My summer mission trip ended early when I took a bad mis-step on an unsecured porch edge and fell 4 1/2 feet to the ground, breaking both bones in my right ankle. The last 2 weeks (tomorrow starts the third) have included an ER visit, surgery, a cast, crutches, and now the addition of a knee walker (which I think will be a lot of fun when I figure out how to use it!). In an instant, my plans for the rest of the summer changed.
To say I was scared and worried in the Tuscaloosa ER would be an understatement. What I did not know was how worried the rest of the mission team was when they saw me fall off a porch and then get loaded in a car and taken to the ER. What felt like seconds to me was probably 15 minutes for the rest of them. Several thought I had hit my head (which I did not!), and some did not get over to where I was before they had me in the car and on my way to the hospital. When I got back to the church, Pat said to me “be positive”, and then we went in. When I saw the mission team folks, their relief was palpable. Their care was evident. I was flooded with relief and gratitude. While I was being x-rayed and splinted and driven across town, they had made made get well cards (some of which still make me cry!) and packed up my things so I could head home. The individuals who gathered to say goodbye to Maryellen and me were not just a church mission trip team – they were family. I knew in that moment that the leadership team was going to be OK for the rest of the week – we had planned together, and they would finish out the week strong. And they did.
Since the moment my foot hit the ground, I have been surrounded by so much love from our entire congregation (and from Maryellen, the pastor at Rockmart Pres.). One of the things we talk about when we describe ourselves is our sense of community and how we are a church family. This is not a trait that can describe every church, and I’m not sure our congregation always understands what a blessing and a gift that they are to each other. It is a blessing to not have to worry about someone checking on you when there is an illness or surgery – around here, it simply happens. We are blessed that we feel safe enough with each other to be vulnerable with one another. I am re-learning the lesson that asking for help with meals means you have to let them in to see the not-perfect parts of your world. But, there is a gift in being open to be loved, and then returning that love to one another in return. This may not be the most articulate description, but I am surprised that I was surprised at our church just being who they are and caring for me in the same ways I have seen them care for one another. That care is a gift I gratefully receive.
I think about how Christ modeled care for us. I picture his hands breaking bread and feeding total strangers. I think about him kneeling down to wash the feet of his disciples. I picture his grief when he realized that Lazarus had really died. I see the compassion he showed when he allowed an ill woman to simply touch his cloak. In the meals brought, in the cards sent, in the words said by our congregation, I see the love and compassion and care of Christ. The way my mother, a stranger to many, has been welcomed and fed and cared for as this church has cared for me reflects the way Christ taught us to live. I realize that we as a church can take for granted the care we show one another and not realize that it is not natural in every church. FPC Cartersville has the gifts of compassion, hospitality, love, and care, and I am grateful for them. Not just tonight as I ice my ankle after a visit from one of our Deacons, but every night as I get to be part of our witness to Christ in the world.