History isn't very important to a lot of people. But my husband was a history major who has transferred his love of history to our family. Sometime I will have to blog about the competition five of our kids engaged in with the same college history professor…
This morning at Redeemer Church history was on display.
It was the late 70's when Larry and his girlfriend, Marilyn (Min to us) along with Frank and his wife, Liz, came into our lives. Larry says his first memory was a Sunday morning when a young blonde guy wearing a lime green leisure suit with a white belt and shoes was leading worship at New Life Church up in Virginia. That guy was Benny — and he denies ever owning a lime green leisure suit. In 1979, these two couples and two others joined Benny and me to start Fairfax Community of Believers in Fairfax, Virginia. All three men ended up serving on the leadership team at the church before the Lord led them in different directions.
But this morning they were all together again. Frank and Liz joined the Redeemer church planting team last fall after being at Metro Life Church with us for the past 8 years (who would have ever thought the Phillips's and Ecelbargers would end up in Orlando, Florida together!) and Larry and Min were in town to spend time caring for us, and for Larry to preach on Sunday morning.
It was moving for me to see these three men talking, laughing and reminiscing together after over three decades of friendship. While we all share many wonderful memories of Benny doing Larry and Min's wedding, living in the same apartment community together, sharing vacation time, going on marriage retreats, rejoicing over births and adoptions, and then meeting at conferences after Larry accepted a position on a church plant to Atlanta — we have also walked through disappointments, challenges, disagreements and heartbreaks. True friendship is built not just through the fun and meaningful times, but through loyalty and perseverance when times get tough or the faithful wounds of a friend are required.
Larry's opening remarks to our little church were a loving but firm exhortation to be loyal and patient with one another. He talked about nearly 35 years of friendship between the Phillips's, Ecelbargers and Malaments -- and about what a joy it was to be with Redeemer Church this morning (sitting on chairs and standing behind a podium that this home church generously donated to us). Then he said that if he's still alive in 20 years he would love to visit a larger Redeemer Church with many of us still sitting side by side advancing the gospel...together. In a culture that allows disagreements and differences to divide us, Larry was encouraging us to keep loving one another through the challenges to come. He then illustrated this by preaching from Mark 6 on "doing" love with one another and the lost in Lake Nona on the foundation of experiencing the personal and particular love of God for each of us.
All afternoon I've been thinking of 2032. Will I be here or in heaven? Surrounded by children getting close to my age, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren? Will a gray-haired Kyle still be leading worship? Will Josh be the old guy still helping us keep up with technology and scheduling admin brainstorming sessions? Will Andy be around serving alongside his sons, still teaching people how to wind sound cords properly? Will Jacob, Elsie, Wyatt, Amelia, Autumn, Noah, Issac, JJ, Kayla, Bryce, Clark and the other little people be standing carrying unborn or little people of their own during worship? Will it be Joey or Bethany or Sarah or Julia or Tony standing up there sharing stories about the "old days" when Redeemer Church first started while laughing what Benny was wearing this morning?
I don't know who will be there on Sunday mornings in March of 2032. But unless I'm worshiping at His feet and have joined the cloud of witnesses cheering them on, I want to be with Redeemer Church.
Thank you, Larry -- not only for your patient, loyal friendship with my husband all these years -- but for envisioning us that the difficulties, trials, disagreements and disappointments to come don't have to divide us. You, Benny and Frank have taught a lot of people many things over the years, but yesterday morning we saw persevering friendship on display.