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Grief and encouragement ...

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When I read about your tragic passing from this life (tragic for all of us, of course, but glorious for you), I just couldn’t imagine what it would be like walking into that space today and not seeing you.

Turns out hundreds of others felt the same. We spent the morning wresting with real grief, anger, shock, and also a painful sort of hope and joy. Joy for you, knowing you are now in the presence of the One you loved so deeply and authentically, so openly and demonstratively. But deep grief in not having you be a part of the community you truly helped grow and build. Again , I am the newbie… I didn’t have the privilege of knowing you personally in this life. Turns out that was really my loss.

But you just have to know how deeply you have touched my life, with or without a personal connection. I sat there this morning weeping as I listened to story after story of the life of love, faithfulness, friendship and service you lived. And I am deeply challenged to rethink my own life… my own lack of commitment and service and even real love. Though your life seems cut way too short, you lived it FULLY… and you have left behind such a deep, rich and tangible legacy in this community.

So thank you. Thank you for serving my children. For loving them. Week after week. Craft project after craft project. As a mom, there are few things more meaningful to me than to see someone else truly loving my children. And you loved them. Each and every one of them.

Betsy Mitchell-Henning was my colleague and friend when I served as a pastor at Cedar Ridge Community Church in Burtonsville, MD. With her shock of purple or pink or blue hair, her upbeat attitude, her deep sincerity, and her impulse toward laughter, she served as the church's liturgist/worship coordinator for many years and then as a leader in children's ministry. She died of flu complications Saturday, and the Cedar Ridge family is absorbing and grieving this profound loss together.

A new member of the church wrote the beautiful tribute I quoted at the top of this post, and it struck me that it not only honored Betsy, but could serve as an encouragement to people who serve in various ways in churches everywhere. It's well worth reading for both reasons. Your labor is not in vain. These words from St. Paul come to mind: "Do not be weary in doing good, for we will reap a harvest in due season if we don't give up."