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"I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another." (Romans 15:14 NIV)
The exciting awareness that happens on the dawn of each new day fills me with a sense of joyful anticipation as the time approaches around 6:00 am when the daily Word of the Day goes out to people locally, several states and in many nations with hope and a prayer. On one such recent morning when I had already sent out the daily Bible message and prayer - as happens occasionally, some e-mail messages were not delivered for various reasons and this required a little maintenance time to update my records.
One message was very disturbing to my emotions at that early hour of the day. It was sent by a cyber-personage known as MAILER-DAEMON and he/she works diligently for my e-mail server. The message said simply, "Sorry your message to ?-@comcast.net cannot be delivered. This account has been disabled or discontinued."
We never got to meet Gerrie personally since we moved to Cedar Key in the summer of 2001. Gerrie had already moved back to Tennessee to be closer to her children who would keep a watchful eye out for her and she could spoil the grandkids. She never lost her love of Cedar Key and her friends in the congregation where I preach and many friends in the community.
Galina and I became acquainted with Gerrie through E-mail. Laura used to forward the Word of the Day messages to Gerrie and then suggested that I just send them to her directly. Gerrie began to write little notes of encouragement about this ministry and would brighten our day with her sharp sense of humor. She closely followed our mission work in Russia and Ukraine. When I could not get a visa to Russia for five years, Galina dauntlessly made four trips without me. Gerrie encouraged her at this time knowing how difficult it was for Galina to execute such a dangerous challenge all alone.
Gerrie sent word out to her friends a few months ago that she knew she didn't have much time left on this earth. When news of her departure came to us we were saddened, but not so much as when the reality and finality of having to "permanently delete" her record from our e-mail address book. It caused me to wonder, "Who will take Gerrie's place as an encourager?" We rejoice that this good sister was in her 9th decade of earthly life before being called to meet her Savior in whom she faithfully trusted and obeyed. Around the end of October of this past year, she wrote Galina this note that provides an insight into her unique personality.
Dear Galina, thanks for the information on David's trip. Pray he will return safe and sound. I know he must have missed you very much. I would like to come to Cedar Key to meet you and David and to see all my Christian friends. I know the little ones I knew while I was there are all grown up. I will put a check in the mail tomorrow for David's next trip. I did not know about this one. I am having trouble with my computer. My grandson is going to see if he can help me out this week end. He is so busy. Bless his heart, he works on computers and is sent all places in the USA and then work when he gets home on the week end. He makes time to go to church. He really is my granddaughter's husband but we are really close. He was converted after they were married. Please tell everyone hello for me. I take one day at a time. One day I feel ok and then some I do not. I went to church this morning and folded Bulletins to send out. Cannot do much but try and do what I can. BE OF GOOD CHEER! My Best Regards, Gerrie Runft
Thoughts rushed through my mind as I finished deleting Gerrie from our list of E-mail correspondents. Of course you can erase someone's name from a digital file, but that doesn't erase their good influence from your memory. The gift of encouragement is surely a most laudable and necessary gift that should be present in all families, organizations and especially the church of God. Who will take Gerrie's place of encouragement?
One of the early Christians described in the New Testament as Joseph was renamed Barnabas - the word name that describes how he used his gift of encouragement. When many of the believers in the Jerusalem church doubted that the newly converted apostle Paul was a sincere disciple of Christ, this same Barnabas personally brought Paul before the apostles and vouched for him. Later, Barnabas went looking for Paul and brought him to work with him in teaching the Gospel to many people in Antioch.
Are you putting your talent for encouragement to complete usefulness? If so, the church where you work and worship is far better off. As occasional foreign missionary workers for Christ, it is most encouraging to receive a surprise phone call, fax, telegram, and nowadays a personal E-mail or SMS message that reminds you that some person or congregation is thinking about you and regularly praying for your welfare and God's blessings upon your work.
Fathers and mothers