In 1983, Mark and I packed up our three little boys; Andy, Joe, and Ben and moved to VA to be closer to his parents and to attend this church, then called…. Fairfax Community of Believers. Five months later, Rebekah was born; two years later came Duke. We were eager to grow in God’s Word and to get support for family life, and our homeschooling vision. We found here a great church for these efforts. The people we met would become dear friends seeking to grow in grace and wisdom as we had.
I will never forget the knock on my door in 1987, when Sheree Philips showed up the very day the word got out that my husband Mark was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and would need a liver transplant to stay alive. Covered in flour from her usual weekly baking, she had dropped everything to come and just be with me as I processed the frightful news of my husband’s illness. Her presence and prayers that day let me know I had deeply caring friends in this body of believers. People here demonstrated love for one another, and we were the recipients of much grace and generosity.
Mark did receive a liver transplant in 1989 and miraculously lived to enjoy normal life again. However, the disease would activate after 15 years, and we were facing the need for another transplant. During this time, my job as the receptionist for this church (2002-2006) would prove to be a cushion of grace through the next declining years of Mark’s life. The people I worked with and projects I participated on were like breaths of fresh air to me. It was such a joy to come here to work and meet new people, answer the phone, receive walk-ins off the street… plus… get to work beside Mary Ech, Phoebe Lewis, Rachel Weinert, Terri Morstdat, Jane Sand, Kaua Ruttencutter, combined with the infamous facility manager, Brent Brady, which made my daily work experience sometimes feel more like we were in a segment of This is Us, or sometimes part of a Laurel & Hardy comedy! Adding to this list of endeared characters was my boss and dear friend, Tim Lewis. As church administrator, he led our admin staff, which sometimes reminded me of scenes from the Sound of Music with Captain Von Trapp. We laughed a lot!
During my husband’s second liver transplant, he would incur multiple complications and setbacks that kept him in the hospital for 11.5 months. His eventual release to home with a variety of daily needs meant I had to say good-bye to my beloved job. This is where the story gets really good! This church and my care group went above and beyond all normal benevolence for a family in need. Bekah was swamped in nursing school and Duke was a busy student at George Mason. Simon Cole became the point-man and administrator for all that the Walker family needed. He sent out prayer update emails, and with his wife Yvonne, they organized meals, house cleaning, errands, and somewhere in all of this, Greg and Rachel Weinert spearheaded the effort to collect funds and arrange for a desperately needed new washer and dryer in my home. Carol Matz made house calls with carefully selected supplements that brought comfort and quality of life to Mark’s diseased body. Many dear folks dropped off meals that weren’t even on the schedule. All over this place, people would call and come to visit and cheer up my bed-bound husband. David Hinders’ weekly visits weren’t complete until he read a passage from the Scripture, always pointing us upward to the God who is ever-present. His visits were a lifeline, not only to my husband, but also to our entire family, as well. One memorable verse he would share is from Job 23:8-10. Another hero of faith was Mark Sand. He hardly knew us. But he came and made himself a friend to my husband and me. He even figured out that if he came on Friday nights, he could sit in the bedroom with my husband which freed me up to walk out into my living room to participate in care group. This was a major treat for me! The many angels sent by God to help us are too numerous to recount here. But you should know that it was an army of faithful folks who prayed and gave in a variety of ways during those 19 months leading up to Mark’s passing in January 2008. He had become such a great and wonderful lover of Jesus. He came to see his illness as a confinement for refinement by the Lord and embraced the severe limitations that held him down. The love from this church was a blanket of grace and peace, as God became so very big to both of us.
After being a very content widow for 10 years, God surprised me with a new husband! John had been a single guy in this church for many years, though we’d never really met. Our first chat in the lobby after service one Sunday revealed that we’d been in the same first through third grade classrooms in our Catholic elementary school over in MD. What do you know! The God of providence who never slumbers nor sleeps misses nothing and delights to give good gifts to his children! We were married almost a year ago and I must say, that it has been far more wonderful than I ever could have imagined!
Over the past 36 years of being a member here, I’ve experienced joys, sorrows, and disappointments. Yet, regardless of church or family perplexities I’ve learned that God is my salvation. Waiting and trusting in him brings deep and satisfying joy during the pain of life’s many changes. This church has been my home and though many people I started out with are no longer here, the presence of the Lord is! And the happy news for me and all of us, is found in Lamentations 3:21-23
May God bless this place with an increase of unity and dedication to being built up in Christ and able to help others do the same.
8 Behold, I go forward, but he is not there,
and backward, but I do not perceive him;
9 on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him;
he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.
10 But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.