We met Loren and Berniece when our family first arrived in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, for Ray to serve as the new preacher with their congregation. Loren and Berniece showed us again and again what it means to be servants.
When we bought a used dining room table, Loren and one of our church’s elders, Melvin Stigers, refinished it. When we moved into a house with kitchen cabinets painted (I kid you not) Illini orange, Loren helped me strip and refinish them.
When we gave Berniece pears from our backyard tree (which we did not plant but only inherited because we bought a house), she thanked us by canning some for us. Since I sewed, she gave me wool and silk from her collected fabrics. Each Christmas I hang the fabric wreath and the braided Christmas ornament Berniece created with her own hands.
We left Illinois in 1993 to move back home to Tennessee, but we have continued to keep in contact with brothers and sisters in Christ there and to visit the congregation almost every year. I took this photo of the Urbana Free Library on one of our trips back. We have wonderful memories of this library, but our memories of the congregation are like memories of family. What a special group of people.
Several years after we left, Berniece had a stroke. Loren lovingly cared for her himself for many years until her death.
One spring while we were in C-U, about forty people began to visit our church when they had just taken too much abuse from an extremely controlling church nearby. Among them were Porter and Jackie. From the beginning, they were a sweet and positive couple who added much to the life of our congregation.
Porter began planning congregational outings to a nearby lake. At the first get-together, he helped our Mary Evelyn catch her first fish. I can still see his big smile as he reminded her of it again and again, even many years after we moved home to Tennessee. Porter had a special way of making Mary Evelyn feel special.
Our C-U church has a long-standing ministry to the Florida House assisted living facility near the church building. Ray was recently reading the church bulletin (online now, of course) and he shared with me that the Florida House ministry continues and that the current teachers are Loren and Porter. I think Porter is about our age. Loren is about three decades his senior. Loren is in his nineties.
I’m thankful that our children have seen faithfulness in the flesh.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;
against such things there is no law.