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Thursday, August 23, 2007
Tracy and Beulah Sutherland with a very young Brooksyne (during the "big hair" days.)
The Sutherlands were in their 90's at this time.
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"The Value Of Old"
"I then, as Paul--an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus" (Philemon 1:9b).
Several days ago I had a conversation that greatly troubled me. I had called to speak to a friend of mine and his father answered the phone. I have met him, a dear man in his eighties who had held professional positions through his vocational career. I have visited in his home in the past and also met him for coffee. He told me his son was not in but as I prepared to hang up he asked if I had a few minutes. I listened as he earnestly asked me, "Do pastors still make home visits and call on their church people?" He and his wife are essentially home-bound and can rarely make it out to a church service.
He is a charter member of his particular church*1 from when it was established in the early fifties and has been very active and supportive all through the years. He yearns for a pastoral visit and would even be satisfied with a phone call. He said that the focus in his church now seemed to be completely on the young. (I emphasize that he did not share this with me as a troublemaker.) I told him that in my observation this was indeed a problem and this was confirmed by another veteran pastor we had dinner with last night. Our friend Paul often works with the elderly or older middle-aged in stewardship planning and told us he has heard and witnessed this repeatedly. In fact he brought this up in conversation before I alluded to my recent phone call.
As I ended the conversation with the elderly man I asked if I could pray with him over the phone to which he agreed. As I prayed I could hear him weeping and at the conclusion of the prayer he thanked me with a very broken voice. He was unable to talk anymore due to his deeply felt emotions that spilled over.
I told Brooksyne about the conversation and we've discussed it the last several days. We feel generational diversity is a great strength in the local church. My older friend had no problem with his pastor's interest in the young and having a heart for the Lord he wanted to see them reached and ministered to. But the church and pastors must not forget those farther along in the life cycle.
All through our years of ministry we have been blessed by our association with the elderly. Tracy and Beulah Sutherland (pictured above) were in our first church in southern Missouri as we were completing our Bible College years. We just loved them and amazingly they loved their young minister and wife (we were 21 & 20). We fondly remember Wilfred, an older man of very few words, who was the faithful greeter at our church in northern PA for many years.
I treasure the rich times in New England of visiting our elderly and seeing them through the great transition such as my final home visit to John Winchoba the day before his passing. We made many trips into Boston for hospital visits to Bill Shibilo, and recall singing hymns and Scripture verses around his bedside with his family. Though weak in body he was strong in spirit and he spoke forth a solemn blessing upon our ministry only days before he went to be with the Lord. *2
Our youth and young adults need, want and will value the demonstration of showing honor and esteem to the elderly. Today remember the contributions of these older saints. They taught Sunday School, gave of their resources, modeled steadfast living and still do. Right now we consider John and Florence in our current church who are always looking out for the hurting and sick though they're up there in years themselves. What a blessing Florence's repeated phone calls were to my mom before she passed away.
Let us look at a tiny statement in the daily text made by the apostle Paul. He was not at all reserved in identifying himself in the text as an "old man". (The KJV states "the aged"). Let's honor our aged and remember: There is value in old.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily Prayer: Father, we thank You for those you place in our path who have lived longer and have experienced much of what we will yet experience. Their attained knowledge and sustaining spirit is an example to us as we all progress in age. Help us to be mindful and supportive of the elderly. May we take the time to listen and learn from all they have to teach us as we together share our hopes, our aims, our fears, our comforts and our cares. Father, You have made us one and in You our hearts unite. Help us to build each other up and spur one another on to love and good deeds until our race on this earth is completed. Amen.
Brooksyne's Note: The elderly have a big place in my heart and have inspired me in my walk with Christ from the time I was a teen. The Lord placed a calling on my life when I was 15 years old and my first speaking opportunity was at a nursing home when I was 16. I can't remember what I said but I do remember that I spoke from the 23rd Psalm. I believe that experience is what launched me into nursing home ministry through my high school years and for most of my adult life. I've encouraged other young people through the years to sing, play instruments or share from their hearts in nursing home settings. The elderly will not critique you or compare you to others who might have greater talent or more years of experience. But they will certainly appreciate any who show personal interest in them.
Several Sundays ago we had a Senior Day at our church. The hymns were pre-selected by the older people in the congregation. They were honored throughout the service, even some who had passed on but had played a vital part years earlier in establishing our church. What was most touching was when a young lady, Joanna, in her early 20's shared from the platform many reasons why elderly people are of great value to the body of Christ and how they have enriched her life. It was a great Sunday not only for the seniors but for all of us to be reminded of the ways that seniors strengthen the church family.
*1 No reader has any idea whatsoever of what church I speak. I have never been to it nor do I know the pastor.
*2 Here is a tribute I wrote to Bill Shibilo after his passing and gave to his wife. I believe it is still hanging in her living room.
A word to my pastor friends: Especially consider and heed today's message. How are you and the church you serve doing in regard to today's message?
Yesterday afternoon Mike Kaylor, a friend from church dropped by for a long walk and visit. Mike has had several months of severe trial but is overcoming and the Lord is doing a wonderful work in his life. I asked him to share a brief testimony:
Early this year I had a back injury and could not work. Being off work in addition to other problems brought about many trials. This was a new experience for me as Satan attacked me in every way possible. I called on the Lord Jesus to help me. I prayed for hours every day. The more I prayed the more I was drawn to Him and felt his love for me. Issues that I was so worried about, Jesus worked them out in ways I did not think about. He answered my prayers, praise His Holy Name! In Psalm 1-9 King David was in distress and worried and found comfort in the Lord as I did. Also in Luke 12:22-31 Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow and to have faith in Him who will take care of us. In Mathew 7:7-8 He said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For anyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds." Jesus truly answers our prayers! I prayed this to the Lord Jesus and he answered my prayers. My wife, family, and church family have been a wonderful support to me all through this time. Praise God for them and all their prayers. Thank You!
My wife wanted me to attend Roxbury Holiness Camp in Franklin County Pa. for 25 years. I never would go with her. This year I went and my faith was greatly renewed. Harry Wood was one of our speakers and it was though he was speaking directly to me. He spoke the Word of God powerfully and with reverence. What he spoke about was what I was praying in the above verses and this strengthened my faith. Praise God for His steadfast love and grace! I believe God brought Harry so God would speak to me as well as all who were there! Praise God for men who continue to speak the word of God and are not swayed to water it down as the world would want.
Continue to keep me in your prayers as I will you. I pray that God continues to work in my life and strengthen my faith.
Today's song is in memory of my MaMa (what we grandkids called our Grandma). I can picture attending the little white church in southern Missouri as a child when we would visit and hear this song often. This version is by our friends Amber and Lauren and was recorded in our home several days ago.
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