My dear brothers and sisters, I would like to share some of my experience growing up in the church life.
“For though you have ten thousand guides in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers.” (1 Cor. 4:15a) This verse means so much to me because in 2015 I lost one of my spiritual fathers. He was an elder in the locality where I served in the training. He also had served for decades with LSM.
My earliest memory of this brother was when I went over to his home as a very young boy while my mom was giving birth to one of my sisters. His family kindly took care of me while all that was happening.
From that time I didn’t have much contact with him until 2004 when I attended my first live semiannual training. I walked into the LSM bookstore and started browsing. He was standing there and came up to me and re-introduced himself. He asked me where I was living, how my family was doing, and what I was up to.
Outwardly it was a very normal conversation, but I found myself going back to the bookstore every semiannual training I attended and looking for him. His care and concern for me were so obvious and I responded to it. It’s not hard to find people who will give you advice, but spiritual fathers who care for you are a blessing from God.
The first week I started the FTTA, I joined a table meeting, which happened to be in the same district as this brother. When he saw me walk in he immediately beckoned to the empty space beside him.
During the meeting there was a lull and he turned to me and asked, “Do you have a hymn?” I didn’t. He told me, “You always need to have a hymn.” That word has stayed with me and perfected me over the years.
Ten weeks after I started the training in the fall of 2012, I was assigned to the books service and this brother was responsible for overseeing my service. Our interactions thus were on at least a bi-weekly basis. I would go and sit in his cubicle and he would ask me how the training was going. I felt comfortable enough to never give him a sugarcoated answer. He was also faithful to always encourage me and perfect me.
During this whole time he was fighting an aggressive cancer. The prognosis was grim, but he was determined to fight.
When I found out that the sister I liked also liked me, he was one of the first people I texted. When I was trying to figure out what to do with myself the morning before our first date (it was in the evening), I called him. He told me to come over. His wife prepared a wonderful lunch for us and he proceeded to ask me where I was taking her.
When I told him, he gave me a look and asked his wife about a place where his daughter had gone with her husband. Eventually, he called his daughter and found out the name of the place. Then, fixing me with that look, he told me, “This is where you need to take her.” He was right.
There was still time to kill so we went outside and he had me trim his hedge so I would stop thinking. In the meantime, he told me a children’s story having to do with this sister’s first name. Then I used their shower, got changed, and went to go meet the sister. The atmosphere was perfect and it was during that dinner that we both realized the Lord was bringing us together.
Later that month, we visited him in the hospital together. I felt so happy that I could bring her to meet him. He was barely conscious, due to the effect of some strong medication, but I am so glad that they got to meet.
Later that summer I received a text from him, asking me when I was going to be in Anaheim next. I knew he was still going through some experimental treatments, but wasn’t sure of how things had progressed. I responded, indicating I didn’t know yet when I would be in Anaheim. He told me to come soon. Not long after that I received news that he had gone to be with the Lord.
When he passed away, that verse above came to me. I felt so lost, but also so thankful that the Lord had given me a spiritual father like him. To this day, particularly in some of my own lowest moments, or when my wife and I have passed through things where we didn’t know if we would get through to the other side of the valley, I remember that brother.
Hebrews 12:1 speaks of a cloud of witnesses encouraging us to run the race of the Christian life. The cloud of witnesses here refers not only to those who were martyred for the faith but also to the pattern of faith that they exhibited. I remember his pattern, his manner of life, and the Christ he ministered into me that supplies me to keep going.
Also, I have to mention something about spiritual mothers and grandmothers. Recently, I was with a young couple when they had to make the heartrending decision of taking their youngest child off of a ventilator. He soon passed away.
The next day I happened to be in the home of an older sister who is my spiritual grandmother (she brought my dad to the Lord). While we were speaking about something else, what I had seen and heard in that hospital came spilling out of me. She comforted me and ministered the Lord into me, as only she could.
I know what it is like to put your trust in someone and follow them and take them as a pattern, only to have them betray that trust and do and speak things you never thought possible. In my experience, that is something that scars you and the healing process is lengthy. It is through brothers like the one I mentioned above that the healing has progressed.
I am sharing about this brother in detail, since he has gone to be with the Lord. However, there are other brothers, many of them coworkers who are taking the lead in the recovery, who have functioned in a similar way to take time to listen to my venting and complaining.
They have not rebuked me or been surprised by the twisted thoughts and feelings that issue out of my soul. They just listen to me, sympathize with me, and minister the Lord into my being according to my need.
There have been times where it seems I have been beaten up and left half dead (Luke 10:30). But then the Lord comes to me as the Good Samaritan, binds up my wounds and pours oil and wine on them and brings me to the inn (Luke 10:33-34). In my experience, the inn is the church life, where, through my fathers, mothers, grandfathers, and grandmothers, my wounds have been healed and my soul has been restored.
May the Lord give each one of us spiritual fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers. The supply from the Lord that we need is many times found in the members of His Body. The enemy knows this and couldn’t be happier with driving a wedge between us and them. But we need them now, today, more than ever.
Sharing by Nathanael Stone on, My Experience Growing up in the Church Life with Spiritual Fathers and Mothers.