Helgi

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Helgi loved bright colors.

 

My 91-year-old mother lives in a supervised independent living facility just down the road a bit from where I live. It’s a beautiful place with beautiful people—both those who live there and those who work there. One side of the facility is assisted living–for those who need extra support and help.

I feel great joy when I visit with my mother and the many residents who reside there. There’s Joyce, who sits near the front entrance in the beautiful lobby, who takes my hand each time I come into the building, with a ready smile. There are hugs from Roy and his wife Pat, Susie, Art (a gem of a person), just to name a few. And Helgi.

Helgi was born in Czechoslovakia. Her grandparents perished in a concentration camp during the German Occupation. But Helgi and her mother were fortunate. They escaped to London, where they survived the bombings of that city during WWII. She and her mother eventually reconnected with her father, who had immigrated to America several years earlier. Helgi eventually married, was a nurse, and outlived all of her family. She was a beautiful lady.

I say was—because three days ago Helgi left this world.

I knew she wasn’t feeling well and I had planned on stopping to see her. Helgi was a woman of Faith. And I felt a deep desire to sit and pray with her. Except, I didn’t. I got busy with other things. Unfortunately, we all do that—even those of us who are His Followers.

It was two days ago that I finally stopped by Helgi’s apartment—and it was empty. Someone said she had moved to the assisted living side of the facility. So I walked the halls looking for her name outside each assisted living apartment. Finally, when I couldn’t find her, I went to the front desk.

They know me there. I come to see my mother almost every day. When I asked about Helgi, they said, “She died yesterday afternoon.”

I couldn’t help myself. I got emotional, choking out these words, “But I had hoped to sit down and pray with her. The Lord was nudging me, and I didn’t listen. I should have. I’m so sorry.” The receptionist looked at me with kind and tearful eyes, “I know,” she said.

It’s only been a few days and I’m still feeling the loss of a friend. The missed opportunity to spend time with someone transitioning from this world to the next saddens me still. And I am reminded of the blessings we receive when we listen to the nudges of the Lord.

I hope to be a better listener the next time.

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The Lady Across the Hall

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I just got home a couple of days ago from a 4-day stay in the hospital—a surprise attack of diverticulitis. I didn’t see it coming—and I had no idea, until now, how serious diverticulitis disease can be. I’m grateful we caught it early and that serious dosages of antibiotics are resolving the issue.

I must admit there were times during the 4 days in the hospital that I was worried—anxious even. And I failed to do the one thing I do routinely several times each day—turn to the Lord in prayer. I’d start a prayer, but just couldn’t finish or follow through.

One night, the lady across the hall from me was having a very difficult time. She had come into the hospital that day from a nursing home—alone, afraid, confused, and needing a lot of attention.

The nursing staff did their best to address her issues, but honestly, with all the running to and from her room throughout the night, they began to grow weary.

It was difficult for me to sleep with all the ruckus and it would have been easy to become frustrated or annoyed by the disruptions, but I felt for the woman. I thought about my own 91-year-old mother. What if she were in trouble, alone, confused, and frightened—and in a hospital.

And I began to pray in a way I wasn’t able to for the past two days. I prayed for this woman who needed comfort and help.

Routinely, in the morning, when the staff’s shift is over, the evening nurse comes by to introduce the next nurse who will be taking his or her place for the day.

Well, the next morning, there were two nurses instead of one assigned to our unit—with one nurse dedicated to the woman across the hall. I could hear this kind, experienced nurse talking to the elderly woman. She had obviously been trained to work with the elderly and/or difficult patients. Her presence, concern, kindness and patience had a calming effect on the distraught older woman.

I wept. Because I was touched by what the hospital and the Lord had done for her.

I quickly turned in prayer to the Lord and thanked Him for sending someone to comfort this dear lady. And I was reminded once again of His Great Love and Boundless Compassion. Do I believe in the power of prayer?  Absolutely!  And it was my blessing to see His Hand at work.

The Beggar

 

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Inside the Forbidden City

In 2007, the year before the 2008 Olympics, I made my 12th business trip to China. I was blessed with the privilege of traveling to many wonderful countries in my work—Germany, China, India. I even went to Africa.

Beijing is one of my favorite cities and whenever I was there, I always visited the Forbidden City—where the emperors of China once lived many years ago.

There’s a small fee to get inside the walls of the ancient city—and it was there in line to buy my ticket that I had an experience that forever touched my heart.

While I was waiting in the long, long line to buy my pass, I saw a tiny, emaciated, one-legged beggar using a crooked tree branch as his crutch—standing right beside me.

He didn’t say a word, just stood there, eyes focused on the ground. And when I stepped forward as the line moved, so did he. I admit I felt a bit uncomfortable, and I ignored him.

When I finally reached the front of the line and made my purchase, I turned around and almost knocked him over. He whispered, “One dollar. Just one dollar. Please.”

I was surprised he could speak English. But I was even more surprised by his humble nature, his sad eyes, and the sincereness of his request.

I gave him what he asked for—just one dollar. To which he didn’t say a word—he just slowly limped away.

I entered the gates to the inner city and walked around as a tourist for about 3 hours. When it came time to leave, I walked out through the same gate that I had entered.

And there he stood. And when he saw me, he looked me in the eyes and simply bowed his head. A silent gesture of thanks.

His presence was unexpected. His humble gesture touched my heart. I looked back at him and nodded my head in return—and once again, he hobbled away.

Later that night as I sat alone in my hotel room, I thought, why didn’t I give him more?

Well, the next year, the year of the Olympics, I was in China once again—this time a few weeks after the event was over. I went back to the Forbidden City, hoping to see the beggar. He wasn’t there.

China, in an effort to “clean up” their streets for the Olympics, had removed/relocated all of the beggars.  I’m not really sure where they went. All I know is this: There were no beggars anywhere to be found.

I had so wanted to see him again. And the fact that I didn’t, honestly, troubles me still. He gave me so much more than I came close to giving him.

At the time, I wasn’t yet a follower of Jesus. But I am a follower now.

I sometimes wish I could return to that moment—and do more. Be kinder, more respectful, give him a hug—I’m not sure what.

But one thing is certain for me after all these years: I’m grateful that I’m here now with a heart that is eager to help and a Lord who nudges me to reach out.

It’s not always about giving money; sometimes it’s sharing a smile or a moment of one’s time—chatting with a lonely nursing home resident or thanking a check-out clerk at the grocery store who seems to be having a difficult day.

My hope is that every time God presents an opportunity to love a neighbor in the days to come, these words will continue to stir my heart:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25: 35-40

May God bless you with the opportunity to reach out and selflessly help someone in need.

 

Jackie Evans, AOG

 

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Our paths have crossed several times over the past 12 months—first on a trip to Israel where we were tablemates at breakfast. Six months later, we were both in a women’s bible study group—and in the last four weeks, part of a study group between church services.

Her insights are inspirational and her amazing Faith shows in her demeanor, presence, and deep commitment to the Lord.

A couple of days ago, we had a conversation. I caught up with Jackie after one of our classes just to tell her how touched I was by something she had shared. One thing led to another, and then she told this story.

“I’m sure you’ve noticed the tendency for some professions to add initials to their names—initials that identify their credentials. Susan Fields, MSN, for example. Or, William Brown, CFP. Well, I’ve made the decision to identify myself from now on as Jackie Evans, AOG.”

I smiled, but must have looked confused. “AOG, you know—Agent of God,” Jackie explained.

I liked the concept and thought about it for the next several days. And the more I thought about it, the more I savored the idea. Agent of God—on a mission; available at a moment’s notice to become God’s instrument.

Then on Sunday, I met up with Jackie and asked her to elaborate.

“I first learned about the Agent of God concept in a Lenten study at church,” she said. “I liked the idea right away. So much so that I found myself repeating the phrase over and over. I playfully applied the title to the end of my name. But as I continued to think about it, the idea became more serious. In fact, it was a defining moment.

“I realized Jesus was an Agent—on assignment; faithful in His mission. As His follower, I’m called to be an Agent, too—available at any time to be mobilized in mission.

“We never know what God will set before us,” Jackie continued, “but one thing is for sure. If you’re a follower, He will use you for His purpose.

“It may be something big—like a mission trip to a foreign country; or it may be something local, like volunteering to work with a group that serves young wives of men in prison. Some days it may even be something as simple as holding the door for an elderly woman struggling with her walker.

“God works through the lives of ordinary people like me,” Jackie clarified. “He uses His Agents to demonstrate His love and forgiveness through the sharing of love and forgiveness with others.”

Jackie boldly admits this is her new role in life—her purpose. She believes it’s why she’s here.

Her final words to me that Sunday, “I often feel like I’m more of an AIT, Agent-In-Training, than a seasoned Agent of God. At life’s end, I just hope to be worthy of either title.“

 

 

Mark 12:30-31 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second (commandment) is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Galatians 6:10  “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.”

John 15:12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

A Christmas Tradition

 

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I started a tradition four years ago with the birth of my first grandchild—a grandson. And now I also have an almost 2-year-old granddaughter.   They are both sweet, loving children—and quite normal, for they love receiving presents.

While I cherish the fun of buying them special Christmas gifts, I truly longed for a way of showing them the real meaning of the Christmas season.   I know from my own experience the joy that comes from giving to someone who is in need, and I wanted my grandchildren to have this experience as well. Thus the tradition: buying a gift for someone in need each year as one of their Christmas presents.

Here’s my hope: As they begin to grow older, they will be just as excited on Christmas morning to discover who they helped this year as they will be for any of their other presents. And as young adults and eventually a father and mother themselves they will continue this tradition of giving a Christmas gift to others.

My grandson’s presents over the past 4 years have been 2 chickens to a family in Africa, a doll to a child in need in the USA, a warm coat for a refugee boy in Syria, and this year—a winter care kit for a refugee child in Europe facing a freezing winter.

For my granddaughter, her gift last year was 2 weeks of milk for a hungry baby—and this year, a loving-care package for an orphan girl in India.

I read a devotional earlier today entitled, “Life is Best Lived When You’re Awake.” The author’s premise: Appreciate all that God has given you. Pay attention to the wonder of being alive. Notice and help the people around you—especially those in need. Then he asked, “Are you awake?”

God bless you as you think about and give to others in need this glorious season—as we celebrate the Birth of our Lord! Merry Christmas.

Gift ideas for children in need all over the world can be found at samaritanspurse.org and worldvisiongifts.org. You can make a difference for a child or a family in need for under $25.

 

Pachelbel’s Canon

IMG_3787Three of my hospice patients passed away over the holidays. None were 11th Hour. Two of the passings, I anticipated. You can tell when a hospice patient is nearing the end, even if they aren’t 11th Hour. The third, a surprise, just happened today.

And it was this third that “hit” me the hardest. While I’m always touched by the loss of the brave and noble men and women that come to the end of their lives, I must admit that I was very fond of the woman who passed away this morning.

Her name was Ellen. Unlike most of the other patients, Ellen was usually up and about and in her wheel chair whenever I came to visit. As far as I knew, she didn’t have any family close by—there was nothing on her walls to indicate family or friends (no pictures, cards, etc.). Whenever I came into her room or found her in the hallway, she would beam with pleasure to see me.

Lately, each time we would meet, I would pull out my little Bluetooth wireless speaker and play piano music for Ellen from my cellphone. She loved the piano. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire was her favorite Christmas song. But her favorite song of all time was Pachelbel’s Canon. She would hug the little wireless speaker and tear up every time we played it.

I am going to miss my sweet friend Ellen. I know she’s in a better place, and for that I am grateful. She’s in Heaven now–with the Lord and a multitude of angels singing more beautifully than any of us can possibly imagine! I can see her in my mind—beautiful, full of youthful energy, glowing with happiness, beaming her precious smile of recognition right down at me (with a ‘wait til you get up here’ kind of look in her eye)!

Someday I will see Ellen again. Until then, for Ellen, one more time, here’s Pachelbel’s Canon:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlprozGcs80

Lillian

I lost one of the hospice patients I regularly visit this morning, and I am deeply saddened.

DSC02120Saddened because I will miss her, even though we never had a real conversation. There were no long, or even brief, talks between the two of us. Our visits were always one-sided. I talked; she listened. And that’s the way it has been every Saturday since August.

I had come to the nursing home this morning armed with a freshly downloaded reading of the book of John on my iphone to share with Lillian. I eagerly stepped into her room and found her physically present—but, sadly, gone.

As I turned to go for help, a nurse and coroner with his gurney quietly entered the room. They told me Lillian had passed about an hour before I arrived.

Over the past three months, I read numerous Bible passages to her, prayed over her, and listened to some of my favorite hymns with her.

Like I said, we never had a chance to engage in a formal conversation. But I could tell when she enjoyed a particular song. And I could see by her physical movements or her facial expressions that she was listening to my words.

I heard something beautiful in a hospice meeting earlier this week. One woman in training said, “I like to tell the family at the passing of their loved one, that their last breath on earth, is their first breath in Heaven.” Then she said, “Death is nothing to be afraid of.”

I pray my loved ones at death will pass over into eternity to be with our Heavenly Father. I want that for Lillian. I want that for my friends. And I want that basically for everyone!

So while today is a sad day, it’s also a day for rejoicing.

For “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

John 5:24

Rest now in peace, dear Lillian.

Nothing on My Tongue But Hallelujah

From the Hallelujah song by the Canadian Tenors

 
Several weeks ago, I had an 11th Hour with a hospice patient. For those of you not familiar with this term, it means the patient is, in the opinion of medical staff, in their final hours.

I spent several hours with the patient, Lillian (a fictitious name), over a 2-day period. On the morning of the 3rd day when I arrived at the nursing home, I expected to find that Lillian was gone, but by the Grace of God she was alive.

The nurses told me Lillian had miraculously recovered. I stopped by her room briefly to check in on her, then said I’d be back later in the week.

When I arrived at the nursing home the following Saturday, I found Lillian in her usual state—sleeping and nonresponsive. I sat down and started to talk to her. I talked about my mother (both Lillian and my mother are close to the same age), what it must have been like growing up in the Great Depression, being a teenager during WWII. I even played a couple of songs from the 1930s-1940s.

As I was getting ready to leave, I remembered a beautiful, contemporary song that I had just downloaded on my cell phone—the Hallelujah song by the Canadian Tenors.

They tell us in hospice that patients, even when they are nonresponsive, can hear you. Family, friends, and volunteers are encouraged to talk to hospice patients. I love playing music to those I visit.

So I decided to play this song for Lillian before departing. And here’s the amazing thing that happened. Sitting by her bedside, I witnessed a miracle. About 4 and 1/2 minutes into the 5-minute song, Lillian, who never moves or speaks, sat straight up, eyes closed, and began to silently mouth the words “Hallelujah” along with the Tenors as they sang their final chorus.

Startled, surprised, awed, amazed—I can’t really find the right word that precisely describes my thoughts, my feelings, my reaction at that moment. But I can find the words to describe what I think happened that afternoon to Lillian: I believe she was touched by the Holy Spirit. And for that, I say, “Hallelujah!”

 

If you’d like to hear the Hallelujah song, here’s a link to the Canadian Tenors. I chose this version because you can see the lyrics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8UELF3IATw

A Tiny Seed

I listened to a sermon the other day in which a minister said we should share our personal experiences of mighty acts (things that happen to us that we believe are the work or Hand of God). A few days ago, I ran across this photo and it reminded me of an experience I had on a business trip to India. One that I think was a Hand-of-God experience. But first let me take you back a few years into my past.

Like so many others, from the time I left high school throughout my working career, I put the Faith I was taught as a child pretty much on hold. A kind way of saying my life was busy with things I thought were more important.  But God, ever patient, never abandoned or gave up on me.

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Missionary Home in New Delhi, India

I was blessed with the opportunity to travel overseas with my work–to Europe, India, and multiple trips to China.  Whenever I traveled to third world countries, I always took gifts for the children. This was true of the trip to India with two of my working colleagues. We arrived in India with stuffed animals, coloring books, watches, toy cars, books, etc.

When we had finished all of our business, we hired a driver to take us to an orphanage where we could leave our gifts.  We arrived at a compound inside the walls of a New Delhi inner city location.  Unbeknownst to us, there had been a communication glitch, or maybe the driver just got lost, but we never made it to the orphanage like we expected.

Instead, we stopped at a Missionary Home full of people terminally ill with tuberculosis and other diseases.  We walked through the open-air buildings with men, women, and children all sick in their beds and volunteers hard at work watching over them.

Not quite sure of where we were or what we had just experienced, we thanked the sister who walked us through the facility, left the toys for the children, and donated the small amount of money we could find on the three of us.  We had also brought along little bars of soap, shampoo, plastic combs, toothpaste and toothbrushes that we had collected from the hotels we stayed in along our journey.  And we left those, too. We never saw the sign posted at the gate (pictured) until our departure.

The next day we left the country.

For years, I felt the trip to India had been a mistake and a disaster. But then five years ago something happened in my life that returned me to my Faith. I’m a new and totally different person. Now I look back and view this trip to India and the stop at the Home for Dying Destitutes as a blessing–a Hand-of-God experience.  Of course, at the time of our journey, I didn’t see it.

Even though I was, at that time, out of fellowship, somewhere in the middle of New Delhi, God planted a tiny seed in my heart that began to slowly germinate and grow. For years, I’ve felt the nudge to help children and the elderly–those who are most vulnerable.  Well, three weeks ago, I finally listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit and began volunteering inside a nursing home for hospice.

Yesterday was my first 11th Hour experience sitting with an elderly woman alone in this world as she passes on to the next one. What a privilege and blessing it was to spend that hallowed time with her.

A tiny seed starting to grow? I truly believe so.

 

 

 

The Power of Prayer

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Mark 11:24 (NIV)

For months I’ve been searching for an answer to a consistent nagging question. What is it that God is calling me to do? Not that I’m lost or searching for something that seems to be missing. On the contrary, I’m quite happy and very busy enjoying my retirement. My Faith is strong and I’m a work in progress. However, I must admit I sometimes angst over how He wants me to serve.  I wonder, does it have to be large, a difficult choice, or a life-changing event?

Well, on a recent 2-week vacation to Aruba, I discovered something important.

Let me begin with a story. About midway through our trip, I experienced something that dramatically changed my thinking. One evening as I was sitting in the lobby waiting for Ron and his sons to come down for dinner, I noticed the 30 or so people who had just arrived at the hotel standing in line to finish check-in.

At the same time, I was watching a little 2-year-old boy (who reminded me of my soon-to-be 3-year-old grandson). One moment the boy was laughing and playing, the next he was screaming in pain. His father who had just finished checking in and was in line to secure his luggage came running. I could see the panic in his face and that of the boy’s mother, too, as they struggled to comfort their terrified child.

I watched, my eyes tearing over, as I considered how my own son and daughter-in-law would have felt if my grandson were the one experiencing this awful moment. My heart was breaking for this young couple and their injured toddler. Within minutes, the father called for help and an emergency worker arrived to examine the boy. He quickly sent the parents off with their child to the hospital. I felt a deep sadness and helplessness–until something inside me said, “Pray for them.” And I did. I prayed for the little boy, the doctor and staff at the hospital who would soon help them, and for the upset parents.

About 3 hours later that evening I went down to the lobby once again to pick up some milk in the marketplace gift shop. There I saw the parents and the toddler who had just returned from the hospital. The little boy was happily playing and showing no signs of having had any earlier issue. I approached the parents and said, “I am so glad to see that your little boy is okay. I saw what happened in the lobby earlier and my heart went out to both of you. I have a grandson about the same age and I know how terrified my own son and daughter-in-law would have been under the same circumstances.”

I then mentioned to the mother and father that I had said a prayer for them and for their son.

They thanked me and said their son had had a dislocated ligament and the doctor just pulled the arm and the ligament snapped right back into place where it belonged. And everything was fine–just like that.

I left the gift shop feeling wonderful. Then I realized why. We don’t always have to be involved in big, life-changing events to do God’s work. A simple prayer of compassion for someone in need can make a difference.

Please understand, I’m not implying that my prayer made this young boy better–although I do believe the prayers of a believer can contribute to a miracle. What I’m saying is that I now know that prayer for others can be a way of serving, too. And I’m at peace with that!