It happened overnight. I was a very happy and contented pastor's wife, when suddenly I became "one of them." My husband accepted a call to conference administration. As I taped shut the cardboard boxes I wondered if administrators' wives were accepted, cared for, and loved. I was used to a church crowded with 800 people on Sabbath morning. These members showed their love for me in so many ways. Could 50 pastors' wives scattered throughout a state really be my church family?
It was a beautiful surprise! Those 50 wonderful ladies reached out to me in an unbelievable way! Pastors' wives cared for me by showing a genuine interest in my life, my children, and by realizing I was not simply an extension of my husband's administratiye work. They respected my past experience and consistently prayed for me.
Following are some of the ways these wonderful women demonstrated support to me:
1. Pastors' wives showed a genuine interest in my life.
The gifts of appreciation—roses, plaques, and "thank you for visiting our church" cards—are nice. But none of them compare with a handwritten note saying, "Gloria, it meant so much to me to be able to get to know you better. Thanks for listening to some of my frustrations. You know, I feel really comfortable around you maybe it's because you cried a little bit when you told me what you've been through with your son all these years. When I think of you having to hook him up to machines four hours a day just to keep him alive, well, I can't complain. I can't believe he is suddenly okay after moving to our conference! I know God wants your family here, and I want to be your friend."
I appreciated it when the pastor's wife would make it a point to sit with me during potlucks so we could get to know each other better or catch up on happenings. Many administrators' wives tell about the loneliness of times when they sit at a head table with no one to talk to.
2. Pastors' wives showed a genuine interest in my children.
We travelled as a family to one hundred churches in our conference, attending our hometown church only twice a year. I appreciated the mothering and grandmothering from the pastors' wives. The handmade gifts for our children, including their names in fruit baskets and welcoming them personally from the pulpit on Sabbath morning meant much. If our children had helped deliver the sermon or music, their sense of self-worth was boosted by a note from the pastor and his wife a few days later.
Some of the pastors' wives grew so attached to my children that I was amazed at the outpouring of their love. My son, Brooks, received cards, cookies, and jelly beans in the mail when he went to boarding academy! One pastor's wife five hours away heard about the need of a better roommate for him, so she got her church together to pray about it! The next day a very popular spiritual leader of the campus came up to Brooks and asked if he could move in with him! My daughter, Beth, received little surprise packages and phone calls from around the state when I was far away from her in Moscow.
One evening I called Barbara, a pastor's wife, who lived an hour away. "Please, my child needs a grandma, right now. There's this big Home Economics assignment, making a little room with scraps of fabric." I'll never forget how refreshed I was that night as she helped create a beautiful miniature bedroom, complete with drapes and spread. Sitting on the floor cutting, pasting, and laughing, I felt a closeness like I felt as a child with my own grandma. When I left Barbara's house late that night, I was full of energy. My child was super-excited; this was a definite A! But more than that, we felt loved and nurtured.
3. Pastors' wives realized that I was not an extension of my husband's administrative work.
They respected my request not to be a pipeline to my husband. Initially some were surprised how confidential I would keep the details of their lives. They quickly caught on that I was not only trustworthy, but deliberately determined not to feed information to my husband that could sway him to make an administrative decision for their benefit or loss.
In response, I encouraged them to talk to my husband confidentially any time. They were assured that I would never pry him to find out details of their conversations. They also quickly realized that they were to go through administrative channels directly, rather than through spouses, and they respected me for this.
4. Pastors' wives respected my experience and sought advice.
Some wanted to know how to give Bible studies, and eagerly soaked up methods for soul winning. Others wanted specific skills in team ministry. Then there were those who had musical talent and would be a great blessing singing for their church's evangelistic meetings. I targeted a few of these women as my special project: to equip them to be the vocalists for their husband's meetings. It meant staying up until 3 a.m., making back-up tapes in their voice ranges, calling all over to find specific songs to match their husband's sermons, and countless hours of practicing. I felt like a proud mother hen when their pastoral husband would call to say how great they did!
Some of our pastors' wives were younger than me, and some were much older, yet it really didn't matter. Because they had a respect for my personal spiritual, emotional, and physical experiences, age wasn't a factor. We sought to work through problems together, knowing that most of the time I didn't have the answers, but we could go on our knees together to Someone who did!
5. Pastors' wives prayed for me.
They prayed for ten months while I went through diagnostic testing which eventually revealed a brain tumor. They witnessed me lose my "identity" when my left hand couldn't even play a scale on the piano. They knew I wasn't really okay even though I was smiling real big on the outside. Before my scheduled neurosurgery, our mailbox was stuffed full of cards of encouragement and notes with Bible promises. As I struggled to pray, "Thy will be done even unto death," they were praying for me. I went through a deep spiritual experience before my anointing, and was finally able to pray total submission for my healing. After that God was able to answer their prayers in a miraculous way. When the strength suddenly came back in my left hand, I immediately told them. They were excited and prayed that my surgery would be canceled. Right before my scheduled five-hour surgery, I requested another MRI. The tumor was gone, the surgery was cancelled, and I was discharged from the hospital. This was their miracle! God had answered their prayers!
I know that those women prayed for me as a person, and not just because I was an administrator's wife, because they're still praying for me! It's been two years since we said our goodbyes to enter full-time evangelism with the Media Center and the North American Division. They don't care that I'm not with their conference anymore. They write and call, wondering how our children are doing, and asking about our meetings. But what really made me feel warm inside was a recent call from a pastor's wife who organizes the conference-wide prayer chain. "When is your big alter call during the meetings?" she asked. "We all want to be praying for the people that need to make decisions."
At 9 p.m. my husband finished his appeal and invited people to come to the front that wanted to be baptized. As I started singing "Just as I Am" at the keyboard, I envisioned all those precious pastors' wives in their living rooms praying. Suddenly I felt an extra power—like I was not alone. I saw 50 people stream forward to the altar before I even finished the first verse, I smiled. "Thank you, Lord, for these 50 new babies in you," I whispered in my heart. "And thank you for the 50 pastoral-wife friends that prayed them in!" *