Doran’s dead. He died early this afternoon.” Those were Betty’s first words on the telephone.

The words shocked me. We had known it would happen, but had not expected it so soon. My mind numbed as Betty told me the circumstances of his death.

My wife Shirley sat across the table. She and my son watched my face. They knew what was coming next.

“Would you conduct the funeral?”

Another time I would have said yes without a second thought. I felt myself tense. Betty needed an immediate answer. I couldn’t say, “Wait a couple of hours while I pray about it, Betty, and I’ll call you back.”

I had been Doran and Betty’s pastor for two years before the fatal brain tumor. During that time we experienced a close fellowship. A few months after Doran’s surgery I moved to another church twenty miles away. Doran spent the next eight months as an invalid. He could no longer hear, and his muscular coordination deteriorated rapidly. Because of brain damage he lived completely in the past. Consequently he never knew my successor; I had been his last pastor.

For the final two years of Doran’s good health, he and Betty, along with several other business people, had a time of prayer and Bible study every Wednesday morning in Doran’s office. In those seconds while Betty talked to me on the phone, pictures flashed through my mind of those who had been ministered to through our prayer group. David, who had lost his job and his home and was ready to give up on life, found new courage through the group. Tony went through months of deep depression after his divorce, but it was Betty who kept reaching out and saying “Don’t give up. All of us love you.” I remembered Ruth, too. She had grown from a cynical woman of the world into a tender, caring person. Bob ...

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