There is an English speaking fellowship in the south of Spain, where everyone knew that Brenda had a telephone friend.
Well, that is how it started out. Another friend, also living out there, was very concerned for her. ‘Can you imagine anything worse’ she asked me; ‘to be blind and in constant pain?’
Well, yes I could. Whatever our circumstances, if we have Jesus we have everything. There are some who may have their health, wealth, home, but if they are not loved or appreciated, and if they are constantly abused, even just verbally, how wretched is their condition? That is, unless they have Jesus in their lives, to bear their pain and pour in the oil of consolation.
Those were my thoughts, until Brenda told me how she had intended to spray bleach into her sink, but, alas, the nozzle was turned the wrong way and found it had gone into her eyes, causing extreme pain and maybe even more damage.
Loneliness, too, can be very hard to bear, and my heart went out to this elderly lady suffering the affliction of blindness on top of many other ailments.
No, I couldn’t imagine anything worse. I have a special rate for overseas calls, so I asked for Brenda’s phone number.
What a feisty lady I met on the other end of the phone. Full of joy and faith for all that God was doing in their fellowship, and interested too in my circumstances, our time was whizzing by. We kept a date for Saturday evenings, but I had to remember to put my timer on so that we did not overrun the hour. And so, by now I too had a very special telephone friend.
Brenda may have been weak in body, but she was so strong in faith. She had known miracles in answer to her prayers, and though she did not receive healing for her sight, she was not deterred.
She had been so thrilled to tell me that though their fellowship had been through storms, now a lovely Irish gentleman, with his wife, was coming to shepherd them. This was a new beginning and her weekly telephone logs were full of joy, until –
Yes, sadly her dear Pastor seemed to be undergoing personality changes, and at last a brain tumour was detected. ‘But prayer was made’ along the coast, yes, and at the end of the line here in UK too, until the wonderful news buzzed over the wires, that he was healed.
But once again there was trouble in the fellowship. As it says in the parable, ‘an enemy has done this.’ Could it be?
But nothing deterred our Brenda from praying. By now dependant on carers coming in and other wonderful caring friends, she still spent hours in intercession.
I remember how she would laugh about how she and a friend were bouncing at either end of her sofa, but it was no laughing matter, for her flat was at the top of a high rise building. Their part of the coast were experiencing a succession of smaller earthquakes, while more serious ones were threatened. The bouncing may have seemed a laughing matter while a friend was with her, but when she struggled out of bed to find the furniture had been moved out of place through the quakes she felt completely disorientated.
And more serious quakes were forecast and I remember too how she wrestled with God in prayer, and how, the following week she told me how the expected course had been deflected away from the coast and the lives of many people saved in answer to their prayers.
But how grieved Brenda was that there seemed to be no further miracle for their dear pastor. She had been so sure that he was to be the answer to their need in the fellowship. How she poured out her complaint to her Saviour and Friend.
I had known that Brenda might well reach heaven before me, and how could we wish her to linger? But a friend had prophesied that she would see her 82nd birthday, and I wrote this poem for this special occasion, and she pressed on for a few more months.
I confess I wept when her friends let me know that she was in hospital with a stroke, and where could she go when she came out? But I knew my tears were selfish ones, and it was with thanksgiving that we heard she was safe home. The Lord has been preparing a very special place for her, and a very special reception committee for her too, for only the day before, God had called their dear pastor, too, into his presence and he would have been there, waiting for her.
We prayed for our dear Pastor Warren and now he is doing well not just in answer to our prayers, but all in her fellowship had to pray for him (at her command), while there are other of her prayers yet to be answered and I am confident that they will be, since she has entered into the presence of Jesus, the One who ever lives to make intercession for us.
I thank God for this very special lady, and for the privilege God gave me of being her ‘telephone friend.’ So if sometimes the hours seem long and you are in need of a friend, maybe God has a special telephone friend waiting for you to call.
SOLDIER OF CHRIST
Brave warrior, limping, weary from the fight,
As friends we’re gathered here to cheer you on
Not yet, not yet to lay your weapons down
But courage bring to face the last lap home
So let us pause awhile to give God praise
Strong in his strength, though ours may long have fled
Once more together drink this cup of joy
Once more in glad assurance break the bread
Then gladly we will trust you to the care
Of him whose death has won such rich reward
So soon will darkness yield to glorious sight
Of Christ our Saviour, Holy, Holy Lord