Jay and I left my home church, Parkway Village Baptist almost 20 years ago to become a part of Germantown Baptist Church (GBC). Parkway Village was all I had ever known. We did not visit anywhere before going to GBC because there were so many people that I knew at GBC and it was a comfortable fit. That does not mean the move from Parkway Village was easy. I left all my family behind as Parkway Village was going through a difficult period.
Jay and I knew that we eventually wanted to get into a church with a large youth program because that was what I had growing up and the bonds that were formed then are still with me today. We also knew we would eventually move from our Cordova home to Collierville to raise our children in the Collierville schools. Through all of those moves, God was with us as we prayed each step of the way; moving houses, giving birth to two children.
For more than 8 years, I served in the Youth Ministry at GBC because my heart is with youth. There is nothing more satisfying than pouring into their lives and ultimately seeing the light bulb go off as God speaks to them. So many precious girls and so many memories; summer camps, Vintage (girl’s camp), Youth Choir, Youth Choir retreats, mission trips, DNOW; all serving most of this time with Trey and/or Collin in the youth group.
Then, in 2012, at DNOW with our GBC youth, God changed the direction of our family with Trey’s diagnosis. After Trey’s death, Collin was left in the youth and I continued to co-teach a class. I finally came to the point that I realized that I was putting the oxygen mask on everyone else and not on myself and not doing God service in His teachings. My grieving need was paramount over my teaching need. BUT, during this time, the meals had stopped, the cards were no longer coming in the mail, the statements that were made would be, “Call me if you need anything”. Well, I can’t call anyone. If you have walked the death of a child journey, you will know that you are still there, in 2012. He is still in 10th grade as many of you have walked your child off to college and that phone call…well, it needs to be made by you. But the phone calls did not come. I heard, “We need to get together.” And all I knew and still know how to say is yes, we do.
Jay did not return to Sunday School after Trey’s death for many reasons. When I stopped teaching, we went to several classes. God literally closed doors by backs being turned (not intentally!). You can’t get a more clear answer than that. I began to pray for Collin’s heart to soften to leave GBC. After his best friend left with his family because his father is pastoring a church, Collin felt a little disconnected. Collin told me in the last three months he was NOT leaving GBC. I just continued to pray and told Jay I would give it till the first of the year.
I continued to pray daily Ps. 31:3 “For you are my rock and fortress; For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.” During the holidays, I had eight days off and took that time to rest and take the time to prayerfully consider with Jay what our family needed to do come the first of the year.
Let me preface all of this by saying something Ernie Frey said from the pulpit at Central several weeks ago. It does not matter WHO is in the pulpit or IF there is a pastor in the pulpit, the PEOPLE are the church. The church is merely filled with sinners saved by God’s grace and also filled with sinners who have yet to know the saving grace of our Savior. All churches have issues, difficulties, staff changes, growth spurts, and differences in beliefs. But the majority of the churches in Collierville believe that Jesus was the Son of God and died to save us from our sins. Not ONE of us is perfect! There is no psychiatrist, psychologist, or grief therapist that can substitute for the church and the love that should emit from knowing its mission of sharing the Gospel. Even though we are seeing every counselor known to man to help with our grief, we come home and that warm and fuzzy feeling just doesn’t exist.
Oh, but I’ve claimed to have had joy? Well, for the first time in a LONG time since Trey’s death, it happened. A couple of weeks ago Collin was giving us grief about going to church that morning. We had not told him we were planning to go to Central. When we did, he did not say anything and he got ready for church. After Sunday School, I saw him come in the service late and my first thought, “Great, here we go. He’s been in the bathroom avoiding church.” After the service he came up to me talking non-stop how he was asked to join the Encounter (DNOW) planning team and that’s why he was late to church, how they were doing this and that. I just played it cool and afterwards I thought Gina Johnson and I were going to squeal like little girls. God had touched his heart. He was welcomed, loved, needed, and found his place. A place that had not been Trey’s place.
Fast forward to two Sundays ago. Jay was at work and my best friend visited with me, Cindy Few. We sang 10,000 Reasons and The Stand, both from Trey’s funeral. I cried in her arms and God placed her there for a purpose. Ernie preached about the discipline and leading in the family. God spoke through him directly to me about the leading of our family. Discipline is the responsibility of the home, not the church. I think I had been waiting for Collin to shape into place where Trey had made his mark in life.
Last week, Jay and I were coming out of Sunday School and a man grabbed me to hug. I looked up into these familiar eyes and melted into the arms of Jim Siegfried. If you have not read my book, Jim and Cyndi were members of GBC at one time and he baptized Trey. His grandson, Corbin, was one of Trey’s pallbearers, and we are just close in family. We then sang Forever Reign in the service, another song from Trey’s funeral. During the service, God spoke directly to me as our Sunday School teacher (Ky Faciane) was preaching. He told me that no matter WHAT church we belonged to, Trey would be with us wherever we go. And the friends that I have at GBC who are my true friends, will remain my friends for life. Peace. Joy.
We left the service to attend the Starting Point class to learn more about Central Church; and that was just our plan, learn. Collin said, “I don’t need to go, I’m already a member.” I said, “No you’re not!” He had no idea what he was talking about, but the fact that he voiced in his way how God had changed his heart was joy to this mama’s heart that I knew HE heard my prayers.
Starting Point…turned into joining Central Church. I’m already in a Beth Moore study on Wednesday night, I have run into so many ex-GBC people that want me to join the choir, Jay and I are helping with Encounter this weekend, they have a grief team that will be helping us. Most of all, and most importantly, every time I have walked in each door I have felt loved.
Ps. 30:5 says, “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.” I do not dare say that my weeping is over, (I still cry just about everyday) but I can tell you that joy has come in the morning for the Erwin family. It is different in a certain young man’s attitude and we all know that makes life a little easier. I don’t expect many people to understand. I’ve said many times, put yourself in my place and suddenly have God rip away your son or precious daughter and be expected to come to grips with it as people move on. Sometimes, I feel like it is down right mean!
There will still be the questions and comments because we are the Erwin family (I’ve had it happen several times at Central). There are many friends and people at Central I do not know who prayed for us and walked the journey with us. I pray I will have the opportunity to share our journey with the women at Central and I hope I will be able to return to GBC to speak to the family where I will always call my home. Selfishly, Pastor Charles did not want to see us go, but he did so with many blessings and love. I will miss Charles Fowler and Ron Norton, but I will not ever wander far from home.
Learning to live as a family of three, listening to His call, and following His leading.