Right out of Trevecca Doris and I were called to a church in Augusta, Georgia to do “youth and music,” two absolutely, completely incompatible jobs, that only someone with the blind optimism of youth would even attempt. It was my first introduction to a “big” church, about 200 people, as opposed to the “small” church that I grew up in, about 40 people. (There are several churches in our town now with several thousand people. It blows my mind still.)
Our pastor was Hilton Gillespie, a white-haired, old, old man of about 50. (There are a couple of people in our house, nearly 20 years older than that. It blows my mind still.) Bro. Gillespie was from “south Georgia,” he said that as if it were a country all on its own, but his roots were Irish. When he would get stressed, or embarrassed, (both of which I often contributed to), his face would turn scarlet red. Sometimes he would say to me, in his deep south Georgia drawl, “Now Maaak, you know better than to do that.” Or, “Maaak, don’t tell Chris about this.” Chris was his wife, and he and I both loved her but he and I both were a little bit afraid of her.
Every time we went anywhere, or met for anything, or congregated in any way, before we would go, Bro. Gillespie would say, “Let’s hold hands and pray.” I used to say, whenever I told anyone in Augusta I was from the Church of the Nazarene, they would automatically close their eyes and hold out their hands to pray.
One day, Bro. Gillespie took me to the local hospital to show me how to make “hospital calls.” We went into the room of a young adult woman that neither one of us knew, the cousin, of a friend, whose mother used to go to our church. You know how that goes. She was pretty recently out of surgery and still a little bit groggy. I stood on one side of the bed and Bro. Gillespie stood on the other. He was trying to teach me to build some rapport with the patient and help put them at ease. What he didn’t know was that, with a little anesthesia still in her, this gal was already at ease. Bro. Gillespie said, “Well, what brought you into the hospital?” To which the cousin of a friend whose mother used to attend our church said, cheerfully, “I had some female surgery. Want to see my scar?” And before we could blink she yanked up her gown and pulled down her sheet. In that split second, Bro. Gillespie, face scarlet, closed his eyes, stuck out his hands, and said, “Let’s pray.” I have never laughed so hard through a prayer in all my life. I’ll never forget him turning to me, as we were walking down the stairs, and saying, “Now. Maaak, don’t tell Chris about this.” 🙂
One of his favorite verses of scripture has become mine. He used to quote it all the time. I Corinthians 15:19, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” Wow! I love this life. I love this world. I love what God is doing all around me. But, if this is all there is….. Our hope is in an even better world that He is ushering in. Isn’t that good? Let’s hold hands and pray!
Oh, and by the way, I love Bro. and Sis. Gillespie and I love the church.
Today we read Psalm 32, Proverbs 16, and I Corinthians 15:1-28. See you tomorrow.