Jim hung up the telephone and lowered his head in prayer. “Lord, please give me the strength to endure these calls.”
He held his breath for a brief moment, hoping to hear a response. There was no voice, no rush of wind blowing through the curtains, no lightening. Just silence.
With a sigh, Jim found the next name in the church directory. There were 87 entries in all. Gordon Hanks was next on the list. Gordon and Charlene had been attending church there for 7 years. When they were having marital problems, they had come to the office for counseling. When their daughter had been hospitalized with appendicitis, the Pastor stayed for hours waiting for the surgery to end, praying and comforting her parents. Jim knew this would be the most difficult call of all.
He took a deep breath and dialed the number.
“Gordon, it’s Jim Franklin.”
The lively response caught Jim off-guard. “Hey Jim! How are ya’ buddy?”
“Gordon, I’m afraid I have some bad news. Pastor Steve was killed early this morning in a car accident.” The previous 28 calls had taught Jim that it was best to simply say it, straightforward, no dancing, just say it.
Jim waited for a response from Gordon, letting the news sink in. He had expected the same response he had gotten from the others he had called, a deep inhale followed by a loud, exploding cry. But the silence was long and more than Jim could stand.
“Jim, I’m so sorry. I know how close you were. How are you doing? Are you ok?”
Was he ok? Jim was surprisingly uncertain how to answer that. Steve’s wife, Judy, had called Jim at 7 a.m. that morning. Steve had left the house early to go hunting and was hit by a sleepy driver who had crossed the yellow line into on-coming traffic. Steve was killed instantly. From the moment he heard those words, Jim thought about everyone else. He thought about Judy and their daughter, Dana - how their lives would change. He thought about Steve’s parents who had come for a visit just a month before - they beamed with pride over their son. And he thought about the lives Steve had touched, the congregation that came to hear his words every Sunday, those who came to him for counseling, the elders who leaned on his wisdom and direction. Steve was respected. He was loved. And Jim wanted those who attended church regularly to hear the news from him. He didn’t want them to read it in Sunday’s paper. He didn’t want them to hear it when they walked into the church. He wanted them to know that Steve had loved them. Sitting at the desk in Steve’s office, Jim opened the church directory, picked up the telephone and began calling them one-by-one.
Not once had Jim thought about the hole that was left in his own life. Jim had been the Assistant Pastor under Steve for 9 years. He was his friend, his confidant. Jim had found himself in Steve’s office time and time again sharing his deepest secrets, only to find Steve taking him straight to the Lord in prayer and scripture. They shared holidays together. Steve had even thrown a surprise dinner party for Jim’s last birthday. He was the most faithful and trustworthy person Jim knew. And now he was gone.
“Am I ok?” He thought, “Am I?”
“No, Gordon, I don’t think I am. I’ve been so concerned about everyone else that I didn’t stop to think about how much I’m going to miss him.”
As the tears streamed down Jim’s face, Gordon began to pray for comfort and wisdom.
Jim hung up the telephone and again lowered his head, “Lord, thank you for giving me the strength to endure these calls.”
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