Thou my everlasting portion. More than friend or life to me.
All along my pilgrim journey, Saviour, let me walk with Thee.
Close to Thee, close to Thee. Close to Thee, close to Thee.
All along my pilgrim journey, Saviour, let me walk with Thee.
Not for ease or worldly pleasure, or for fame my prayer shall be;
Gladly will I toil and suffer. Only let me walk with Thee.
Lead me through the vale of shadows; Bear me o’er life’s fitful sea;
Then the gate of life eternal, May I enter, Lord, with Thee.
(Frances J. Crosby).
‘More that friend or life to me’ My eyes scanned the faces of ninety two Emanuel University Graduates stepping forward to receive their reward. Recognition and reward for years of commitment and dedication to service of the heart. Many can recall saying: ‘I have set my heart to …’ ‘Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God; arise therefore, and build …’ I Chron. 22: 19. Their work is only beginning; what will they achieve? What will they leave behind? Seasons of Life pass quickly but during our span of ‘allotted years’, God has a perfect plan. We learn to fill our days for whatever earthly time is ours. How will we be remembered? What will be our legacy? What evidence of faith and perseverance? I thought of the beautiful vine when visiting a Hospice patient, its clinging leaves determined to reach far beyond the boundaries, offering a taste of sweetness from its succulent fruit. Once a mere root yet with faithful labor, careful pruning and a goal in view, twigs became fine branches of perfect produce; we are never too old to be fruitful.
Weeks filled with opportunity behind with a new challenge ahead. Each day, visit, situation different, yet all in need of mending. ‘I do not care if I live or die, I have no one to care for me, I will die alone’. ‘Why is God sending so much pain to me and my children?’ ‘We suffer enough in our poverty and hunger’. There is solace in sharing His word. Mark 4: 39 … ‘Peace Be Still, and the wind ceased’. A quite calmness, a bond, as we talk of the Lord Jesus and speak of His gentleness and tender compassion. I will miss my personal times with my adult patients. These will be lonely days of separation as I return to Portstewart. One memory in my heart; waiting outside the locked door of the Abandoned Baby Wing, I heard the bolt being unlocked and suddenly from nowhere, a pale, dark eyed, excited Adam ran to meet me literally jumping into my arms. ‘Mama, Mama’. He was finally back in the Centre after five weeks of isolation in hospital. My Dora, ‘Chow Shirley, I have missed you. What did you bring me …? Did you know I have been sick but I was not afraid because you told me to pray and God made me well. These are the ‘moments’ I treasure, I have come to love them and have set my heart to care in the darkness of suspense, the bedside of a sick infant, the exhausted mother struggling to survive, the unloved and unwanted baby. The suffering and weariness invading their privacy, the atmosphere filled with an unwanted cloud of heaviness.
A few days ago as I waited in the shadows of a darkened room where strength had gone, I quietly shared ‘But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint’. Isa 40: 31. We are a family; I think of the young Father and Mother arranging the funeral of their baby son, Alex, aged sixteen months; (their only child). A family has obligations and it is my obligation to comfort and support through the individual valley of tears; ‘The Eternal God Is Our Refuge’.
We make personal choices, decisions; mine is to discipline myself in loving as God loves and in some small way illuminate the darkness of lonely corners; lives ‘barely existing’. As I leave those I love behind, the team of Casa Grace, Emanuel Hospice, faithful in their freshness of service, whose concern for others takes priority, whose attentiveness earns respect, who serve with a determination of purpose. Their relationship is personal, they form links with those they are called to carry. Personal, yet professional in their particular skill and talent. They are God’s Box of Promises. It is time to say ‘Good Bye’; I entrust my ‘little ones’ into the care of a Loving Heavenly Father. Tiny gems who have never known love or waited with excitement of ‘Daddy coming home’. The Apostle Paul was able to say ‘And now I entrust you to God and the word of His grace’ Acts 20: 32.
This has been an amazing journey of ‘trust’ for me personally. But in the words of Elisabeth Elliot: ‘It is God to whom and with whom we travel, and while He is the end of our journey, He is also at every stopping place’. This I have proved, confirmation received, papers signed, ‘Adam’s Room’ project stamped and approved. Elena and I met to discuss plans before I leave, ‘I have an urgent need for a Massage Couch in the Children’s Therapy Department, can you help me?’ ‘Let’s leave this matter with God’ I replied. Returning to Campus, I said to Monika, ‘I know where God can meet this need’. I hurriedly made my way to room 205, recognizing familiar steps behind me; my husband returning from Emanuel Chapel, we shared conversation; I quickly went to prepare lunch as he went to source medical items stored for hospital requirements. There in the corner not one but two Massage Couches. An amazing journey indeed, God can open doors of impossibility. ‘Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think…’ Eph 3. 20. What an impact, what an opportunity before us. We can show our love in action.
A hurried lunch before a long drive to the village of Luncasprie where I met a family recently accepted into the programme of Casa Grace: Brother Constantine and Sister Florentina Vinter (seven children). A Pentecostal family residing in a secluded forest area. The father purchases offcuts of wood each day from the forest, loads his truck; drives to surrounding villages where he can sell for a higher price that he paid– this is their main source of income. Sister Florentina suffered a rare form of Tuberculosis recently and struggles to care for her large family. They live with Constantine’s parents. The oldest boy decided to ‘Go Fishing’ in the nearby lake. Fresh Fish for tea on the menu. We were welcome to stay. ‘Sister Shirley, please may I take five extra minutes to take you to a place of beauty?’ my friend Mihai asked driving back to Campus. A cool breeze greeted us as we approached the reservoir of Barajul Vida; rays of sunshine piercing through the elegant mature trees standing tall and erect, displaying their majestic foliage. This was a place far removed from the drought many families experience just now.
Psalm 16: 6 ‘The land you have given me is a pleasant land …’ As we serve together, although in different roles, we are aware of our bond of togetherness and support one for the other. My husband has devoted himself to an itinerant ministry here in Romania, plus serving in Emanuel and his writing, working on several books at present. Yet as he ministered in the various village churches during this mission trip, the heart of the Evangelist was evident. The heart of a father shone through as he accompanied me to the Abandoned Baby Wing (a somewhat different ministry) again on our recent visit to the Hospice Chapel where the team felt encouraged as he envisaged their service. Serving as husband and wife is a blessing, serving together is a gift. We receive many gifts but it is not enough to accept and enjoy – we must share our inheritance – things we value, time set aside for ourselves. There is a deep and bottomless chasm in this land of pain, a moment of our time could be a ‘raindrop’ quenching the heat of the day.
Today I felt the reality of my own inadequacy; Andrada (Da Da) has completed her Chemotherapy and will travel to Timisoara tomorrow for a Bone Marrow Transplant; as I thought of the trauma this little one will face during the next three months, my heart broke. Kevin (6) waiting for the first of many surgeries to correct his little feet, terminal illness has returned for the third time and he requires immediate surgery. How do I deal with…? Do I have the qualities…? Do I have the resources…? ‘The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances’. (Elizabeth Elliot).
Psalm 3: 3 ‘But Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head’.