Most of them didn't even know my story. They just responded to the Holy Spirit's call. The Lord cared for my family through the Church.
My eyes sting with hot, fresh tears as I remember the time, not so long ago, that I realized I had been living in a hell that I helped create out of basic naivete and a strong belief in covenants. My marriage wasn't a marriage at all. The abuse began the day after we said our wedding vows, and it continued until the Lord saved me and my three children, four years later.
In a swirl of red and blue flashing lights, a hospital, and many hours spent in the county courthouse awaiting a paper that would give me some sort of protection, the end seemed to finally draw near. What I didn't know, was that end was just the beginning. The beginning of a two-year battle and the beginning of freedom.
But I never would've been able to do it alone. I never would've had the strength. I never would've been able to afford the legal fees. I never would've been able to withstand the loneliness.
A battered and broken woman, I walked into my pastor's office on a Thursday evening and told him and his wife everything. There was no condemnation. There was no disappointment. I was met with deep love and empathy and practical next steps. My pastor called a member of our church - an attorney - who offered me his services for the next two years at 1/3 of the price he would normally charge. I was connected with a therapist who specialized in trauma therapy and my church paid for my therapy for a year.
The Church was activated and the Holy Spirit was on the move. A community group adopted my family for Christmas. Someone dropped off a $2,000 check the day before I needed to pay a court-ordered legal fee for the exact same amount. A family opened up their home for my daughters and me to live in as we sought healing and a safe refuge. A friend texted me, "Have you had dinner?" Before bringing me a meal and other friends dropped off pizza at the most convenient time. Most of them didn't even know my story. They just responded to the Holy Spirit's call. The Lord cared for my family through the Church.
This deep care hasn't stopped. I will still have people bring me a check, buy an outfit for my girls because the Lord told them to, or just text me that they're praying for us daily. While remembering my old, scary life brings tears to my eyes, what moves me the most is remembering God's faithfulness and the activated Church through it all.
My mom's friend, Denise, ran into my house and said the words I've been repeating in my head over and over the last two years. My sixteen-year-old sister had attempted suicide. My parents were able to get her heart beating again, but they were at one hospital and being transferred to the children's hospital. She told me to call the student pastor at my church so he could drive the 45 minutes to my brother's house and tell him the news.
We quickly arranged for someone to stay with my girls then left for the hospital ourselves. Denise wouldn't let me drive alone. As we drove, my phone "pinged" with a text from a friend. "Something isn't right. Are you ok?" it read. "No. My sister is in the hospital. It's bad." I responded. "Praying right now." The Holy Spirit had woken her in the middle of the night, prompting her to pray for us.
We rode the elevator up to the PICU and there were my parents, my brother, and five of our pastors and staff members from our church. My family and I huddled together as we prayed out loud, unaware of the battle before us.
When we awoke from a restless three hours of sleep, Denise, the pastors from our church, my friend who had texted me, and more were waiting for us in the waiting room. We were never alone. Hours later, family members from around the country arrived after driving all night and morning to be by our sides.
I stayed in my sister's room as much as I was allowed, knowing my daughters were safely cared for and loved by other members of the Church. After dozing in her room one morning I walked out, numb and weary but not too exhausted to keep battling for her life. "Have you walked out to the waiting room lately?" My uncle asked me. I shook my groggy head. "You should." I pushed the button to open the automatic double doors awaiting what was on the other side. As the doors opened they revealed more and more people. Friends and family from all around the country were sitting on chairs, the floor, and standing in clusters. Some were praying, some were laughing, some were weeping and being held by others. My heart lurched, my voice caught in my throat, and the deep sobs began to surface.
The Church was on the move.
They didn't leave us for the three days we waited to find out how much damage my little sister's brain had endured.
They didn't leave us on Good Friday. We weren't alone on Easter Sunday. And they gathered around us again and again in prayer, in worship, and even as we took communion together, remembering the precious death and resurrection of our dear Savior - the reason we even had hope in the first place.
My sister ran into Jesus' arms sometime on Easter morning. We waited two more days to find the recipients of her organ donations, keeping her on life support during that time - our church continued to surround us and began preparing for our homecoming.
Friends from our church went back to my parent's house and cleaned up from the aftermath left behind by the first responders. Our pastor arranged hotels for visiting family members. Other members of our church opened up their homes to our family from out of town. Another couple opened their home for our large family to gather for family lunches and dinners until the funeral service the following Saturday. Community groups and families from churches all over our city brought food for every meal, feeding over 50 people every time.
There is so much more to tell - so many more ways the Lord loved us through the Church during those dark and terrible days. But He held us in His own arms and in the arms of His body. We were deeply cared for. We were surrounded. We had people from all over the world praying for my sister's healing and praying for us.
The Church is amazing. I am forever grateful.