The Meaning of “Church Family”

My sister gave the following talk to the ELCA St. Paul Area Synod a few weeks ago. It spoke to me as well because I’ve had a lot of interactions with St. Michael’s over the years, driven by my sister’s, along with several close friends, association with them. When I asked her if I could repeat her story on my blog she readily agreed.

“Good morning, and thank you for allowing me to speak to you today.

38 years ago, I strolled into a nearby neighborhood church. Convenience drew me – with no car I needed a church within walking distance of my apartment. Lucky for me, it turned out to be St. Michael’s.

Who knew what lie ahead? I was single at the time, and St. Michael’s had a single’s group called, SMYSAG (St. Michael’s Young Single Adult Group). Later on I married and eventually had two daughters. Our family enjoyed many wonderful years of being engaged and involved in church life. Until suddenly, without warning, I experienced a series of devastating and staggering losses occurring over a period of five years beginning with my daughter’s tragic accident, the unexpected death of both my parents, the simultaneous unemployment of both my husband and I, and ultimately, our divorce. Currently, I’m the single mother of two girls – one of whom is disabled and in a wheelchair.

At the time of her accident my youngest daughter, Karley, was 11 ½. We were at Luther Dell, our church camp. As a family, we had attended camp ever since she was an infant. What was a routine week (although usually cold and rainy) suddenly turned catastrophic when she had a near-drowning in the lake due to a seizure and was subsequently air-lifted to the St. Cloud Trauma center. We watched, helplessly, as our lively, vivacious young daughter become virtually lifeless.

From the moment of her accident, the congregation stood by our family. I was with Karley in St. Cloud for two weeks, and a small group of women took turns staying with me while I was there. Upon returning home to Roseville, Karley was admitted to Gillette Hospital and stayed there three months. During that time, members of the congregation provided dinners for us every night. What a blessing that was! A small troop of handymen built a ramp for her wheelchair at our house, another group came to rearrange bedrooms so Karley could be in a more convenient room that would ultimately become handicapped accessible. Members also came together to help financially fund a fully accessible van with a fold-out ramp for her wheelchair.

In addition, a group of St. Michael’s members attended a golf-fundraising event sponsored by a local organization called “Friends Helping Friends”. With the proceeds of that event, we were able to install an elevator in our home.

And every step of the way, our family has been loved, cared for and supported by the members of the congregation and the staff. I am deeply grateful for the extraordinary pastoral care as their compassion and love uplifted me during my most difficult and darkest times.

Karley is now 17 ½ and not only surviving, but thriving. Although she is non-verbal and non-ambulatory, she has regained her delightful personality, is patient, tolerant and an absolute joy to be around.

Family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers have been astounded at the continued outpouring of love and support that St. Michael’s has shown me and my family throughout the years.

Recently, St. Michael’s added handicapped accessible seating in their sanctuary so persons in wheelchairs feel welcome, included and part of the service.

Through all of this, I’ve discovered that one can grow through loss and feel joy, hope and humor once again. I am profoundly grateful and thank God for allowing me to stumble upon St. Michael’s so many years ago.”

About Bob

Bob has been a writer all his life. He has had to do many other things to buy groceries and make his car payments, but most of these things have involved writing, in one genre or another.
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