“Two fellows rowing in the same ship.” I don’t know who first said it, but it’s a definition of fellowship that I remember from when I was a kid. And “fellowship” has become such an important word to me in the past months as I’ve thought about how indispensable it is in our relationship together with Jesus.
Since mid-May, my octogenarian parents have struggled with a health crisis that has permanently changed their lives, uprooted them from their home of 59 years and ultimately brought them to live in Rochester. Mom is slowly adjusting to Rochester and assisted living, while dad continues to gain strength in rehab here. If all goes well, we hope they can once again live together, each helping the other with the strength and wellness that remain.
I’m grateful that we five children, scattered on the east coast as we are, have been able to share the load; but as the daughter living nearest the epicenter, it has fallen to me to be First Responder, Chief Chauffeur, Booking Agent, Call Center, News Anchor, Hotelier, Tour Guide, Patient Advocate, and Case Manager. Plans have often been made, scrapped and redone, fulltime work is out the window, a clean house a distant memory.
Through it all, however, our church family and the larger Church have really been rowing with me in my ship. I remember the very first weeks, when we were not at all sure that my father would be staying on the planet, and how my friends offered prayer for strength. Literal strength. I have often prayed for strength for others, but being on the receiving end in a desperate time was a new experience for me. To wake up, unable to face the work of the day, and then to somehow feel physical strength in your body–the ability to stand and breathe and do what needs to be done — that was truly the work of the Holy Spirit in response to the simple, sincere requests of his people. What a gift.
The Church sent cards and packages of encouragement to my family and my folks. People from Browncroft whom my father had never met before came to visit him, talking and listening and rowing in his ship as well. Believers from Browncroft who knew Rochester’s assisted care and rehab options offered their connections and advice. A nurse who randomly answered a call bell turned out to be a Browncrofter, and when we recognized each other, offered prayers, encouragement and a comforting embrace. Our church lobby and fellowship hall became a place for shared tears, celebrations, scriptures and hugs. Five different families on five separate occasions drove two hours north to assure my parents that they were not forgotten, and that their sudden unexpected departure had left a huge hole. Love and love and more love is humbling, and life changing.
John the apostle wrote to the young church, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another;” and again, “Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” Emmanuel, God with us, is really with us in our suffering, and equally so through his people as they help to navigate suffering. Jesus, who said “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” keeps his promise and never leaves us, never forsakes us.
There’s so much more yet to come. All the house decisions, the final outcomes from rehab, even the inevitable decline, no matter how well things go. But I’m so grateful for the teamwork of Jesus’ oarsmen here, and for the life-change we find in that fellowship.
If you would like to encourage fellow Browncrofters through congregational care ministry, I would love to connect you.