Last November, Shane Brue, a fellow pastor from the Northwest Texas Annual Conference died. He left a young wife and five children. He had only been at the Big Spring UMC for a short time when he found out that he had cancer. Many hard months were spent bravely fighting what was ultimately, a losing battle with the disease. I attended the funeral in Big Spring and sang a farewell song for Shane. I remember how impressed I was at the way the church seemed to rally around his widow and children. This is indeed a very special congregation.
I spoke recently with his widow’s father, Jim Smith. He told me that Jill and the children had found incredible emotional and physical support in Big Spring. After Shane died, Jim began to preach on behalf of his son-in-law. During the months since his death the church has continued to pay Shane’s salary and benefits to Jill while allowing her family to continue living in the parsonage. This allowed the family to have some time for healing in a familiar place.
In addition to providing a place to live, members of the congregation have shown great compassion. They didn’t wait for someone to call and ask for help. They have just stopped by and during their visits, they have washed dishes, and helped clean up, and watched children, and listened, and prayed, and shed tears with the family. Knowing that Shane loved scouting, one of the men in the church has made it his job to stop by each Monday to take some of the boys to scouts. He is trying to step in and supply a little of what has been lost by the death of their father. This church has surrounded a hurting family with the love of Christ.
As the time for a new appointment to Big Spring draws near, the question is, what will happen to Shane’s family when the new pastor comes? The church recently met and answered that question by deciding to give that parsonage to her with no strings attached. Can you believe that? Jill can continue living in Big Spring or sell the house and move somewhere else. They just wanted to help her get on her feet.
As Jim, Jill’s dad, told me the story of this kind of love, I wept with gratitude. This church got it right. They are being the Body of Christ with skin on. They are reaching out with incredible love and compassion to a young family. I believe God is pleased. Don’t you?