The Sanctuary

Jerry and Jean, seasoned ministers, left behind the trappings of the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex to build a home church in the rural community of Vernon, Texas. Though both in their eighties, neither of them expected health conditions would stymie the progress of that work. Little did they know their move to Vernon would figuratively unpack much more baggage than they knew they had, or that they'd find comfort in the midst of sorting through it. 

This is an ongoing project: 2017 to present. 

"Now honey...." Jerry began, whistling slightly as he inhaled. "Look at this'n here...seems like they put me on two medications for exactly the same thing." Meanwhile, great-grandson Aleksey, crosses the living room flushed and determined, step stool in tow. "Well let me just take a look," Jean suggests, quickly opening a new google tab on her phone. I peer in amusement at a stack of prescription literature on the table, noting that even the silent generation relies more on the internet for answers than any other source.  

June, 2017

Jean spritzes her hair, matting the flyaways into place. Her husband, Jerry, is 50 miles away in a hospital bed, and she wants to greet him looking her best. "He'll come home today, I'm sure of it," she chirped. 

And he did. 

"Jerry's had a pacemaker for years," Jean states. "They require maintenance, and of course," she adds, " the devil would love nothing more than to discourage us from our work." 

Church attendance took a sharp decline once Jerry was hospitalized in 2017. The couple persevered and continued to hold services in spite of low participation. 

Above: This homemade welcome sign appears each Sunday during service hours

The house wheezes, expelling northwesterly winds through transoms and ill-fitted joists. The air is dry and dusty and I open my eyes in an attempt to discern leaf, from branch, and creaking weather vane. I find the unexpected symphony comforting having been raised on the plains. It's nearly 4am and in two hours time they'll rise together, giggling and stealing tiny kisses from one another. They'll sink into their favorite divan and sing songs in unison, her hand in his. He'll then pace the hardwoods, wheezing, just like the house. 

"We came here to minister to the community, to create a place of healing -- and God did, just not in the way we expected. This home, away from all the hustle and bustle, was made to heal us."

Above: After Jean's back surgery and just before Jerry's double-knee replacement. 

"This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it," Jean proclaims.

"That's right, mama!" Jerry agrees.

Following a devastating heart attack in 2019, Jean lost 70% function of the vital organ. She must remain as inactive as possible for one year following the attack, a critical period doctors say is the only window in which she may regain strength of the heart muscle. Still she looks to God and trusts His plan. "Who am I to question the Almighty? I've made peace with my life and know I've said yes to him as much as I've been able. My life is in His hands and I trust Him to pull us through." 

In January of 2020 Jerry received word that a once dormant cancer had returned. 

He smiled slyly and said, "If the good Lord is ready to take me home, fine. But I'm pretty sure He ain't done with me yet." 

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