We’ve been wrestling, over here in Chicago, with disturbances in the healthcare force. I had a planned surgery on my knee and Bruce is battling shingles. We feel like we take 1 step forward and 2 steps backward depending on the day. Life is sort of like that isn’t it? Forward and backward, moving and standing still. It’s taught me patience and to accept that problems are part of normal life.
But what has made our circumstances more tolerable are the relationships we’ve made since moving here. So many prayers, so many cards and encouragement, meals and help from all the avenues of service we’ve been dedicated to. They’re sweet, comforting and they provide hope.
I can’t imagine life without them anymore
One of the first relationships we made when we moved here is with a gentleman named Ray. It came about while we all served on the costume team for the church’s Story of Love event. And it grew through that year’s KWA season. Bruce made the innocent mistake of forgetting to include Ray in a project and Ray brought it to our attention with love. It opened a door for him to share his story with us and for an eternal relationship to grow.
Because of his past, Ray has some physical and cognitive disabilities that prevent him from working a regular job. Serving at church is his heart. His past is riddled with wrong choices, sin, rebellion, anger and hatred, abuse and self destruction. Serving is now his way of expressing his gratefulness to God for the redemptive and transformative work that is ongoing in his life.
Between the various busy and down times of the production, Bruce shared our moving story with Ray. Ray then told Bruce he’d received a prayer request card on a Tuesday night that asked for a solution for a couple who wanted to serve more in the church but lived too far away to do so. As it turned out, it was a request that Bruce submitted for us!
As we got to know Ray and began to share things with him, encourage him, listen to his story and watch God further his transformation he became family to us. He’s absolutely in love with our dog Maggy, and she knows it! He loves to help us walk her when we can’t be there. We’ve even added a lock box to our fence so he can come on a moment’s notice.
Ray was a scavenger of cast off items. Things like food, meats, packaged goods, one off items and especially candy. He loves to bless those less fortunate, people who are in great need. But we were on his list too! Thoughtful things came our way, face cream, meats for Maggy, a tens unit for back pain. He even sent a ham to our upstairs neighbors.
Because of some years spent in hospice, alone and lonely, Ray wrestles to keep his mind whole and at rest. He’s learning to reach out and do things to help himself through those times. Recently he found a dog bed for Maggy and was excited to know how she liked it. We were late in getting it in the house to her and on one of those darker days Ray called to see if she liked it. His hope was that she’d fallen in love with it and it would cheer him up.
Bruce brought the bed into the house the next day and set it in his office. I later saw that Maggy was buried in it, chin on the edge in guard dog mode. I snapped a picture and texted it to Ray.
Because of a leftover iPhone that we had, Ray was able to afford a smart phone plan. It expanded his world in some pretty cool ways.
He started taking photos, texting, he has an email address and he discovered the internet. For a guy who was previously dependent on others for those things it’s been revolutionary. His hands are not always cooperative with small things so he and Siri are tight!
I’ve become aware of how stagnating life is with the absence of new relationships. Something about connecting with new people keeps us fresh and growing. All of our old stories are new again! We become too complacent when we settle for a life centered only around those we’ve known a long time. Ray is a person whose path we never would have crossed if we hadn’t answered this call. And his life is a consistent testimony to the transformative power of God.
Jesus is still in the business of calling people out of dark places into his Kingdom!
And we’re incredibly humbled and grateful that we get to participate in that process.