Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The last time we talked.

I remember the last time Mr. Paul Fleshman and I really had a conversation. It was brief, but I'll always remember it. It was the first Wednesday of June, right after our First Wednesday communion service at Del Sol. We sat in the cafe and I told him how the next day I was leaving for my brother's wedding in Scottsdale, Arizona, and he, ever the joker, told me not to stay there. "We have a Scotsdale here, you know" he said, referring to Scotsdale Baptist Church. I assured him I would be back. He told me about the time he was driving through Scottsdale, AZ and his Volkswagen broke down. We laughed together about his story, made some small talk, then I shook his hand and said goodbye.

That was the last time we had a conversation. I'll always be thankful for that. Such a simple conversation, but in it I could tell he loved me. And I loved him. And I enjoyed a silly conversation. 

Mr. Paul loved people. He really, really did. He took many young leaders under his wing to encourage them and remind them to stay on track with the Lord. He did that with Pastor Walter and he did it with me.

I remember him visiting my dad in 2004 when he was in the hospital after his heart surgery. I think Mr. Paul visited more people as our hospital minister than anyone else in our church did. So many people met him while they were lying in a hospital bed. He really cared about people who were sick and hurting.

I remember several times when Mr. Paul and his wife Chung Hi had me over for a meal - just to love on me. I remember them insisting I take some of their home grown vegetable and fruit.

I remember him telling me to come over anytime if I needed to use any study books from his library when preparing a sermon. I never did, but I was always grateful for the offer.

I remember going with our youth to re-roof their home, and taking a break, sitting in the garage, eating fresh made chocolate chip cookies and drinking ice cold Coca Cola. 

I remember when I was examined - "grilled", I call it - to be ordained as a minister, and Mr. Paul asked some tough questions. Why? Because he loved the Lord and loved Christ's Church, so he wanted to make sure I knew my Bible and my Theology. He didn't want some young punk running around teaching who-knows-what in our church. He was like a bulldog about our church - because he loved our church family. I'm thankful for his tough questions. 

And I remember when my mom was first diagnosed with kidney disease last summer. Mr. Paul and Chung Hi gave me a bunch of homegrown grapes to give to my mom. That was such a confusing, scary time - and that simple act of love in fruit form ministered to my heart in a way I can't even describe.

My eyes are welling with tears as I write this. Tears of selfish sadness because I'll never again feel the strong grip of Mr. Paul's hand or hear him pray those strong, confident prayers he always prayed. But also tears of joy - because he is no longer in pain. He worked hard all his life, laboring for the Lord and laboring for his family that he loved so much - and now he is resting, enjoying forever the rewards of his labor. 

I remember the last time we talked here on earth, Mr. Paul. I can't wait to talk with you when I go Home and tell you about all the neat things that happened in our church and in my life. And I owe much of who I am to you.

And since you're up there - say hello to God, Mr. John, Oscar, and Bruce for me.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful servants."
- Psalm 116:15 NIV