October 6, 2016

Thank You for Loving My Sister

You truly were the Church in action

When we have a family member who doesn’t know Christ, that relationship can be fraught with tension and unspoken longings. Conversations about spiritual topics seem to hold vast land mines. So we pour our longings into our prayers. And when God emboldens us to do more than pray, we obey.

Read this letter from one EFCA leader after her sister and family visited her church.

Even when we most despair that someone we love will ever respond to our Jesus, we can remain in hope. God is at work.

Dearest members of my church family, and those who know my sister Sophia* and her skeptic’s heart,

Find your name in my story below. And see how the body of Christ did it well this morning...

Sophia and her husband have never come to Southside Church,* and after years of specific prayers being dashed, I had gone on a hiatus of prayer for her. I felt defeated and unheard.

Last week as they were visiting from out of town, I asked the Lord for them to come to church. I asked many to pray with me. I poured out my heart. It felt so risky.

To my surprise, they decided to come.

When we walked into the foyer, Ashley greeted us with warm smiles and a simple welcome. As we navigated our way to drop off our kiddos, my sister feared that her youngest, Laura (age 5), was not going to want to go to class and leave her parents. She always cries.

But when Jamie opened the Pre-K door and welcomed the children, Laura just followed my daughter right on in—no tears, no anything. Jamie’s safety and kindness were the ticket. If Laura had made a scene, I have no idea how the morning would have gone.

As we continued dropping off children, other friends introduced themselves or gave me a wink or a warm hello: George, Marybeth and Ali.

We had a few moments to grab coffee before the service, and on the way, Kevin greeted us. We reminisced about the last time he’d seen Sophia and me—when he drove me to a family funeral the year before. That was pure service to our family: I was pregnant, it was snowing, it was complicated. My sister recalled that being an impressive gift to our family.

Even when we most despair that someone we love will ever respond to our Jesus, we can remain in hope.
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While pouring coffee, Sam and Ann made a point to meet Sophia and chat. We talked about the social-media connections they have—funny, kind banter.

My brother, Rob, was leading worship. And inbetween songs he said, “Be comfortable with your hands in your pockets, with your hands in the air...however you are or need to be..."

My visiting brother-in-law had stuffed his hands down deep into his pockets, so he leaned over to me and said with a sarcastic smile, “Is he trying to say something to me?”

Yep. And he did perfectly, bro.

Eventually our pastor, Steve, stood up, and enough cannot be written about this sermon: his posture, his poise, his intentionality, his gift to our church on the topic of the gospel and race. He made access ramps for several kinds of hearts at several points in his sermon and then explained communion beautifully at his transition.

And so Sophia said, “Are you going to get communion? I’ll come with you. What do I do?”

I may or may not have wet my pants.

Smiling and recovering I said, “Yes, just follow me.”

Afterward, I was sitting on the aisle, and as several of my friends walked by on their return to their seats, they touched my arm to say hello, lean in for a hug or just say good morning. Sophia noticed.

The service ended, and we made our way to get our kiddos. We were intercepted by Craig. I love that I can introduce him as the assistant pastor who used to do stand-up comedy. This was a shoe-in for my sister.

After getting the kids, we found Sam again in the aisle. He thanked Sophia for coming, and I told Sophia how Sam used to be a staunch atheist and now loves Jesus and works for our church. She dropped her jaw and said, “What?! How did that happen?” In about two minutes he told his story.

As we moved toward the doors we also had interactions with Jacintha, Dylan, Lori and Zach. Easy. No more needs to be said there. Easy.

I asked many to pray with me. I poured out my heart. It felt so risky.
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As we left the building, Sophia said, “I felt like a rockstar at your church. Or maybe you guys are rockstars. You know everyone and they were so warm and welcoming and so kind and our kids just loved it...”

All of this has been more than a decade in the works.

A decade of our church becoming the church it is. Of my friends being on-mission and loving me by loving my sister. Of lives being changed by the gospel, so they long to help other’s lives be changed and are willing to share their story. Of small steps of love and faith all over the place.

I am writing because I cannot speak. Tears and emotion block my throat.

Writing because it needs to be told.

Names of the author’s sister and daughter, as well as the church, have been changed. And the letter has been greatly condensed from its original, which noted 16 different individuals whose warmth and presence that Sunday morning made a notable difference for “Sophia” and her family. According to the author, “She has been back to the church a few times since, and we continue to have spiritual conversations toward Christ and the gospel.”

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