Yesterday I got to visit with Linda, an old friend from when I pastored a church in Jacksonville. I went to Florida ahead of Bill, who commuted most weekends from Atlanta because he was (and is) a computer programmer for an airline. Back then, he had flight benefits and was able to fly standby most weekends virtually for free. That was a good thing because that little church wasn’t paying me much money, and Bill was our church organist. Every Sunday night was spent at the airport hoping there was an empty seat so he could get home to make it to work on Monday morning.
During the week, Linda took care of me, cooked dinner for me, and, until Bill and I closed on our house, even let me stay in her spare bedroom for a week or two. She gave me hope that this little church that had been firebombed three times, leaving only a remnant of a congregation, was worth saving.
She reminded me at lunch yesterday of the time in the early 1980s when I told that little congregation about a new disease called GRID, or Gay Related Immune Deficiency, that was attacking gay men. She had never heard of it until that day, but we all soon would have the word AIDS burned into our hearts.
When I knew Linda, she worked in administration at the major television station in town. She later moved to Charlotte, and I moved to Dallas. We kept in touch, but barely. I returned to do the funeral of her only son who died far too young, but it was Facebook that reconnected us once again.
It wasn’t until today that I learned that Linda, who has always been an activist wherever she lived, volunteered for the AIDS group in her small town in South Carolina. When the services proved inadequate, because there were no doctors providing care, she started an organization, wrote grants, recruited a doctor from Charlotte to come down one day a week, and created a vital and vibrant organization that continues until this day.
It touched me deeply when she told me that and then reminded me of the conversation that day in Jacksonville when, in her church, she first learned of a problem, then did what was needed in the place where God planted her to help. THAT is why the world needs Church, and that is why the Church needs YOU and heroes like Linda!
Rev. Michael Piazza