It is important to tell good news stories of people finding care and community in the church. The following story is an example of how this can and has happened in the life of one church. The names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
The Siparia family had been part of a house church gathering for nearly two years and in that time they had seen a number of challenges. They had been loved and supported through the death of the grandfather of the family and then they struggled with poor health of their grandma. Connections Christian Church in Calgary became a surrogate family for these immigrants from Trinidad.
Grandma Renata developed a serious infection in her foot that reduced circulation and threatened her life. The doctors suggested that the foot would need to be amputated. The church community began to pray that God might save the foot, and for a while it looked like God had answered that prayer. The doctors felt that with a little more antibiotic treatment and hydrotherapy they could prevent an amputation. The church rejoiced. However, a few days later the doctors determined that the therapy was not making enough of a difference and that the amputation would need to be performed to save Renata’s life.
This challenged the faith of all in the group, but our daughter, a 15-year-old at the time, expressed it best when she said, “It feels like God is teasing us!” “It looked like God was going to answer our prayer for healing and then He didn’t.” Renata, a woman of great faith, taught my daughter, me, and indeed our entire community a great deal when she said, “If we look at the Bible we see that many people had trials and tribulations. Why would we not expect the same? I have already said good-bye to this foot. I will have a new one in heaven.”
The Sunday evening after Renata returned home from the hospital her family still wanted us to have church in their home. Her bed was in one corner of the living room to allow her to function on the main level of the house. As she sat up and told us her story of faith and what God had been teaching her through these experiences, she was surrounded by 30 attentive people who wanted to hear a message from God. Children, teens, young adults, and middle-aged adults listened intently. The Holy Spirit spoke through the Bible and through the life of this committed believer that evening. She gave us hope for a good future in the midst of the temporary struggles of this life.
Because Renata was in the process of immigrating to Canada, she did not yet have medical coverage for the hospital bills which added up to more than $40,000. Renata’s house church family (and some from the broader house church network) gave more than $13,000 to a trust fund to help with these medical expenses. After the initial payments were made the group continued to walk with the family as they worked through the immigration process and made payments on the remaining bills.
Why do I say that it is important to tell stories like this? I meet many people who tell me that they are Christians and follow Jesus but they have quit attending any form of church. They think that they can be Christians on their own. But stories like this show the importance of being together in community. It is possible that God might have met the needs of this family if they did not attend a church; but, because they were a part of a Christian community many people were able to think through significant issues and learn how to follow God in good times and in bad. God worked through this committed group of believers and showed the power of love and community.