Saturday, February 21, 2015

Bethel....A Place Where I Met God

I asked her how many? She said she lost count a long time ago. Her daughters both chimed in, “Over 200.” She had provided a home for over 200 foster kids over the course of the last 20+ years. Over 200!!! I’m sure in the beginning she had never dreamed of being “mom” to that many kids. But there was this one child that needed a mom and she started there. Then there was another, and another, and another.

I knew much of Donna Myer’s story as over the years she had shared much of it with me. But, during this pastoral visit in the hospital I learned so much more. We talked about how she walked away from a good paying job, cleaned out her savings and retirement fund to move with her husband, Terrell, to the country to build a home not just for themselves but for kids who needed a home. They purchased acreage on Bethel Road and their home became known as Bethel Ranch. Bethel means, "house of God,” “holy place,” “the place where I met God.” It was their dream to build a place where young people would have an encounter with God. A place where the hurting could meet the Healer. A place where the lost could find the Savior. A place where those in turmoil could find peace and those in bondage could find freedom. A place where those who were rejected could find love and acceptance.

They didn’t wait til they saved up lots of money so they could build a massive house with lots of rooms. They started with what they had. They had a couple of extra rooms, so they took in children who needed a home. Then they added more rooms and took in more children who needed a home. Their vision was to create a place that could be home to up to 120 children. That vision has yet to be completely realized, but they refused to allow what they did not have to keep them from using what they did have.

When they began, Donna and Terrell agreed to simply be foster parents and not to adopt any of the children. But, then there was this one girl and boy early on who changed that. They couldn’t bear the thought of them being placed somewhere else, so they adopted them. Through the years, they would adopt others. To be honest, if Donna could have figured out a way to adopt them all, I think she would have. She was a momma and couldn’t stand the thought of any child growing up without a momma.

When her husband died, Donna didn’t retreat. She didn’t shut things down. She just kept taking in kids who needed a momma. She spent her life pouring it out for those who were in need. Over the last couple of years, she has been struggling physically, yet she kept at it. She continued pouring out herself for others. In recent months, her body had become riddled with cancer and physically she started to decline. I awakened this morning to the news that she had gone on to be with the Lord. I was praying this day would not come. I was believing God for a miracle. Afterall, this world needed her. Montgomery, Texas needed her. Bethel Ranch needed Donna Myers. I didn't want to face the reality that her kingdom business just might be about completed.  

I remember one of the final conversations I had with her at the hospital. I asked her if she was scared. She chuckled and then looked me square in the eye and said, “Oh, no I’m not afraid to die.” She was completely ready to meet Jesus and that bothered me. It bothered me from an earthly perspective. It bothered me in a selfish way. What I’m trying to say is I wasn’t ready for Donna to go. I wasn’t ready to release her. I’ve made enough of these visits to the hospital through the years, however, to know when somebody has about finished their race. I left that night with the selfish wish that she would run just a few more miles. I prayed on the way home for God to give her the strength to fight but deep down I knew that Donna was closing in on her finish line and I struggled with that. She had spent her life pouring it out as an offering before the Lord, and she had run her race, she had finished the course. She was okay with a miracle of healing, but she was equally okay with going on the meet Jesus.

I, like so many others, am better off having met Donna. My life will never be the same. Her life served as a model to us all of how Christ intended for us to live our lives. “No greater love has any man than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” Donna lived this out better than anyone I know. She laid down her life a living sacrifice before the Lord. Donna loved much and she loved many. She lived a life worthy of the One who sacrificed all to give her life. She left this world empty having poured herself out completely.  She left absolutely nothing on the table. Her life serves as an inspiration to me and everyone else she met.

I shed some tears this morning and I’m sure over the course of the next few days I’ll shed a lot more. I mourn with all those who mourn her loss, yet I am happy.  I'm happy that throughout the course of my life, I had the awesome privilege of getting to know Donna.  I'm happy having been impacted by this incredible woman of God.  But more than anything, I am happy that today, this woman of God who created a place called Bethel for so many others, arrived in heaven to find created for her, a place called Bethel.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Every Street Needs A Mrs. Berlehner

It's been around 30 years since I heard her standing in her front yard screaming at one of her boys, but that voice is imbedded in my mind forever.  Though sometimes that scream might be in anger, often it was just her animated personality out there for the world to see and hear.  She, along with her husband and three boys moved to my neighborhood when I was a kid.  They were different.  They were from New York.  They talked funny.  They pronounced the letter "r" funny and added the letter "r" to the end of words that didn't have an "r."

They were the Berlehners.  And through the years, we all became really close.  Kind of like family, I guess.  No, we didn't go on vacations together and I don't ever recall spending the night at each other's house.  Yet, we did life together. We kids roamed the street like we owned every inch of it. Man, that time of my life was an absolute blast. To be honest, I'm pretty sure we could right a book called the adventures of Phyllis Ct. and it would be a best seller (hmm....maybe I'll write it).   My mom was in charge of security on her end of the street and Mrs. Berlehner handled her end.  You've heard of "soccer moms?" Well, they were "street moms" and they made sure things were in order. Neither one had an issue with getting on to any of us kids if we got out of line.  It was a safe place to grow up. A safe place because of parents like ours who parented. Parents who peaked out the window to make sure all was good.  Parents who walked outside to see what their kids were up to. Parents who lived with the philosophy that if you mess with their kids, you are gonna have to mess with them. And parents who had no problem taking us to our parents when we got out of line.       

I haven't seen the Berlehners in years.  Until tonight.  And as so often is the case, reunions like this take place at funeral homes.  Mrs. Berlehner went to be with the Lord a few days ago.  I was so saddened to hear the news of her passing.  My mind immediately went back to those days during the 70s and 80s growing up down the street from this woman.  She was a hoot.  Full of life.  A New Yorker to the core.  She raised three boys of her own, but she played a part in raising many more during those days on Phyllis Ct.  She had an opinion about everything and made sure you knew it.  She kept me in stitches most of the time by just being herself.  I can honestly say I have never met anyone like her and I don't think I ever will.  She was truly a unique woman.

I miss those days growing up on that street.  My childhood was such an absolute blast.  And yes, Mrs. Berlehner played a huge part in all of that.  I'm sure we didn't think much about it back in the day, but those of us that grew up on Phyllis Ct. were blessed to have a momma like Mrs. Berlehner to keep an eye on us.  Every street needs a Mrs. Berlehner and I for one am glad my street had one.  She'll be missed but she's in a much better place.  And maybe I'm wrong, but I can picture her stepping outside the door of her mansion in heaven just to make sure everything is ok on her end of the street.   

Monday, February 16, 2015

Oh, But Thank God For The Rain!

As I sit here this morning listening to the rain, a day away from my 48th birthday, I can't help but be reminded of how a rainy day in 1937 changed everything as far as my life is concerned.  My grandmother was pregnant with my dad at the time.  It was an unwanted pregnancy and she wanted to terminate the pregnancy.  She knew someone who would do the procedure and one evening she attempted to convince my grandfather to go along with her desire to abort my father. When she woke up the next morning the money was on the table to pay for the abortion. Oh, but thank God for the rain!  The rain was pouring down the next morning.  My grandmother, unwilling to get out in the rain, put off the abortion.  A few days passed, then a few weeks, and eventually she decided to not follow through with the abortion.

I tremble at the thought of what would have been had it not been raining that day in West Virginia in 1937.  How not only would I not be here, but neither would my two brothers or sisters.  There would be no Benjamin or Josiah.  No Corey, Chelsi, Chad, or Caleb.  No Jaedyn, Paityn, Logan, or Reagan. And no baby Levi.  Oh, but thank God for the rain!

Tomorrow I'll turn 48.  I'll turn 48 because of a decision made by my grandmother 78 years ago to stay home rather than get out in the pouring rain.  And while I'm not all that pumped up about being a year closer to 50, I am pumped up about life.  I'm pumped up about being alive and I'm determined to live this life to the fullest.  So, if you ever see a grey headed man, nearing 50, out dancing in the rain, he's not crazy.  He's just so thankful for the rain!!!