When Laura and I first visited Pembroke, a few things about the property stuck out to us. One of them was a sign in the west parking lot, reading: “Reserved for Bea Williams.” We figured she was important, and soon we met her: a sweet, 88-year-old pioneer member of the church where I was interviewing for a position. Almost everyone calls her “Ms. Bea”, and she is indeed important and dearly loved in our congregation.
Recently, Ms. Bea, who is now almost 92, had to be moved into a full-time assisted living facility, and she is not able to attend worship very often anymore. Still, she pervades the hearts and prayers of Pembroke’s people and its pastor.
I visited Ms. Bea recently. She was in bed, lying back under a blue blanket on a Monday afternoon. Her face broke into a huge smile when she saw me, and I pulled up a chair next to the bed and we visited. She told me she was in pain. She told me she prays every day, all the time, that God would bless the people of Pembroke “according to our needs and His will.” She told me she was ready to go to heaven whenever God wanted to take her. (“My daughters don’t like me saying that,” she said.) We sang, “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”
And then she humbled me. Her roommate is a Jewish woman. “We’re really working on her,” Ms. Bea said, in her faint Georgia-born drawl. “I really believe God put me here to be a witness.” Wow. That’s encouraging, amazing, and humbling.
Days like that Monday afternoon, I thank God I’m in a multi-generational church. Because guys that don’t get to sit with someone like Ms. Bea, singing old hymns and hearing about a warrior for Christ in her final season, are missing out. Big time.