It’s a Tuesday morning. Since occupying the pastor’s office at FBC in January of this year, Tuesday mornings have been reserved for staff meeting. Each Tuesday at 9:00, we gather our collective heads together to discuss what’s coming up at FBC. We evaluate our most recent ministries. We plan for the future and try to think of ways that we can best reach our community with the gospel and minister to the people God has entrusted to us.
Six chairs sit around the conference table in my office. Those chairs are all usually occupied each week. Each person has their assigned chair, and it’s been that way for years. At this table we have prayed for each other. We have prayed for ministries of our church. We have prayed for you.
Today one of those chairs is empty. The lone female of this motley crew, Elaine Gillis, who ministered so well to our children, received her eternal reward early on this Tuesday morning, November 21, 2017. While most of our bodies were resting and storing up energy for the day to come, Elaine’s earthly body was entering final rest. While your alarm clock caused you to become aware of another day, the angels caused Elaine to become aware that she had entered eternity, and they ushered her into the presence of Jesus Christ.
Both her morning and our morning was very different today. At staff meeting today, we noticed her absence and empty chair. She, however, is too enamored with the presence of Jesus to notice that anything is missing. In fact, nothing is missing from her eternal life, as it is now complete.
Our lives have been richer because of Elaine’s presence. The children at FBC adored her. Her teachers appreciated her. Her church family thought the world of her. Her pastor and church staff enjoyed serving alongside her. Whether it was mapping out a fall festival outreach or tickling the ivories of the piano during worship, Elaine exuded talent, skill, and ability. You could hand her a project and know that it would be done with excellence, and while you didn’t do a thing to make it look good, she gave you credit as if you did.
As I prepare to preach her funeral, a passage from Hebrews comes to mind. The author of Hebrews stated that Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice to God than did his brother Cain. That offering of faith brought this commendation from God: “And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks” (Heb. 11:4).
The faith that Elaine possessed in facing cancer and enduring adversity will speak long after her death. The faith she exhibited in ministering to our children will speak long after her death. The many acts of service she rendered behind the scenes will continue to have an impact long after her death. Though she died, she still speaks through her example and her faith.
As a church family, we mourn a loss. As a church staff, today we feel a bit discombobulated. As a pastor, I feel sadness that a co-laborer that was cherished was not in her seat today and is not in her office down the hall. We will miss her and her ministry at FBC. And while we grieve, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We believe that God has enabled Elaine to experience a healing for which we all long. We rejoice that she has won the battle and is free today, in the purest sense of the word. And we look forward to seeing ripples of Elaine’s ministry continue in the future at FBC, as the investment she made in our children and church family was not in vain.
Continue to pray for Greg, as well as Elaine’s mom and the rest of their family. May God continue to bring them peace that is beyond understanding. We are richer for knowing Elaine Gillis, and because of Jesus we will see her again one day.