Helping, Serving—in the Short Term (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog –Friday, June 13, 2014

helping-the-poor-and-needy

Helping, Serving—in the Short Term (Feature Friday!)

I have a confession to make. I have never been on a short term mission trip. Not out of the country. Not in the United States (and there are plenty of places to minister here!).

But, I am fascinated by the short term mission experiences talked about by my new friend in South America, Rich Brown. The mission he helped found, IncaLink, has a tremendous outreach and ministry for groups from North America. Yes, IncaLink runs several kinds of mission outreaches in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. A primary way of ministry is touching the lives of youth in a number of ways—through youth job training and schooling, training youth in leadership skills, and bringing young people to South America in internship roles with IncaLink.

A companion ministry in IncaLink is very much linked with the work with youth: short term mission. When I hear short term mission, one thing that immediately leaps to my mind is groups of youth from various churches in North America, gearing up to go to some faraway place over spring break, or during summer vacation. IncaLink’s response? Yes! Certainly, that’s a part of their short term team mission and ministry! But that’s not all. Not by a long shot!

Any kind of team, of any description, can come to IncaLink and be sent out on a worthwhile ministry to one of IncaLink’s sites. (How awesome is that?) Not only youth groups, but teams of college young people, teams of men, or of women, groups of senior citizens, and other groups of just about any description are welcomed and put to good use. Doing service. Being kind. Seizing the opportunity that God offers to enter into relationship with God’s people.

When I spoke with Rich through Skype some days ago (I still think that technology is SO cool!), Rich told me that small group ministry is so important to IncaLink. Not only are they fully committed to providing God-inspired short term experiences, but a portion of the money that is paid to the mission helps fund further ministry. A portion of the money each short term team member pays into IncaLink is sent directly to the other ministries and outreaches that IncaLink provides for so many youth, children, women and men. I could tell how excited Rich was, as he told me about this “financial engine” that provides for so many wonderful things to be done in many locations.

Rich wanted to add that he would very much like young people—in college, in their twenties—to consider short term mission experiences. Internships, too. Longer than a week, he means! “Come and see,” he says. Come and see what worthwhile ministry is going on at the dump in Peru. Or the orphanage in Ecuador. Or women’s prison ministry, or ministry to seniors, or to special needs youth.

Come and see. Come for the love of God. Stay for the love of God’s people.

@chaplaineliza

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Helping, While Saying Good-bye!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, June 1, 2014

God makes a way

Helping, While Saying Good-bye!

It is difficult to say good-bye. Transition is a constant, and a necessary part of life. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it!

My friend and colleague, Pastor Gordon, preached and celebrated his last service at the church where I am working. Today. He is moving into another specialized ministry with his denomination, where he can use both his ministerial credentials as well as his real estate broker’s license. It sounds quite exciting, and I wish him the very best!

But—that leaves me as the solo interim pastor. Exciting! Gasp! Yes! I can certainly preach, and do pastoral care for the congregation; facilitate and teach bible studies, and lead in worship, singing and prayer in the service each week. I’ve been doing each of these things for years, one or two at a time. However, this is the next step. A new position, where I need to do all of these things at once, plus church administration. As I said before, exciting! And daunting . . .

Gordon has been a wonderful colleague. Experienced, positive, savvy, almost a cross between a sage, an encourager, and a cheerleader. During the past few months, he has coached me in how to serve this congregation fully, and I have appreciated his every suggestion. (I also have thanked him so much for his cautions and corrections! And believe me, I need them. On a regular basis.)

A few days ago, as we sat in the pastor’s office and had one of our last meetings together, Gordon mentioned he felt like Elijah, passing on his ministry to Elisha. (Gosh, if Gordon is casting himself as Elijah, I guess that makes me the other guy—I mean, Elisha.) I laughed, and I was only half-joking when I made the quick come-back, “Well, I sure hope you give me a double portion of your skill in administration, and especially with people!” (Maybe I was more than half-serious, now I come to consider it.)

I have Gordon’s blessing, as well as his dedication in front of the congregation at the end of the service today. He dedicated me for my work at the church and with the congregation, and he also dedicated the president of the congregation, too. I so appreciate his prayers and good wishes. “As long as she is needed,” were Gordon’s words. They will stick in my mind, that is for sure.

So, how did I help Gordon? For the past few months, I was the best colleague that I could be! I know I work well in tandem with people, and especially as a second fiddle. But now, with Gordon’s encouragement and help, I’m moving into the first fiddle position. Wow! I think I am ready. (Gordon says I am! And I respect his knowledge and understanding of human nature very much.) So, I am ready to take up the mantle. Gordon (and his ministry) is a hard act to follow! But, God willing, I can go forward. Lead this congregation. With God’s help, and with the prayers and encouragement of this flock, and my dear friends and prayer partners.

God, thanks for sticking close, right by my side. You and I make a great team, too!

@chaplaineliza

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Helping? Serving? At the Dump. (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, May 30, 2014

BK wherever there is a human

Helping? Serving? At the Dump. (Feature Friday!)

It’s hard to believe that the month of May is ending. And, another Feature Friday is at hand!

A good friend of mine—Alison—and I InstantMessaged each other several weeks ago. She had some good things to say about one of the Year of Being Kind posts, and I thanked her. She and her husband Ivan had been missionaries to Peru for some years, and now they are back in the Chicago area. While in conversation, I asked whether she knew of any ministries outside of the United States that really touched her heart. Her response? “Really good friend of ours, Rich and Elisa Brown founded IncaLink, which is in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.” Alison gave me their email, and I contacted them. Now, we’re connected! And once I found out about their work, I was really touched and impressed, too!

This multi-faceted ministry called IncaLink is not only a caring, helping hand offered to many of the poorest of the poor, it’s also a ministry for the 21st century. Using the tools of social media, Rich Brown (one of the founders) and others who work with him get the important, sharing, caring message of IncaLink out through YouTube videos, Facebook and Twitter. IncaLink’s work also pulls at heartstrings, because much of their ministry involves bettering the lives of women, children, and families.

Rich sent me all kinds of information to start with. More than a dozen avenues of ministry, in three different countries. But I’d like to zero in on one particular ministry, one of the first places where IncaLink concentrated their efforts: a dump some distance north of Lima, in the outskirts of Trujillo, Peru. Some of the poorest of the poor live on the premises of the dump. They eat, sleep and work at the dump, and this place encompasses their whole lives.

Truly heartrending, the idea of people living, working and dying at the dump brought the three founding members of IncaLink to action in 2006. IncaLink has grown and diversified since, but the ministry at the dump remains a foundation for their work. They not only share the love of God with these loving people at the dump—God’s children, no matter where they may be found—but one of their specific ministries is to the children and youth at the dump. They provide a way out, getting the children out of the dump and into school and into jobs and workplaces to better the lives of them and their families. But perhaps most important? IncaLink offers them and their families the good news of the love of God.

Not only do full-time missionaries work with the good people in the dump (and in the other areas IncaLink serves), but they also have short-term teams and individuals who work in special projects and specific areas. What a wonderful way to get immersed in a culture and a worldview that can change your life. Literally.

For further information, check out this video about the dump: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3O-jh81kDI&list=PL67F8C2BC59CCE665  (And, want to contact IncaLink? www.incalink.org )

@chaplaineliza

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Be Prepared! Oh, and Be Kind, Too!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, May 20, 2014

you have a great smile

Be Prepared! Oh, and Be Kind, Too!

Today was a day to get things done. Two meetings accomplished, some computer work done, a bible study prepared, and some telephone calls made. Oh, and since it was Tuesday, I read to the preschoolers, too!

I noticed, too, that today was also a day of preparation. Preparing the bulletin for next Sunday’s service. Preparing the bible study for tomorrow, when I’ll have the opportunity to lead and facilitate the midweek bible study group. Both of my meetings were in preparation for various phases of ministry around the church. And two of my telephone calls were setting up other things around the church—other ways of preparing to be helpful in ministry.

I am getting into the swing of things around here. It seems that I am becoming more comfortable with the general day-to-day activities. However, I do not want to get too comfortable. If I do, then God tends to step in and gently (or sometimes not-so-gently!) shake things up. Occasionally, I’ve noticed that God will tend to shake me up. That’s okay, because the last thing in the world that I want to do is to get complacent! But still, it is disconcerting to get shaken up, even by God.

I have been praying regularly that God send me opportunities to be of service. I am aware that my sometimes-prayer to God is being answered, day by day. Sometimes in common, everyday kinds of ways (like when I smile at someone, and they thank me sincerely for my friendly smile!), and on occasion, in significant ways (like when I report on Feature Fridays, about the innovative and particular kinds of ministries to the hungry, the poor, the abused, the depressed ones in our world).

God keeps sending these opportunities to me. I keep fielding them, and keep on trying to be faithful. That’s it. I honestly try to be faithful to what God has for me to do. I know there are organizations in this world that try to do something, or try to be kind, or try to be of service. That’s wonderful! I encourage each one to find something that is meaningful to them, and do it with all their might! Or, perhaps some might want to find some outreach that is fulfilling and kind, and get fully behind it!

This search for acts of service, this Year of Being Kind is giving me far greater dividends than I ever expected. Even down to the personal gratitude, caring and appreciation that comes from getting out of myself and giving to others.

So, on top of everything else, was this a day of introspection? Yes. And, I pray it was a day of service to others. (And to myself.) God, I wonder what you’ll send my way tomorrow?

@chaplaineliza

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Serving, Being Kind—Near or Far! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, May 8, 2014

make a dfference in someone's life www.sakks.org

Serving, Being Kind—Near or Far!

Faraway places! Exotic locales! Gosh, you might think I was talking about a South Sea island, or Darkest Africa, or a way station on the Silk Road. Frankly, I was thinking about London. Faraway? If we’re talking from Chicago, yes! Exotic? In terms of the cross-section of cultures, ethnicities, religious backgrounds, and just about any other difference or variety anyone can think of? Yup.

London City Mission is positioned right in the heart of that urban, cross-section of cultures, reaching out in the name of Christ, yes! However, they reach out with “a cup of cold water,” too, especially in LCM’s ministry to the poor, the homeless, the marginalized, the immigrant population. Working with people from all over London? Yes, community outreach and prison ministry, too. Coming from places not many people are aware of, these dear, beloved, invisible individuals are exactly that: dear and beloved in God’s eyes, as well as in the eyes of the London City Mission.

The Director of London City Mission is now a “follower” of mine on Twitter! Me? I’ve “followed” Graham for several months on Twitter, so I “followed” first. For whatever that’s worth. <grin> I honestly appreciate what Graham (@WindyLondon) and LCM are trying to do. Each one is striving to live out the Great Commission, as well as living out social justice, in a variety of ways and methods. I’ve been reading about some vignettes in LCM’s quarterly magazine. (And a well-put-together magazine it is, too! I have some idea of what I speak, since my husband is a senior editor for a trade magazine.)

A specific niche in ministry at London City Mission, and one that resonates with me deeply, is chaplaincy. Some chaplains work at (for?) LCM. Transport? Busses? Yes, there are chaplains for fast-moving London. Other chaplains cover emergency services. Not only for the good people in trauma, grief and distress, but also the emergency responders. Doctors, nurses, police offiers, emergency workers. And then, there is ‘regular’ hospital chaplaincy. The LCM covers that, too.

I read in one of Graham’s blog posts (from Feb 28, 2014) that “we show Christian love, we share Christian hope, and we do so without conditions. We have a message of Good News and hope that the whole world needs to hear. Good News of sins forgiven, of grace to the undeserving, of love for the unlovely, freedom for the prisoner, hope of a new beginning for the addict.”

Sometimes, I have the sneaking wish I could jump in to ministry with LCM, using the faithful training in chaplaincy, recovery counseling, pastoral care—and preaching!—I received here in the Chicago area. Whatever, wherever God wants me to be of service, I pray that I may listen and respond. I pray for the same listening, responding hearts for my readers, too. God willing!

@chaplaineliza

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Serving by Housekeeping—or Rather, Maintenance?

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, April 21, 2014

KIND another one kind word

Serving by Housekeeping—or Rather, Maintenance?

I went to work this morning. Quite a common thing to do, for many people. Going to work, that is. I am still getting used to my workplace, and everything involved with it. I very much like it! However, there are a lot of parts and pieces to my job. I need to get up to speed in more than the areas of pastoral care, preaching and music ministry. And, that’s a necessary thing. A good thing.

Say, administration and office work. I know how to do a lot of that, in other contexts. Just not in this specific church, in this particular suburb. I know each place has different idiosyncrasies, so it’s a good idea for me to familiarize myself with as much of the office as I can. And perhaps, I can suggest some things that might be helpful to the functioning of the office and organization. Or if you like, helpful to the ministry of the church and the congregation.

I asked some questions today about operations and maintenance, too! I know that some people would think certain questions might be silly. However, I’ve found I am usually beyond feeling shy or embarrassed at asking most questions. When I was a teenager, even into my twenties, I used to be shy and awkward. I might have those tendencies even now, but I am able to laugh about my occasional stumbles and missteps. It’s okay! Really, it is. Most people slip up sometimes. Or even more often than that. Like I said, it’s okay.

Thinking about the bible verse I chose for April, I could easily apply it to today’s activities. A verse from Colossians, verse 3:23. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” I don’t need to concern myself with what human beings think of me and my work. Instead, my first priority is to stay focused on God. If I try to please God, that’s the main thing.

Since I need to brush up on my church administration skills and activities, I do need to find out more about the office. Talking with informative and helpful people—like the head of the trustees, and the church treasurer—is a great way for me to orient myself to all things. And, I hope that activities at my workplace continue to go smoothly.

I know I want the best for my workplace. I also know I will try to be conscientious, kind and cheerful in my work and ministry. Will this be hard? Without a doubt. Will this job be rewarding? I know so, in many cases. I hope and pray that I will do my best—as Colossians 3:23 recommends. And not just at work, but in every area of my life.

What about you? Is there an area or a person you’re not sure about? Why not try some prayer? God will lead each of us. Whenever, wherever you or I go. God will be right there, by our side. That’s a promise.

@chaplaineliza

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(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com Shortlink:

Roll Up My Sleeves and Serve!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, March 29, 2014

 

today I woke up

Roll Up My Sleeves and Serve!

I haven’t been as active in serving in the past few years. That was one reason why I think God (as I understand God) nudged me to get more active and to serve with intentionality. I know, I have this year, in a number of different ways. However, I took the opportunity to roll up my sleeves this afternoon. Not metaphorically, but in actuality. I served food at the Community Kitchen of A Just Harvest.

I am a member at St. Peter’s UCC Church in Skokie. So when the pastor sent out a last-minute email request to a group of people, I said “Yes!” Yes, with eagerness! Since this was a month with a fifth Saturday, it is St. Peter’s turn to serve. I was one of nine people who went to serve a hot dinner! The pastor, Rev . Richard Lanford, led the serving team and said grace over the dinner tonight.

A number of years before this, I was much more active in ministries like this—especially when I lived further south in central Chicago. I was a volunteer youth worker and music ministry worker at Austin Messiah Evangelical Lutheran Church for five years during the 1980’s. I lived only a few blocks from the North Austin neighborhood of Chicago. I suppose I was naively over-confident as I went in and out of that church, walked the streets, and went in and out of several members’ houses close by. It was not exactly the safest area of the city. Nevertheless, I did a great deal of worthwhile ministry in those years!

As I moved into my thirties, I still served and did ministry in the Austin area, although I had changed churches. Changed ministries, too. I moved much more into missions, and served as volunteer communications coordinator. Was very happy, too! But, Stephen Ministry and then seminary happened. I branched out into preaching. And being a chaplain, for some years. (Anyone follow me on Twitter? My Twitter handle is @chaplaineliza. <grin>)

However, God seems to be nudging me back into direct service with people. On the front lines of service, where I was in my twenties.
I enjoyed myself tonight! It felt deep-down good to do what I could at the Community Kitchen. I put cookies and fruit on plates, helping to fill hungry stomachs in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. I appreciated the hard work of the staff in the kitchen, DJ as supervisor of the serving area and front end, and Tonya as supervisor of the dining area. And David Crawford, the Director of Food Service? He’s got a great operation there. Everything worked like clockwork. I have a huge amount of respect for him, and the wonderful work A Just Harvest does, on a regular basis.

Sure, I was people-watching, too. Just in case I knew any of these dear people who came to eat at the Community Kitchen. I don’t think I did recognize anyone, but it could happen.

Every day brings something interesting, that’s for sure. I wonder what God will send me tomorrow?

@chaplaineliza
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A Diaper Pantry? What a Way to Be Kind! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog –Friday, March 28, 2014

diaper babies dancing

diaper babies dancing

A Diaper Pantry? What a Way to Be Kind! (Feature Friday!)

We hear about people losing jobs, the loss of homes and apartments, lack of money for decent clothes, no shoes that fit properly, choice of utilities or necessary medications. Let’s look more closely at certain families at risk, with very little money. Like, for instance, parents with babies and toddlers. Sure, some of these people are trying very hard to make ends meet, scrimping and cutting corners everywhere they can. But ever think about where they find the extra money for a very real, daily necessity—diapers?

The congregation at First United Methodist Church in Evanston has a solution that will help in this difficult situation: a ministry called Bundled Blessings. This ministry provides diapers to people in need by giving collected diapers to partner agencies in the Evanston area. And in turn, these agencies distribute the donated diapers to those in great need. This ministry is recent. It just started in September 2013, when it held its first diaper drive. They collected enough disposable diapers for 30 small children and brought the collected diapers to two agencies in October, just a few months ago. This spring, Bundled Blessings added a third partner agency. They plan to provide 50 diapers to several dozen babies and toddlers per month.

But why diapers? What makes that need so urgent?

I can relate. When my husband and I had our second child, neither of us had a secure job—for several years. We had a difficult time finding money for the necessities—for many, many months. I can remember sometimes being really inventive. Like putting our daughter into the bathtub for an extended bath in the evening. That way, I could possibly save a disposable diaper that day, and only use six per day, instead of seven. I can empathize with moms today who cut corners so closely. Their babies and toddlers wear diapers longer than usual. Parents and other caregivers sometimes scrub disposable diapers so they could even be used a second time. This sad circumstance means that so many little bottoms are more often exposed to possible irritation and diaper rash. In short, little bottoms are just plain uncomfortable!

Here in Illinois, the LINK card (formerly known as the Food Stamp program) cannot be used to buy disposable diapers. So, low-income parents and caregivers need to find another way to get this necessity. Bundled Blessings fills a much needed gap. Thank God for this new ministry, helping these local partner agencies to make certain babies and toddlers have one of the necessities of life: diapers.
If anyone would like more information, check out First United Methodist’s website, http://www.faithatfirst.com and you can contact: bundledblessings@faithatfirst.com or bundledblessings@outlook.com .

@chaplaineliza
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Are You Being Served? (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, March 14, 2014

Toronto cafe interior - watercolor by Wilfrid

Toronto cafe interior – watercolor by Wilfrid

Are You Being Served? (Feature Friday!)

Imagine a place where young people are valued. Mentored. Taught not only what to do on the job, but how to manage life skills, as well. Imagine no longer—this place is for real, and it’s Curt’s Café, in Evanston, Illinois. This café and coffee shop in north Evanston has a mission to “equip at-risk youth (15 to 22 years old) with job and life skills through training, career coaching and mentoring.”

Worthy goals, you say? That’s not all. The training and support these young people receive help them to succeed in life, find worthwhile employment, and become active participants in their local community. These young men and women are not always the first choice for general employment, because of a brush with the legal system. Or, they haven’t had the opportunities that other youth often take for granted. Those are things that usually are a red flag to employers. However, the staff and director at Curt’s Café go out of their way to provide these young people (“at risk”) with fine opportunities. Careful training by food service professionals. Mentoring in positive, helpful life skills. Gainful employment.

I had the opportunity to talk today with Susan Trieschmann, Curt’s Café’s executive director. She said one of the most transformative things about working at the Café is watching the transformations happen in the lives of the young people. And she not only watches the youth working and training at the Café, but also watches the interactions of the patrons with the staff.  Susan marvels at the patience of the patrons, and talks about observing them “dig deep down and grab the patience from somewhere inside.”

She gave a recent example. A good-hearted recent hire at the Café was serving breakfast to a father and daughter. The young man messed the order up. He not only messed up, but he has issues with shyness. Messing up the order made his shyness even more apparent. Susan observed the daughter encouraging the staff member and letting him know that it was all right. People mess up. And that just happens sometimes.

Penny Doyle, fundraising manager for the Café, is touched by transformation, too. She watches the young women and men become more confident as they continue to grow in learning at the Café. Learning not only about the restaurant and food service business, but about life in general. She especially has gratitude for the incredible community support. Penny encourages anyone who would like to contact the Café to check out their Facebook page or contact them at www.curtscafe.org. And donations are a wonderful thing, as well!

The patrons, by and large, realize and fully support the mission of Curt’s Café; they have a great capacity for willing understanding. Even active encouragement!  Susan, who attends classes on a part-time basis at Catholic Theological Union, is fully committed to the mission of the Café. This ministry is a visible, tangible way for restorative justice to be lived out. Lived out locally, in our community, praise God.

@chaplaineliza

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Be Kind? Improvise! I Mean, Innovate!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pray Pray Pray 1 Thess

Be Kind? Improvise! I Mean, Innovate!

I certainly have done quite a number of things in the past three decades. In the church, I mean. Anywhere from teaching Sunday school to driving the church bus. Leading junior church, or substituting as organist,  to being a Stephen minister. Or sitting on the missionary committee to serving as director of Vacation Bible School. And those are just a few of the positions or ministries I did before I started seminary. During and since graduation I moved into a whole different level of service.

God has gifted me with quite a number of gifts and graces. I certainly acknowledge that I have always enjoyed whatever I have done in the church. God has tapped me on the shoulder quite a number of times, too. I’ve risen to the occasion, pretty much wherever or whenever I am (or was) needed. I have come to think of myself as a jack-of-all-trades, since that is what I’ve been. A generalist, not a specialist. (Although I do have a couple of areas of specialty now, true enough. But this post isn’t about them. Maybe a later post will be.)

But let’s get to the point of this post. Enough with the background, you’re thinking.

I am a great partner in ministry! I’ve been doing service for a long enough time to realize that I work well in cooperation or in partnership with other people. Take the prayer ministry I am coordinating at the church where I’m a member. Sure, I coordinate the emails, and keep track of the prayer requests and praises. I readily admit that without the faithful praying people who receive the prayer emails and pray through them each week, the prayer ministry would fizzle and dry up.

I know that God is honored through the prayer ministry. I have also had people come up to me (out of the blue!) and bring me requests. Sometimes urgent requests, as well. I know I’ve mentioned them in at least one recent post, too. Of course my chaplain skills come to the fore, at a time like this. Also my Stephen training. And I can think of the material I studied in several seminary classes which would be applicable, too.

Yes, it is a joy and a responsibility to need to step up to the plate, especially when I don’t even know it’s coming. When something sneaks up and hits a person out of left field, in other words. I am so glad I am there to help them get through the difficult time, or the surgery and rehab, or the expected death, or whatever else might be some burden the other person is carrying. This evening, I had the privilege to pray for a frightened person after a confirmation of a disease from the doctor. This dear person is afraid and anxious. So, of course I will add this name to the prayer email!

Dear God, thank You for the grace and mercy with which You hear all of our earnest prayers. We especially pray for this dear one I just found out about tonight. Dear Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayers.

@chaplainelizagrace