by Matthew Ellison
Several months ago we sent out an EUnleashed newsletter entitled, “We’ve Got Your Back” following is an excerpt:
“Nearly nine years ago my mother and father began a weekly prayer ministry for Sixteen:Fifteen. On Wednesday mornings we would rally our staff and together, with my parents, we would pray through a list of ministry partners. We would pray for churches that we were coaching, for peoples being engaged by these churches, and we would pray for our precious prayer and financial partners. Each weekly prayer meeting would conclude with a time of writing notes of thanksgiving and encouragement to all those who had been mentioned in prayer. Our goal was to pray through our entire list of partners at least twice a year.
Seven years ago my mother was diagnosed with Pick’s disease, a rare and aggressive form of dementia. In fact, prior to her diagnosis, one of the indicators that something was not right with my mom were the thank you notes she had written. I remember my dad saying, “Matthew we can’t send your mom’s notes any more, they just don’t make sense.” I insisted that we continue to send them as long as mom was able to write them…perhaps you were a recipient of one of those beautiful cards? Eventually, they stopped coming in and my dad’s main ministry became caring for my mom as she surrendered to the ravages of dementia. Though the Sixteen:Fifteen family has done our best to keep that prayer ministry alive, to be frank, it has never been the same since my parents stepped aside.
My sweet mother flew to Jesus just over two months ago, bringing my father’s ministry to her to conclusion. My siblings and I have encouraged my dad to pick up the prayer ministry that he and my mother had started. We explained, not only would this be an amazing way to honor mom, but turning his attention to God and to others would be a balm for his wounded heart.
Yesterday was my dad’s first day back at Sixteen:Fifteen in seven years. We prayed for our partners and I wrote cards on his behalf because of his failing vision. My dad’s first prayer deeply touched me and I know that it moved God, he prayed, “Father, I hardly know how to pray anymore and I don’t even know what to say…,” he then proceeded to intercede for our churches and partners. I know that God was moved and I know that He was near…”
My dad now finds himself treading that thin place where heaven and earth meet. About a month ago he was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis, although it appears that he has been suffering from it for many months. The doctors had struggled to identify the exact source of the bleeding, but three days ago a CT scan revealed a perforation in his upper colon. They said he would not survive surgery. So His children gathered at his bedside to partake of the Lord’s Table together. It was a profoundly sad but strangely sweet time. I longed ahead to that time when we who are in Christ will be reunited and together we will feast at His banqueting table. My dad is now in an acute hospice facility in order to make him as comfortable as possible on this last leg of his earthly journey…his mission here is nearly accomplished.
My dad’s petitions have ceased and no longer will he offer up intercessions on behalf of others. Petitions and intercessions are means of grace that God grants to His children while they are on earth, but when they enter into His presence these aspects of prayer will cease. In John 16:23 Jesus tells us, “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing.” When we are in the presence of Christ, we will no longer ask of Him, because He will so completely satisfy our souls that we will not want or need. Nor will we ask of Him on behalf of others, for the spiritual work He allots to us while we are on earth must be done on earth. However, thanksgiving will be eternal. We will never cease to give thanks for what He has done. We will never cease to thank Him for being who He is.
“Dad, thank you for your many years of prayer ministry at Sixteen:Fifteen. Your mission here is accomplished.. Soon the only prayers you will pray will be prayers of thanksgiving. But while we remain on earth we will continue to follow the example that you and mom gave by asking that God’s Kingdom would come in and through His people. I will see you again dad…but not yet, not yet.”
‘Til all have heard,
President and Church Missions Coach
I want to thank the many ministry partners that have reached out to my family during this time of grief. Please download the Featured Podcast, In Everything Give Thanks to hear more about how God has enabled me to give Him thanks during times of loss.