LOUISE: Life & Church

In the last few years, my son, Jay and I have made several trips to Northwest Arkansas, where my oldest son, Aaron and his family live. We usually spend a few weeks in a private home on each visit so we always attend church on Sunday, trying several different ones to see what fits our needs.

ChurchFrom as far back as I can remember, church has been a constant in my life. My first memories are of a little country church with wooden slatted pews and a minister who worked a full-time job during the week and preached on Sundays. I wonder if the families who enjoyed the services were even able to pay him a salary and still keep utilities running.

As a child, I remember putting the dime my daddy would give me into a little white envelope every Sunday morning and checking all the boxes—Daily Bible Reading, Offering, Memorize Bible Verse, etc. In our small farming community, the grocery store, church and school were all within walking distance of each other—the hub of the community.

Then on Decoration Day—the fourth Sunday in May—our family would travel to Beaver Mountain, where my parents grew up, and have “dinner on the ground” followed by a “singing” in that little mountain church.

In college, I attended the Baptist Student Union as well as local churches, including a church in San Marcos, Texas where I was baptized at 19 years old during my summer work there. The next college summer, I attended a lovely Hispanic church (after a year of studying Spanish) where I taught a Sunday School class.

As a young married couple and new parents, my husband, Carl and I joined a small congregation in Tulsa where we made lifelong friends. It was this sweet assembly of believers who surrounded us with love and compassion after our precious son, Travis, died suddenly on a Sunday morning.

A few years later, a tenderhearted pastor from our church in a new town where we moved sat in my hospital room while Carl told me our newborn baby boy had Down syndrome and was in an isolette with oxygen because one lung had not yet inflated.

Then it was in yet another church where I said my final goodbye to my father, who still wore the bolo tie I gave him years earlier while his familiar cowboy hat lay on top of the casket.    

And of course, there is my home church, Henderson Hills Baptist, where all my children made commitments to Christ and where Carl and I started a flourishing ministry for people with special needs. It was in this same church where I sat with my sons near my husband’s flag-draped casket, wondering how life could possibly go on without this loving man who had shared my life for 45 years.

We need churches in our lives. We need people who believe in a God of love and want to share our painful times as well as our celebrations. Every church should be a place of refuge. A place where people gather to love each other and love the Lord, no matter the size or denomination. It should be a place of hope and inclusion. A place where everyone is welcome, no matter their race, dress, financial status, ability or disability.

Like Jay and me in Arkansas, it may take time to find the church that fits your exact needs, but rest assured, it will be worth it. God’s church will always speak love, truth and peace into our hearts. May you be blessed to find such a place.

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