By Rhonda Egging
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I sat in the third row, keeping my eye on the couple sitting in the first row. Dave and Lisa, entwined together like two bare root roses. Only the four of us knew the surprise.
We met Lisa a few weeks earlier, our hands lightly touching her feverish body as we begged God to allow her to live, to deliver her from her ravaging disease. We watched her come in and out of consciousness, her beautiful full face surrounded by tangled white blond hair. She looked so young and lovely, I found myself weeping along with the other intercessors.
Six months before Lisa sat in Seminary classes in Chicago. Overly tired, she sought medical help and received a diagnosis of Lupus. She took a leave of absence from her studies and flew out to the Pacific Northwest to stay with a friend in her mountain cabin.
Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease, usually strikes young childbearing age women like Lisa. We learned that Lisa’s case was particularly bad. She needed better medical attention so her friend with the cabin brought her to Portland, Oregon and that is where we met her, on deaths door.
Right before travelling to Portland, feeling like she indeed might die, Lisa telephoned a college friend named Dave. “Dave, I think I might die soon and I always wanted to marry you…what do you think?”
Dave took a leave from his job in Chicago and flew to Portland to be with Lisa. Their parents in Minnesota began planning a wedding.
Lisa started seeing a doctor and taking medication that helped relieve some of her symptoms. We got to know Dave and Lisa through pre-marital counseling. Dave seemed to want to marry Lisa no matter what. After each counseling session, I found myself in tears at their devotion for each other.
One Friday morning Dave and Lisa came to my husband’s study and said, “The Seminary health plan is cancelling Lisa’s insurance. In order for Lisa to be insured by Dave’s plan, we have to be married by Monday morning.”
The large Minnesota family wedding wasn’t for two more months. My husband said, “Well, you need a license, but if Multnomah County will grant you a license I can marry you anywhere.”
They got the license and decided they wanted to share their vows to each other with not just my husband and me in our living room but with their whole newly adopted church family.
On Saturday I bought a wedding cake, nuts, mints and punch ingredients, but we decided not to tell anyone else the plan.
Sunday morning, after the sermon, my husband called the ooey gooey couple in the front row up to the platform. I looked around, so excited I thought I might burst a blood vessel. People seemed to think Dave and Lisa were up there just to announce their engagement. Most folks in the room did not know them well, but they knew their story. They knew that Lisa was very ill and still could die soon.
Then Kent said, “Dave and Lisa please hold hands and face each other.” He pulled out his “Book of Worship” The crowd became quiet; mothers hushed their children and sat back down.
“Do you Dave, take this woman Lisa to be your lawful wife, will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her in sickness and in health, forsaking all others. Keep yourself only for her so long as you both shall live?
Dave stood holding radiant, sobbing, Lisa’s hands. His tears seemed to stream from his eyes onto his white shirt. He croaked out, “I will”.
By now every woman and most of the men sat with their own tear stained faces watching as Lisa accepted the same vows. Then Kent helped them turn to face the bride of Christ, us, the church. He said, “I have the privilege this morning, in the midst of what we all assumed would just be another normal worship service to introduce Mr. and Mrs. Dave and Lisa Hildebrand.”
What a day of celebration in the old fellowship hall. We ate cake, toasted our punch and sang the praises of what God had done and would continue to do among us for this couple.
Weddings, a time consuming hassle for most Pastors, yet they always remind us of why we accepted the call, to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a lost and sick world.
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