"The People At Our Church Die A Lot"

Yesterday I wrote about the passing of our dear sister Beth who was the heart and soul of our little faith community Freedom Fellowship.

Pray for us. We're going to miss Beth terribly.

Two weeks ago it was announced before worship that Beth was being moved to hospice. Collectively that was the moment the community began to realize that it was time to let Beth go, time to let her go meet our Jesus.

It was a solemn moment, internalizing that news. I saw Judy sitting by herself looking very sad. I went over to comfort her.

Judy is a kind, simple and child-like soul, often confused by life.

"Is Beth going to die?" Judy asked me.

"I think so." I replied.

"The people at our church die a lot," Judy observed, "I don't like it when people die."

"Neither do I, Judy, neither do I."

By that point we were both crying. I put my arm around Judy and we joined in the worship that had started.

Judy is right. The people at our church do die a lot.

Freedom isn't a church full of middle to upper class people who have jobs and health insurance. My brothers and sisters at Freedom don't have access to reliable and affordable health care. Because of that they don't promptly seek out medical care. Consequently, they either don't get care or when they do get care their illnesses are often dangerously advanced. Who knows, maybe Beth would still be with us if her cancer had been detected earlier and she had access to the best oncologists. But Beth was poor and lived with pain for years, pain, we think, was the cancer. Beth pushed through the pain because that's all you can do when you are poor in America today. In America the poor try to push through cancer.

Adding to this is that many of my brothers and sisters at Freedom have lived hard lives. Years of addiction, poor diet, and sleeping on the streets. The body broken down under years of chronic, unrelenting stress from living in precarious circumstances. Inability to pay the rent. Evictions. Utilities being shut off. Cars breaking down. Erratic employment. Threats of violence.

It adds up.

This is what I've discovered in my years at Freedom: When your church is on the margins your mortality rate is higher.

Judy was right, the people at our church die a lot.

But yea, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil.

Freedom is a resurrection community. Lives are hard and death haunts us, but I've never encountered such joy and fearlessness as I have at Freedom. And Beth was a perfect example of that.

A few weeks ago Freedom celebrated its ten year anniversary. Below is a video of the event. I love everyone in this video so, so much.

This is my church. Yes, we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But we fear no evil. For our God is with us.

We are free.

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