When I first joined Foothills Christian Church last Spring, I asked my Pastor, “what does Open & Affirming mean, exactly?” She told me it was language that LGBT people understood to mean “YOU are Welcome Here”. I wasn’t certain how I felt about that. I prayerfully began to ask The Lord to show me what it meant exactly to be an “opening and affirming church.”
Shortly after joining the church, I was asked to take on a leadership role. In August, I attended a church leadership retreat. My roommate for the weekend was a woman named Lee. We didn’t really speak to each other much until we got back to our room that evening. We discussed the evenings’ events and the plans for the next couple of days. Lee is a very quiet woman.
Throughout the rest of the weekend, Lee and I ate together and sat together through the meetings. We got to know more about each other. Lee told me about her childhood. When her parents divorced, her mother had never learned to drive so Lee relied on neighbors to get her to church. She had been married for more than 25 years and has 2 daughters and some grandkids. Lee is a retired school teacher and always loved teaching. We realized that we both had joined the church around the same time. Lee usually attended the Saturday night service. I attended the Sunday morning service – that is why we hadn’t really met “at church.”
Lee heads the Care of Property ministry at our church, so we worked outside together on church work day. A few days later Lee needed some extra help, so I sent my husband and the wheel barrow over to help her. That is when we exchanged cell phone numbers and began to check in with each other occasionally. I am the Community Ministry leader at our church so when I need help setting up for a special event – I call on Lee. She gladly responds.
Lee started to attend church on Sunday mornings and would stand with me at the welcome table. Together, we would greet first-time visitors as they arrived. I watched this “quiet” woman begin to talk more and more and more. Lee and I started to sit together in church. Lee and I were becoming great friends. One afternoon after church, Lee told me that she had not attended nor felt welcome in church for a very long time. She said she was grateful to be welcomed at Foothills and called to serve. You see, my friend Lee is gay. My new friend and I hugged each other with lumps in our throats and tears in our eyes.
It was early December that Lee’s sister (who lives in Ohio) had to have major spinal surgery. Lee asked me to pray for her sister. Lee asked many of us at church to pray for her sister. There were complications in the surgery and Lee was forced to make some critical decisions for her sister’s well being. Again, Lee was asking for prayer for her sister and for herself. During this time, Lee and I exchanged several “prayer texts and emails”. Lee had to fly to Ohio to help her sister through recovery and rehabilitation. We talked on the phone several times while she was in Ohio.
Christmas this year, my friend Lee gave me a gift basket that contained coffee, tea and a coffee mug. The coffee mug makes me cry every time I see it. It is a beautiful pink and white striped mug that says in big black letters “BFF’s Forever.” That coffee mug is a daily reminder to me that #1) we are called to share the love of Christ with everyone AND #2) God answers prayers in not-so-mysterious ways. Lee is such a blessing in my life.