A year-and-a-half ago, my family of five and I followed Jesus up to Vancouver, British Columbia, where my husband would serve on staff at a local church. Our hearts were filled with a flurry of emotions in our first few weeks on mission with the Lord in Canada, after saying “see you later” to our friends and family back in Tennessee.
On our first Sunday at the church, I was warmly greeted by Cathy as she and her husband Jim were walking into worship. Before long, I noticed that Cathy and Jim’s attendance was infrequent and soon learned that Cathy had been in a 10-year, downward descent into Parkinson’s Disease. Several of the longtime members of the church told my husband and me about Cathy and Jim’s many years at the church, about Cathy’s brilliant wit, Jim’s never-ending warmth and energy, and their 20 years of marriage ministry together.
The couple I saw here and there on Sundays seemed so different from the descriptions of them. I began to wonder who they were today and, as a pastor’s wife, I wanted to know how their souls were doing.
Weeks passed as we got adjusted to our new lives in a new country, and I began to sense the Holy Spirit bringing Cathy to mind, reminding me that I could reach out to her and ask if she’d be interested in getting to know one another better. It was also widely known how tired Jim had become from serving as her primary caretaker in their home, so I hoped my visits would be an opportunity for him to get some time to refresh.
I began to sense the Holy Spirit bringing Cathy to mind, reminding me that I could reach out to her and ask if she’d be interested in getting to know one another better.
I started visiting Cathy nearly every week. It was obvious from the beginning that both Cathy and Jim were really struggling, often irritated at one another, short in their statements to one another. Cathy began to open up to me about her frustrations with not only Jim’s treatment of her but also her own behaviors toward him. She eventually shared that because of the progression of the disease, she felt like she was completely losing herself, the Cathy even she had known and loved. Tears fell like the Vancouver rain, which is frequent indeed, in our heart-to-hearts.
One day in preparation for my visit with Cathy, it occurred to me that because of her health, neither she nor Jim were able to participate in our community groups’ study of The Person of Jesus. Remembering that the book, Love Walked Among Us, is a summary of the study, I packed up a copy and brought it with me to Cathy’s. What took place in the following weeks was much grander than I could have ever planned or expected!
As I showed up week after week, Cathy eagerly entered into my reading of the book. She began taking notes with pen and paper, which is no small feat for someone affected by Parkinson’s. Having experienced how impactful this study of the person of Jesus is, I always have a pile of copies of the book to give away, and I gave Cathy one. Not many weeks into our study, Cathy shared the book with Jim, and it became their daily devotional together.
The next time I came for a visit, Jim welcomed me with an uncommon exuberance — a kind of light as it were — that made me curious about what was going on. As I settled in with Cathy, Jim joined us and expressed profuse thanks for sharing the book. He joyfully declared, “Misha, this is a marriage book!” as he explained how the study of Jesus’ love was transforming his relationship with Cathy. In the weeks after that, I noticed a continued warmth, indeed love, between the two, and they both regularly shared what they’d been learning about Jesus with one another. Often my visits with Cathy would turn into fellowship among the three of us as they wanted to spend more time together.
In December of last year, Jim and Cathy celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. My husband and I were so honored to be invited to a small celebration they organized. I’ve never seen Jim and Cathy beam so beautifully with the love of God as they shared with the whole group about what they were learning about that love. Jim teared up many times during the evening explaining that, advanced in years as he is, he was still learning how to love his wife with the steadfast love of the Lord and encouraging every person present that Jesus is our template for how to love one another.
My own heart overflowed that evening, realizing that out of the abundance of what Jesus had shown me about himself through The Person of Jesus Study and through following the Holy Spirit’s lead in sharing that with others, the rivers of living water were flowing on and on and on.