The church of Jesus Christ consists of people. Though the Apostle Paul speaks often about the church, he never mentions a church building. In The Shack by William P. Young, Jesus says “It’s (the church) all about relationships and simply sharing life…being open and available to others around us. My church is all about people and life is all about relationships. You can’t build the church. It’s my job”.
Nancy Fritz was a member of CCOB, though few of the members had ever seen her. Nancy’s family was well known: Bill was an elder; their son was a tall, excellent basketball player and their daughter, a cheerleader at the high school. We did not see much of Edna, the mom, but she was a delight. A few months after meeting the family, I learned about Bill and Edna’s daughter, “little Nancy”. Nancy was 10 years old and 3’ tall. She could only be in a prone position. She had osteo-genisis imperfectus. Simply put, her bones would not harden and were very easily broken.
I soon went to visit Nancy, who was delighted to meet me. I still remember the wonderful smile on her normal size head. For her age, Nancy knew her Bible well and was more theologically astute than many adults. Edna had poured herself into Nancy, a very bright little girl. I can still see her smile but I could not see the ribs inside her small dress – ribs often broken by a sneeze or cough. Nancy’s arms and legs were misshapen from the many times they had broken and healed not quite straight.
Nancy’s joy was serving others. She could be gently rolled onto her side and held there with pillows. From this position she very carefully printed out notes of encouragement to people, and it was in this position she painted my Christmas tree ornament. The ornament shape was purchased from a craft store, a flat plywood cut-out of a woman dressed in old fashioned clothes. Nancy carefully painted the woman, front and back – red dress, white apron and bonnet – not great art work, but a very special gift to me.
Nancy asked me what she could do for the church. After a few minutes of give and take we came up with two ideas. She could keep the pencils in the pew racks sharpened – Edna would get an electric pencil sharpener and a couple young people would check the pencil points each Sunday after church and replace them with pencils sharpened the week before. And the second idea? The church had an extensive, cassette ministry. As soon as the preaching was finished the cassette duplicators would copy the master. When the people left the church, they could pick up a copy to share with friends or listen to themselves. The next Sunday many people returned their cassette and each week these would go to Nancy who would erase the contents with a small machine. The cassettes were then ready to re-use. Week after week she faithfully did her work well!
I asked Nancy what I, or the church, could do for her. She smiled and said, “Please serve me communion.” She said no one every had. After checking with Bill and Edna, the next Sunday several elders and other healthy (no colds, etc.) church members went to be with Nancy. When we walked into the living room, there was Nancy, lying on the floor under the edge of the grand piano. We all sat down around her, and together we sang, read the Scriptures, and celebrated communion together. After this, when communion was celebrated at church, many went to have communion with Nancy
One day Edna came to me obviously excited! She was pregnant! Total surprise!!! I, without a thought, responded with “Edna, this year little Nancy will die”. We looked at each other…both of us shocked at what I had just said! A few months later “little Nancy” caught pneumonia, and died. Again, both of us were stunned!
During the funeral: incredible thunder, lightening, and rain! This continued through the end of the service – when the sky cleared. After the service Edna came to me with a grin: “The thunder was for Nancy – she loved thunder! We went for the grave-side service in a bright, warm sun. And a few months later a baby boy was born.
“Little Nancy” lived In Partnership With God. She worshiped and served with a joyful heart. The church building meant nothing to Nancy! The church people…a whole different story.