The Pastor’s Garage March 16th, 2023

In 2010, Liz and I were living in the Philippines. We’d been married less
than 2 years and Judah was only a few months old. We were busy doing lots
of things, enjoying a very fulfilling life as missionaries. Life was good.
But it would turn ugly for a few weeks in mid-January. I remember very
clearly a day driving my motorbike to an orphanage that we partnered with
called Living Stones. I had some business to do with their director who was
also the board chair of the organization we worked with. I remembered
feeling “off” as I drove my bike home in the heat, but chalked it up to the

Later that night Liz and I would both awaken to extreme cold sweats, our
bed literally drenched. We started to get severe fevers and both felt like
we had been hit with a mack truck. A day or so later we were both diagnosed
with dengue fever. A virus that you can catch from a mosquito bite. It
turned into almost 2 weeks of being extremely ill. Like a flu on steroids.
We went days on end with a high fever, no appetite, aches and pains and an
itchy rash that was almost unbearable. By the end of two weeks, I’d hardly
slept and poor little Judah was left in the crib by himself other than to
nurse… I honestly don’t know how Liz did it. I was worried about Liz, I
was worried about Judah and the lack of sleep and fever made it feel like I
was starting to lose my mind – literally, I was starting to see and think
things that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I remember kneeling by my bed
one night crying out to God for help and for strength to get through this.
I really felt like I couldn’t go on – which was probably not the case, but
that’s how I felt.

The next morning I texted my friend Lou and asked if he could come and just
sit with me. Shortly after he came bearing Pop Royal (the Filipino version
of Orange Crush) and spent some time just sitting, talking and praying with
me. It was exactly what I needed. I needed to be grounded. I needed to hear
someone else’s voice. I needed to know that things were not as dark as I
thought. I needed to know that we were not alone. I needed to be prayed
for. I needed a hug. I needed to get outside of my head and see the world a
bit differently. I needed community,

His visit was a turning point for me. It was what I prayed for. I had
prayed for strength and it came through Lou. God didn’t show up with a
legion of angels. My friend Lou showed up. God works in our lives, often
through the people he has put in our lives. Now hopefully our lives don’t
have too many moments like dengue fever might give us, but there will be
moments for many of us when we need help and support and likely God will
use people to provide those things. The question is, are we connected to
people? Do we have Christian brothers and sisters in our lives? As
imperfect a thing it may be, Sunday gatherings and things like pot-lucks
are the primary way we at least enter into community with other believers.
And when the time comes, when that phone call or helping hand is needed,
we’ll have the community we need. I believe that if we shut ourselves off
from community we shut ourselves off from one of the main ways God wants to
work in our lives and bless us.

Hebrews 10:24-25 says “And let us consider how we may spur one another on
toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in
the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see
the Day approaching.”

Our church attendance has declined since covid began. Lots of reasons why.
Some are just the natural flow of life. Some because of covid. Some of us
have gotten busy. Some of us have gotten distracted and pulled away ever
since covid started. Some of us are disgruntled and stuck looking for
negatives. Some of us wish things could be like they used to be. Some of us
have given up because we are hurt or offended. Some of us are just lazy or
priorities have changed. Whatever the case, if the enemy has pulled you
away from the community, then he is winning. He is literally disconnecting
you from a conduit of God’s blessing. Don’t let him win. If you need to
change something, do it! If you see a need a hole in what we do here – fill
it! If you don’t like something, “consider how we may spur one another on
toward love and good deeds.” You may need someone or someone may need you.
Whatever the case, DON’T GIVE UP MEETING TOGETHER, God wants to work in you
and through you.