In a time of instant messaging, Instagram, and instant food from our microwaves we can begin to lose hope when prayers aren’t answered instantly.
Our friend and missionary colleague, Crystal Lodica, shares with us her story of holding onto the hope of God’s timing and faithfulness even when prayers and answers seem faraway.
Thank you, Crystal, for sharing with us.
When I was 8 years old my mother and father were given two options to save my life. They had to decide quickly.
I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease. This is an immune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones. These hormones are vital for overall health and body function but if these hormones are overproduced and left untreated, it can lead to death. With this diagnosis, my parents were faced with two options.
Option 1- Risky invasive surgery that could leave me unable to speak again.
Option 2- Radioactive iodine treatment that would destroy the thyroid, leaving me on hormone replacement therapy for the rest of my life.
After a brief 24-hours of pondering the right move, they decided the radioactive treatment was the best option. Knowing I loved to sing and being a talkative kid with a lot to say; they couldn't risk the chance of losing my voice forever.
As a young child, I didn't understand the long-term effects of undergoing radioactive treatment.
Fast forward to present-day, I am a 33-year-old woman who has recently received the news that my body has already gone through the stages of menopause, and I have Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI). To my surprise, a decision saving my life 25-years ago now impacts me today.
No one warned my parents that the radioactive treatment saving my life would cause reproduction damage and leave me with the inability to have biological children. I was devasted. I felt my worth as a woman was gone. My dreams of becoming a mother and carrying my own children were gone.
I knew God had a plan --- He always does. In the moment we may not see it, yet we must continue to believe in faith. I knew I had to surrender and release my life into His hands, He had bigger plans for my life. It all started to make sense when He called me to be His servant and missionary. He called and I answered.
I left my corporate job in Manhattan, moved out of my cozy Brooklyn apartment, broke off my 5-year relationship and started on a new journey. This new journey wasn’t easy, I found myself living at home again with my parents, in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. I knew I was there for a reason and had to make the best of it.
I also knew I needed a way to make money and support myself. The Lord prompted me to create a profile on a popular nannying site. The flexibility of a being nanny while raising funds for missions was the right balance. That simple act of obedience led me to work with a family for three years. In the summer of 2018, the family welcomed a new fiery red haired baby girl into the world. Little did I know God was going to work through this little one to touch my life.
As I started caring for this young one, my health issues took a turn for the worse. The doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong hormonally, and my hypothyroid symptoms became unbearable. It became difficult to do daily activities such as getting out of bed and everyday living. Though I was weak, and my body was working against me, God was still working.
How amazing is our God? Amid our suffering, He is our living Hope.
The baby I was caring for needed a medical procedure. This required a lot of monitoring during recovery to protect her from infection. She laid on my chest for hours. I listened to her heartbeat while she slept. I prayed and held her as if she were my own. Over time I watched this once fragile child quickly become this fearless little human. Her strength was restored, and the light inside her turned on. As I prayed and watched her get better, God was also healing me and showing me how hope exists even in tough situations and how to trust in Him.
Through my time with this precious child and my journey to the mission field I’ve learned to trust God. I’ve been to many countries sharing the word of God. It hasn’t been an easy journey but He has been faithful.
For the last 8 months, I have been in Costa Rica attending language school. I have been working with doctors to find answers to the decline in my health. Fallen hair from my head has covered the bathroom floor, autoimmune flareups have pulsed through my body, and my physical strength again has become limited. I went from running seven miles a day to using what little energy I could muster to sit in class. It became a struggle to learn a new language as brain fog weighed down my concentration. Many nights went by as I begged the Lord to reveal an answer. In desperation, I cried out for His healing touch. It was exhausting, and depression slowly took over. The fear of losing mobility and the life I enjoyed became a heavy burden. My hope was slipping away.
After my most recent doctor’s consultation and news of being post-menopausal and unable to have children, I needed some hope.
How am I feeling now? Well, I’m both grieving and holding onto hope. God makes room for my human emotion, and I know His goodness goes past it. The Lord has proven before that when He gives a promise, it will come to pass. His promise says my healing is on its way.
God has shown his faithfulness repeatedly. I am incredibly grateful for the community the Lord has placed in my life for this season. People who were with me at the hospital, friends who covered me in prayer and offered to help in any way they could. There’s reassurance in knowing I am not alone. Not only does Jesus continue to be my hope while living with an autoimmune disease, He is also the One who has graced me with contentment in the unknown. The future may look completely different than I have imagined, but the testimony coming from these times will be for His glory.
The words of our sovereign, faithful Lord never fall void when He gives a promise. As these days pass, Jesus walks with me through grief, and encourages me to hold unto Him.
Be encouraged that the enemy will try to steal the vision you once saw for a future, but that doesn't influence what GOD has and is creating for your purpose. Whatever you saw as lost can be replaced by hope. So, hold on to it, sister!
Conversations with a Colleague.... The Retirement Journey by Elsa Siriano
How do we retire from serving the Lord who has called us into ministry?
After 45 years pastoring churches in New England and New York state, we shut the church door and drove away.
It is easy to feel forgotten when we retire.
The hard part is NOT being the pastor’s wife, not having the fellowship, not involved in the women’s ministries, the day-to-day operations of the church, or having friends in the church, OUR church.
We now attend Faith Church, in Rochester, NY, where our daughter and son-in-law, Darla and Steve Edlin pastor. In the past I was introduced as “This is our Pastor David’s wife.” Now it’s “This is Pastor Darla’s mother.” Sometimes it’s an honor and sometimes I wish simply to be known by my name- Elsa. I learned to spell it as a child when everyone called me Elsie. It irritated me then that people got it wrong. Yet it’s in those times I remember: My name is written in God’s Book of Life. He knows my name and all that it holds. He also knows my whole journey and where I’m at now.
So with the feelings of loss in our ministry role, how can we manage the transitions toward retirement?
Use the talents/giftings the Lord has given you - For the past 14 years, my husband, David, and I have traveled a new journey.
So, in retirement, continue to use those talents the Lord gave you. They will look differently than the church setting, yet this new season brings new opportunities.
Leave a legacy - I admonish women to be busy blessing others. I give a neighbor family pasta sauce when I make it once a month. Find creative ways to share God’s love. The world still needs a Savior, and YOU may be the one to share that word of encouragement or act of love with them in their day.
Be an intercessor – During our busy days of practical ministry needs being met, we didn’t always have time for deep intercession. This is a great time in our lives to be intercessors. We have time to pray and encourage those in need.
Don’t be the old person that is grumpy and complains about the food, about the new songs in church, or about how the young people dress. Remember all that God has brought you through and the lessons you learned.
“Before you go, will you hold my hands while we pray?”
I had spent the previous hour at a home visit with a sweet elderly lady now housebound by lack of mobility and outside support. We’d spoken of many personal things, shed some tears and shared some laughter, but I had maintained social distance out of respect for this unique season in which we are all ministering. Now I moved to the side of her armchair and gently cradled both of her frail, misshapen hands in mine. We prayed as one, bringing added strength to our prayers as well as added comfort to her spirit. We’d connected in our conversation, but it was the simple act of touch that connected us as no words could ever do.
I serve as a chaplain and director of a ministry that reaches out to a sometimes-overlooked segment of our faith family, those who are housebound through mobility, medical or support issues. Some are in their homes, or the home of a loved one; some are in assisted living settings or nursing homes.
Wherever they call home, I meet with them there and provide resources, spiritual encouragement, intercessory prayer, and even communion --- elements of the Christian life they are no longer able to access through their home churches. I rarely preach and seldom minister to more than a handful of people at once, but my mission is the same as a lead pastor or missionary or evangelist: to connect a soul with the Savior who longs to meet their need.
Chaplaincy is often referred to as “the ministry of presence” and from the first time I heard that phrase I pictured simply sitting side-by-side with the person in need, close enough to hear even a whispered plea, to be a supportive shoulder to cry on or an arm supporting like a comforting blanket of warmth and protection from the trauma they have experienced. It’s from that unique ministry position I have learned how our attempts to connect with hurting souls, regardless of our ministry title or position, need to be rooted in three areas.
Next, we need to be rooted and grounded in respect for the person in front of me. It can be so easy to let feelings of impatience, superiority, even disgust or horror creep into our mind and soul as someone pours out the darkness of their life, but we need to be constantly aware that God loves them just as much as He loves us, and the only thing we might have that they don’t is a relationship with the Savior.
I minister in my county jail and hear over and over from inmates how thankful they are that I treat them like human beings. That respect is conveyed through eye contact, respectful listening, and through my attentiveness to them. Ask God to show you the person as He sees them!
Honest, courageous empathy builds bridges and allows individuals to face their truths with a little more courage.
The dear elderly lady that wanted to hold hands in prayer had just finished telling me one of her greatest sorrows in life was a stillborn baby son. One of her greatest fears now as she contemplated Heaven, was that she would not recognize that child or meet him when she arrives there. It was not the time to remind her how long ago it had happened. It was not the time to retreat behind a doctrinal discourse on the souls of newborns. It was time to hold her hands and pray with her. Pray that her dear baby son would be waiting at heaven’s gates for the hug they were not able to share on earth. It was time to be honest about her fear and sadness and about the hope Heaven holds as she gets close to the end of her earthly time.
True connection will take you places in another person’s life you could not have predicted and certainly would not have asked to enter. You will share pain and fear you might not have ever imagined. You will practice honesty when a little skirting of hard truths would be easier. You will hold a hand that might be dirty, smelly, and unpleasant to all your senses.
Connecting will bring you unexpected relationships, priceless insights, and opportunities to experience the power and comfort of the Holy Spirit in new and deeper ways even as you see Him at work in others. Connect with your senses, respect and honesty --- and you will watch your relationships and your ministry become richer and deeper as the Holy Spirit multiplies your passion to connect.