Tea and Fellowship

I’ll call her “Annie”… I met her several years ago, but her story and her gentle example still speak to me…

Annie welcomed me into her room with grace and joy, a smile on her face and an open-armed hug. Since she was under strict isolation precautions, I was dressed in the required hospital visitor regalia: gown, mask, booties and gloves.

We exchanged greetings and she accepted prayer for a diagnostic test she had in a few hours. It would tell the medical team if the new immunotherapy was working. She was hopeful, because her eyesight was rapidly deteriorating as a result her autoimmune disease.

“Won’t you stay for tea?” she asked me, as her husband poured us each a cup of hot, creamy Kenyan tea. He had brought in the tea in a thermos, as well as a mug for me.

At first I was reluctant. Her immune system was negligible, thus the requirement that I be swathed in this temporary chrysalis. Her husband smiled. “She only uses hospital dishes. These are for guests.”

I thought that my CPE Supervisor might have a canary. Infection Control! Hand-washing! Contamination! Then I realized that the greater ministry would be one of accepting her hospitality. Her husband slipped out while we talked. I listened to another chapter of her story and pondered how only God could bring two people, so far from their hometowns, to such sweet fellowship in a hospital room. The weekly visits we shared were precious.

photo-106Her gnarled hands, scarred with years of IVs and blood draws, curled around her cup. She waved one gently as she talked, laughing as she told stories of family and friends. She pointed to pictures on the walls, the faces of children, relatives and friends, landmarks of her hometown, and sports teams she loved.

She reached for a crocheted afghan and wrapped it around her shoulders. “I am always cold,” she said, shivering a little. Then she quickly turned the conversation away from herself and asked me if I would read to her from her daily devotional book. Her poor eyesight meant that she relied either on recordings or others to read her Bible.

“I’d be honored,” I said, as she handed me the devotional guide and a well-worn Bible, leather bound and filled with pieces of paper tucked in here and there, each one with a prayer or a poem that she had heard and loved. “Be careful of my filing system!” Annie mock-scolded me with a grin. We chuckled as I carefully turned to the day’s selection in Mark 10 and read aloud:

46 Jesus and his disciples went to Jericho. And as they were leaving, they were followed by a large crowd. A blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus son of Timaeus was sitting beside the road. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus from Nazareth, he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” 48 Many people told the man to stop, but he shouted even louder, “Son of David, have pity on me!”

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him over!”

They called out to the blind man and said, “Don’t be afraid! Come on! He is calling for you.” 50 The man threw off his coat as he jumped up and ran to Jesus.

51 Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind man answered, “Master, I want to see!”

52 Jesus told him, “You may go. Your eyes are healed because of your faith.”

Right away the man could see, and he went down the road with Jesus.  (Mark 10:46-52)

Annie listened attentively and we discussed the passage. It was almost surreal to hear a woman, almost blind, talk about the faith of Bartimaeus. She talked about what it must have been like to be in the crowd and see it all happen.

I was hesitant to respond. What could I add to a nearly-blind woman’s thoughts on Bartimaeus? She smiled at me, and taught me a lesson in acceptance and contentment when she said, “You know, I can’t read those words any more, but I can see Jesus at work. He’s at work in that story and he’s at work all the time around us. Most folks are so blind they just can see it. And their eyesight is just fine!”

She began to sing Ray Steven’s song. After a few moments, I joined her:

Everything is beautiful in it’s own way
Like a starry summer night
On a snow covered winter’s day
And everybody’s beautiful in their own way
Under God’s Heaven
The world’s gonna find the way

There is none so blind
As those who will not see
We must not close up our minds
We must let our thoughts be free…

She sipped her tea thoughtfully. “I’d love to see again,” she said, “but not if I lose my Sight of God working around me.”

I reached out for her hand and caught it in both of mine. “I don’t think you lose that kind of sight,” I said. “I think you help others gain it.”

Annie welcomed me in with tea and fellowship. And I left richer for it.


Thanks Be To God.

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