Companion for The Journey
“Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” –Matthew 11:28-30 (NRSV)
This holiday season began with an unfortunate event…I was let go from my job. It seemed as if it were the end of the world. I was scared, nervous, and anxious. I could only keep asking myself, “What do I do now?”
I turned to my family and let them know and I even found some wonderful emotional and financial support. But I knew something was missing. After spending a couple weeks wallowing in my sorrow (so-to-speak) and while attending Sunday morning worship I remembered hearing about the Immanuel Food Pantry. I found Nancy Spear after the service and asked her when the Food Pantry was open. I then let her know that I would be coming in to volunteer and help out at the next opportunity.
That next Tuesday morning at the Food Pantry changed my life. It was as if my Spirit was reignited and charged full of life again. I had very quickly realized that I had not stepped foot in the Immanuel Food Pantry for the entire nearly 7 years I have been a member at IPC…and it was literally foot steps away every Sunday morning. That one experience flooded my heart and my thoughts with the internship I served in New York City at the Jan Hus Homeless Outreach Center. Names and faces, and many good relationships came to mind. Immanuel offers very similar relationships. In fact, Nancy Spear cares for the recipients at the food pantry as if they were her neighbors, friends, and even family; because they are.
Losing a job quickly reminds you of your very human-ness; such as not having health insurance or any income. The same Sunday I asked Nancy about the Food Pantry, I noticed that the Healing Center’s Parish Nurse, Brenda Cox was offering flu shots after the service. I get a flu shot every year, but this time I couldn’t go see my regular doctor for this seemingly simple procedure. Brenda not only offered me a flu shot, but she introduced me to the free services provided by the Parrish Nurse and her staff. I made an appointment then and there. When I showed up for my appointment, Kerry (one of the staff nurses) spoke with me. She joked with me and comforted me, and she even took time to learn about journey and family. And then when the check-up was over, she spoke more with me about what I can do to better my health and stay healthy, and offered me assistance in finding health care that I could afford or that was even free near my home. I left feeling as if they not only cared for my immediate concerns, but that they cared for my future health and wellbeing; because they do.
I have been spending my Tuesday’s hanging out at the church office working on some stuff I’m involved in outside of Immanuel. While there I spoke with Myra Tapia. She introduced me to her massage and energy therapy services at the Healing Center. I decided to make an appointment. I thought, “why not, I have the time.” I showed up the next week on time for my appointment with Myra. She welcomed me into a space that was warm and immediately relaxing. Myra invited me to sit down and we simply spoke about me. She asked about aches and pain, stress, and home and family. She informed me of what was going to happen and assured me that she was there to listen to me and to how my body responded to the massage. She then proceeded with the massage and almost too soon it was over. She cared for me by helping me sit up, she got me some water, and then we talked a little more. She asked me about the massage and helped me better understand what my body told her and what I can do to help myself. Myra took care of me as if she cared about my body and about my wellbeing; because she does.
There is a difference between resting after stressful work and then finding rest in Christ’s yoke (work). I was burdened with the yoke, or work of the world and now I was ready and I decided to explore the yoke of Christ. I did this by partaking in that yoke in its form at Immanuel. The Food Pantry, the Parish Nurse services, and the Healing Center are only a few ways in which Christ shared his yoke with me. You see volunteering at the Food Pantry takes a bit of work and energy, but that which you receive is the comfort of knowing you were involved in the work of Christ. Seeing the Parrish Nurse required me to step outside of my comfort zone, which is risky and scary at times. What I received from taking that step is care from people who were looking to send me on my way more knowledgeable and wise about caring about my physical body. And then visiting Myra and receiving a massage was more than just simply physical. Myra asked me to share with her about my pain so that she could help me work through it.
What I found in all three of these experiences was companionship on my journey. I found care and comfort. I found work that was meaningful because it is Christ’s work. This all fed my Spirit. I am changed and transformed forever by what was provided by these kind and warm friends at Immanuel Presbyterian Church. When I let go of the painful burden I was carrying and took on the yoke of Christ through Immanuel, I penetrated the very heart of Immanuel and its people. I encourage all, whatever your journey looks like, to check out any of these experiences for yourself and learn what companionship can and does look like.
Wonderfully Cared For,
Brian S. Symonds