Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Pearl of a Funeral

Remember our series last March on heaven (The WOW Factor…World of Wonder)? On the Sunday of that series that we talked about the 12 gates around the wall of the New Jerusalem each being each made of one gigantic pearl, we gave out a white bead to everyone in attendance that resembled a pearl. We asked them that week to carry the bead in their pocket wherever they went as a reminder that the best is yet to come.

The wife of one of the newer young couples that attends our church works at a retirement village. She came to know one of the residents there who was failing in health. His name was Barry Shuler. He had trusted Christ but was really struggling with being scared to die. She took him into her office and had him watch all 3 messages of the WOW series online. God greatly used these messages in his life to give him peace and help prepare him for eternity. In fact, Barry shared with her that he was disappointed that he did not get one of those pearls we handed out in church that morning.

Barry wanted to come to our church so every Sunday since then this young woman and her husband would drive a good distance out of their way to pick him up for church. He loved attending Grace. During the week he would get on the computer in this woman’s office and listen to all the archived sermons on our website.

A few weeks back Barry took a turn for the worst and I was called. When I arrived at the nursing home I was able to meet most all of his family for the first time that were around his bed. I chatted with them for a few minutes about how Barry started coming to our church and how he could not get enough of the messages. I then bent down and read parts of John 14 and Revelation 21 to Barry as he clutched my hand.

After I prayed for Barry, I began to talk with his family about the WOW series. I was reminded that Barry was always disappointed that he never received one of those pearls that we gave out. I then shared with the family what the Bible taught about the pearly gates of heaven and why we gave out the beads. As I talked about those pearls, Barry sat straight up in bed with a huge smile on his face. His family was astounded. Barry had shown little responsiveness all day. But when we talked about those pearly gates – he got excited! I returned the next day for a second visit and brought Barry one of those fake pearls. His family made a little pouch for it and pinned it to his robe. Before I left, I said good-bye to Barry and told him that the next time I saw him it would be at those pearly gates! He smiled.

Last Saturday morning I had the privilege of preaching Barry’s funeral and I spoke about haven and the pearly gates. The pouch with the pearl in it was inside Barry’s pocket in the casket. After I told the story of the pearl, I gave everyone who was in attendance one of those fake pearls to take with them. Handing out beads representing pearls that Sunday morning back in March may have seemed like just a man-made gimmick to some, but to Barry it was a teaching tool that God used to help calm his fear of death and to make him look forward to heaven. It also became a bridge of ministry for me to his family.

No comments: