming for her. There was too much going on and she would have several seizures during the study group. She seemed to calm down a bit when we began just staying home and bringing her to our house. Her mom was nervous about her coming over at first because she didn’t really know who we were, but she would bring her to us because she didn’t really like having to drive all the way to the other house to pick her up at the end of the meeting and then to have to walk down a long, dark driveway.
Soon, she started coming over on Sundays as well because we had a Bible study going on at our house. She wanted badly to go to church with us, but because our church was in transition between different sites before finally being able to move into our new, permanent location, we decided for her sake not to let her come to church with us just yet. We promised that once we were able to be in our own building, we would bring her to church.
It was around Mother’s Day 2016 when we finally got to move into our new church building. After 2 1/2 years, it was good to have a place to call home. And our friend was able to come to church with us. After her first week there and having a few seizures, we designated a place she was comfortable with in the back of the sanctuary, in a corner area, where she could still worship and not be a distraction when she would have a seizure.
Since she started coming to church with us, our friend has had many seizures at church and at home. Some pretty bad and others pretty mild. Well, this Sunday (two days ago) would be an eye opener for some and for others was the scariest moment we have had in a very long time.
After our worship service had ended, the worship team, including my wife and I began to take our seats. My wife and I sit in back with our friend relieving another couple ladies who sit with her during the worship service. Anyway, when my wife got there, she noticed our friend was in seizure stance, all stretched out on the floor and she went to touch her back to let her know she was there. But this time, she didn’t react like she usually would.
My wife removed our friend’s sunglasses and noticed her eyes rolled back and she wasn’t breathing. She wasn’t responding to our calls. I moved her onto her back and tried to get her attention. No success. The 911 call was made and a sense of panic quickly began filling our hearts. Was she dead? Was she going to be okay?
Thankfully, we had a new nurse, a volunteer fire-fighter and former lead paramedic in attendance. The first two quickly rushed over to our friend and began CPR to revive our friend and get her breathing again. She had to have been not breathing for at least two minutes by the time we got to the back of the sanctuary. Based on research and medical studies, the average person can not survive much longer than three minutes without air.
On with my story. Our pastor had his sermon all prepared and ready to preach to us. Due to the events of the morning, he felt that the message was not appropriate for that Sunday. It was a very somber feeling. The ambulance came and took our friend to the hospital along with my wife for support. Our pastor began to speak his heart to us.
Our church is called The Refuge. It is our heart to be a place of refuge for those who need a safe place to fellowship where they can connect, grow, and advance the kingdom of God. He spoke in such a way that no one who was there walked away without hearing his heart on the matter regarding what happened.
Before I tell you what he said, I want to preface by saying that the modern church looks nothing like what it should look like. We go to church and treat it as a social gathering, a time to catch up with friends we haven’t seen or talked to since last Sunday. We sing pretty songs and don’t take time to reflect on what the songs are saying. We hear the preacher preach, but we get offended when he tells us we need to stop sinning. We expect church to fit within the confines of a pretty little package wrapped up in pretty paper and tied with a pretty ribbon and bow.
The modern church has turned into a spectator sport for some. The better the message or worship service, the more generous the offerings. It’s as if there is no real life in the church.
Now, our pastor said something that I think took a lot of people by surprise. Some who heard it took it to heart and will do something about it. Others who heard the same thing will do absolutely nothing about it.
What he said was that he would much rather (my paraphrase) tend to someone having a medical emergency during the church service than have a pretty little church service and not see lives touched. He then asked us to help him make the church live up to its name, The Refuge. Below is the first statement of our vision statement.
We envision a fellowship that is truly a “Refuge.” A safe place where any individual, from any background, can connect with the Church, and seek to find a relationship with God.
That is the #1 thing we desire here at TRC (The Refuge Church). We are a Church that helps, loves, embraces, encourages and accepts anyone! No matter what!
How about your church? My prayer is that if you don’t already attend one, that you are able to find a church that teaches the Word of God for what it is and doesn’t try to make it say something that goes against it. That you are able to find a church that welcomes everyone that walks through the doors, regardless of appearance. That you are able to find a church where the pastor will take care of people when the need arrives. That you are able to find a church that is thriving and full of love.