Profiles in Courage
The date November 10, 2015, is imprinted in my memory. I forget a lot of things but not this one. I remember the day I had spinal surgery. The quickly planned surgery changed the course of my life.
I was extremely insecure as a young teenager and used alcohol and drugs to enable me to be social at just about any event. If I let myself, I can still clearly see the pain my bad decisions produced. And I cry. I'm so grateful for Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, for the blood that has washed those terrible things away, and the grace that allows me to start fresh every day.
As the sheet of paper was being passed down the row, I prayed, "God, if there is a name, please reveal it." I did not want to make up a name just for the sake of giving a name. The night before, in our hotel room, I said to my friend, "I didn't name the baby." She looked at me..."you didn't give your baby a name?" I sat quietly stunned. I didn't.
"If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn their wicked away, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land."
I meditate on this the scripture in 2 Chronicle 7:4 almost every day or every time I am anxious, unhappy, or angry.
The simple, determined faith of a young African student and the cooperation of the family of disciples around the world brings us an inspiring story from the now 37-member Tri-Cities church in Washington State, USA. I met Gadine Marie on a weekend visit to the church in Tri-Cities earlier this year. This is her story, in her words:
In August of 2013, my husband Sherman and I were visiting beautiful Atlanta, Georgia. For Sherman, it was a business trip; I was there to sightsee. However, for some reason, all I wanted to do was sleep. My behavior was so out of character that we agreed I should see my physician upon returning home. Nothing prepared me for my breast cancer diagnosis. Abruptly faced with my own mortality, fear rushed in with swift precision. I was left feeling helpless, hopeless, and faithless.
"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself is the Rock eternal." – Isaiah 26:3-4
Everyone experiences trials, unexpected challenges, unmet expectations, or disappointments. Through each of these struggles we have choices: peace or worry; victory or defeat. A year ago I was diagnosed with a tumor in my spinal column. It needed to be removed promptly in order to prevent further nerve or neurological damage that could result from the tumor’s presence. I was quickly scheduled for surgery—without knowing if I had cancer or what treatments might follow.
The Journey of Arlene Publico, Women's Ministry Leader Emeritus
"Brothers, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.” – Ephesians 3:12-13
On February 25, 2016, at age 52, Arlene Publico, Women’s Ministry Leader of the Metro Manila Christian Church, passed away. For someone who rubbed elbows with excruciating physical pain for almost five years as she struggled head on with cancer, it was indeed a well-fought battle. As was written in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
When I first met Peggy Feeney in 1990, she was discouraged that there was yet another leadership change in her center city campus ministry at the University of Illinois Chicago. Living only a few blocks away from us, Peggy would often swing by to hang out--at which time I would encourage her to go spend some time with God first! She became a great help, even cleaning my bathrooms so that I would not have to inhale the cleaning chemicals since I was pregnant at the time. She would also bring me leftover muffins from her job at a bagel shop. Besides definitely appeasing my morning sickness, these mega-calorie goodies probably greatly contributed to my 44% weight gain on my 5 foot, 98 pound frame.
A disciple named Rebecca Goldman walked into a laundromat in Lowell, Massachusetts, armed with four small slips of paper, each with her name and number written on them. She handed the slips out to four women there, inviting them to church and adding that they would have friends if they came.
The third woman, Niramol Pichetshote, a fifty-two-year-old native of Thailand, took the piece of paper without saying a word and put it in her pocket. When her laundry was finished, she went home and thought long and hard about Rebecca and her invitation to church.