Yesterday our church family said goodbye to some dear friends. It was a bittersweet moment as the congregation joined in prayer to bless this couple prior to their departure back to the USA in a few days time. It would not be an exaggeration to say that during their time serving the church in Australia, they had touched every life with the love and grace that Jesus Christ exemplified, and every heart was heavy to see them go. At the same time, they (and we) know that their journey back to the US is in God’s timing, and so they were released with the most love-filled blessing a congregation could express.
When Greg and Linda were invited to say a few departing words, Greg captured beautifully their heart for life and ministry with the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in 1 Thessalonians 28. Greg paraphrased Paul’s words like this
blockquote“…because we love you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of Jesus Christ, but our lives as well.”blockquote
As I listened to the words and pondered the depth of their meaning, I was struck by just how much Greg and Linda were truly the tangible representation of everything Paul meant when he penned them. Paul wrote of ihomeiromai; ithe earnest love that (like the love of a parent) is affection so deep as to be unsurpassed. Such personal affection was never out of obligation; yes, Greg and Linda served as Pastoral Care Pastors but it is clear that it was (and remains) the highest joy of their hearts to so love. They came first of all to impart the gospel of Jesus Christ; in all their living they encouraged, strengthened and comforted with the transforming truths of the surpassing greatness of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. But besides imparting the gospel, they shared their lives. There was nothing superficial or partial about their love; indeed everyone with whom they came into contact felt immediately the authentic, generous, self-sacrificing love which shone through Greg and Linda’s every word and deed.
It is true that the church in Australia has suffered loss through their departure, but the rich heritage of love that Greg and Linda have left behind is almost immeasurable. I have personally learned so much from both of them with regard to what it means to love God and love others. I thank God whenever I pray for them that I was one of the privileged ones that this beautiful couple shared their lives with. My life is all the richer for it.