Brian L. De Jong
In God's providence, Dr. Lynn Baatz moved to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to head up the cancer treatment center at the local hospital. She became acquainted with Dr. Don Schlernitzauer, an eye doctor who is also a ruling elder at Grace OPC in nearby Sheboygan. At Don's invitation, Lynn began attending Grace, and she soon discovered her church home. She has been an enthusiastic member since April 2004.
Lynn's parents and sister Sandy, meanwhile, were living in the Milwaukee area. At Lynn's urging, Sandy began attending Falls OPC in Menominee Falls. There she learned the Reformed faith in Pastor Ben Snodgrass's membership classes.
Meanwhile, Lynn's parents, Don and Jackie, were suffering from failing health. They had not been able to attend church services for some years, yet they greatly appreciated the spiritual care extended to them by Pastor Snodgrass.
Due to their parents' needs, Lynn and Sandy moved them to Manitowoc. Sandy also relocated, finding work in an area hospital. Sandy began attending Grace Church with Lynn, and soon showed interest in membership. From time to time, their father attended worship with his daughters. To everyone's delight, he experienced a spiritual awakening.
By his own admission, Don had not lived in a manner pleasing to God for a good portion of his life. Yet as he heard God's word preached, and as he experienced the fellowship of believers in Sheboygan, he was deeply stirred within. On December 31, 2006, both Don and Sandy were received into membership.
Because Jackie suffers from Alzheimer's Disease, the Grace session consulted their presbytery before proceeding on her membership. The Presbytery of the Midwest appointed the Rev. Alan Strange and the Rev. David King as a committee to consider the matter. They brought back a helpful report urging the session to proceed. The elders were able to gather ample evidence of Jackie's faith in Christ.
On several occasions, Jackie clearly testified to her love for Jesus, and her full trust in him. She freely acknowledged her sin, and her need for a Savior. When asked if she was confident that her faith in Jesus would take her to heaven, she wholeheartedly replied, "Yes, things are definite with him!" Later, when asked whether she wanted to join Grace Church, she replied, "Yes!"
Jackie began attending Sunday evening worship services with Don, Lynn, and Sandy. Since both of their parents needed to be transported in wheelchairs, the daughters purchased a special van. Jackie slowly came to know the members of the congregation, and began to grow in her faith. She also appreciated occasional visits from Pastor Brian De Jong and from Don Schlernitzauer and his wife Pam.
After a long and deliberate process, the session voted to receive Jackie into membership upon reaffirmation of her faith. She was publicly received at a special worship service conducted by the session at her nursing home. Her face beamed with delight as she answered the membership questions. The session reported the proceedings to the full congregation on the next Lord's Day, and we rejoiced together.
From first to last, God's grace was obvious in these events. From that initial contact with Lynn, to the work of Pastor Snodgrass, to the spiritual renewal of Don and Jackie, God's hand guided and blessed. He used both the presbytery and the session to handle an extraordinary situation wisely, and to bring a dear sister into fellowship with his church on earth.
Recently, when Don attended the Men's Prayer Breakfast at Grace Church, he shared how God has used Grace Church in his life, and how for the first time he feels that he is really understanding the Bible. Jackie, too, often says how much she enjoys going to church and singing the hymns. How very gracious is our covenant God!
The author is pastor of Grace OPC in Sheboygan, Wis. Reprinted from New Horizons, May 2008.