I just got home yesterday from Adrian, Georgia, having attended five days of campmeeting. Speaking there were Dr. Gary Haines, Dr. Jack Eyestone, and Dr. Bill McCumber. It was a wonderful time, and I hope to share some memories of it with you. I learned and I worshipped and I grew in the Lord. Praise His name!
But first I want to share with you that I made a new friend this week. Her name is Gloria. I just met her, I don't know her last name, I don't know exactly where she lives in Georgia, and I know little about her, but she is my new friend and will be for life, even if I never see her again.
The first night we were at the camp we attended the evening service. It was a great service led by Gary Haines, and at the end of the meeting we were singing praises to God, giving Him glory, and closing out the service. Dr. Haines asked, "Are you thankful to God for what He has done in your life?", and we continued in song. A little lady in front of me immediately shot her hands up into the air and finished the song that way. She didn't flinch, she didn't hesitate, those arms stayed straight up. Oh, what a blessing to see someone be so thankful to God, to love Him and worship Him. There was no doubt about the gratitude this woman has for her Lord and Savior.
A tear welled up in my eye, then another, and I was so filled with joy for her, but more, I was filled with a deep respect and with strong empathy for her. You see, her hands, which you could tell had been delicate and beautiful a one time were now knotted by many years of rheumatoid arthritis. The knuckles on her hands and fingers had what looked like huge marbles under the skin. Her fingers were twisted and curved, going different directions at the joints. Yet her hands reached high, she was praising God with no reservations of what those around her might think of the appearance of her hands. I doubt that she even thought about it. I think her only thoughts at that moment were on Christ, how thankful she was to call Him Lord, how much she loved Him, and how much she wanted Him to know of her love.
The next day I saw her standing in the foyer waiting for her husband who was accompanying her. She turned and saw me waiting for my friend. We were both hesitant, but soon she stepped over to where I was standing, and with her right hand, gnarled, twisted, knotted with continual pain, she reached out to me and with the sweetest smile said, "Hi. My name is Gloria." I introduced myself and we spoke for a few minutes. Then I told her that I felt I needed to tell her something, and I asked her to please forgive me if I were to embarrass her. I explained how blessed I had been by the praise of thankfulness she had given the night before, and how, knowing of the pain she must suffer in her hands, I was blessed beyond words. She smiled and thanked me informing me that she has been this way since the age of thirty. That, yes, there was pain, but she had learned to adapt to the pain and the limitations of her weaknesses and infirmities. She wasn't embarrassed, she was pleased that something from her had been a blessing. She was thankful that I had told her. We hugged, new friends, sharing with one another the love that we share for our Lord.
The next morning I saw her cross over to the church. "Good morning, Miss Gloria!" I called. "Good morning, Miss Shirley!" she returned. Two new friends passing, but already old friends because of Christ. Eternal friends. I hope to meet her next year at campmeeting. But if I don't I know that I will spend eternity getting to know her in another place.
I told a friend about Gloria this morning, and my friend said, "Gloria. What an appropriate name she has!" I hadn't thought of it, but she's right. Gloria!