What does wholeheartedness toward Jesus look like?
Pat and John Berry, long time members of St. John the Divine, know and have experienced that the Lord loves us wholeheartedly in the small and big things. He is all we need. Their testimony is a powerful encouragement that nothing is too big for God.
Pat: Our family has been at St. John the Divine for over 20 years. I can't imagine life without this community and this place of worship. My sons grew up with the liturgy. We didn't realize how critical that was until seven years ago, when our eldest fell 60 feet off a cliff one night at university in Tennessee. That's when life changed. That's when we got into the deep end with the Lord.
John: When he fell, it literally changed everything. Our first call was to Larry [Hall, the rector]. He came over and prayed with us before we left that morning to fly to Tennessee, not knowing whether Bradley was alive or dead. We prayed. That's all we knew to do.
Pat: Bradley was in a coma for several weeks. The church had a special prayer session, and that's when the atmosphere in his hospital room changed. God released all these mighty healing angels in the room. As St. John the Divine lifted us up, you could feel a palpable presence of God. It's something I'd never experienced before and it was tremendous. That presence stayed with us. Before he could recognize me or say anything else, Bradley would start uttering the Nicene creed. That was somehow in a deeper place than his mind. It was somehow deep in his soul, in his heart. We knew that was the Lord, and that all was well.
John: We had this purple minivan rental car that was the only thing available and that we got at the airport. And I was in it and I needed to somehow get over to the bank to put some money in for William who was still in Houston, and then we had to get to the hospital. I pulled over to the side of the road and I just broke down. I've never ever done that, that I can recall. And I was just wrestling with God over, "Why am I here? Why are we here? And what in the heck is going on?" He calmed me and said, "Focus on the day, focus on the moment, and move forward." And that changed everything.
Pat: I had my own reckoning with God and I was just like, "Why me? I can't do this. I'm not strong enough. I'm not enough. I'm weak." And the Lord said, "Why not you? I'm all you need." That wasn't really the answer I thought he would say, but it was nonetheless. We never again asked, "Why us?" He's never left us for a second.
John: The reality is that, little did we know that this was the beginning of a new life and a new chapter in our family, of how to deal with adversity and how to deal with very difficult and very dark times. Getting out of the coma was one thing. Transporting Bradley back to Houston to go to the rehabilitation facilities, to see the other side of life and others, gives you a real perspective and compassion for others.
Without the church continuing to be part of our journey and being with us, I don't know how we would have made it. When a church rallies behind you, you really know where God is, and that he's in this place. God is with you in the small things and the big things. And he's there, not just in the crisis, but he's also there to share your victories.
Pat: The first night Bradley was home from neuro rehab, the house was set on fire. Then we had some business setbacks, and then one thing and another. Soon the bills were stacked higher than the bibles. Life just continued onward. It's during this process that we learned the enormity of God. That nothing is too big for our God. No prayer goes unheeded. We were talking about kind of the irony of us being asked to speak about generosity when there were years when the stewardship campaign would come and we would think, "Oh, gosh. What are we going to put on that card?"
John: Having been on the stewardship committee myself and knowing the importance of being able to make that commitment to God and make that commitment to church, I know if you don't write it down, it can't happen. But we sat here praying and thinking, "We're hanging on by a thread but--"
Pat: "But can we really write this amount down? Can we just kind of pass this year and we'll just do our best?" We looked back, and the years we had the least were the years, proportionally, we gave the most. This time of stewardship is not about money. It's about that growing closer with the Lord. It's being a good steward of all the things he's given you. And that what you get, what you sow into this church, is so priceless because of the number of lives it changes and how it resonates with this community. St. John the Divine is that light in the darkness on that hill, and it wholeheartedly loves everyone that comes through its doors. It's a place where encouragement and verses are prayed. And laughter rings, and joy, and it means the world to us.