It takes the crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings to make a life
July 9, 2018:
For three years, the following paragraph began my profile:
"I am a genetic male. An intersex condition caused me to suffer gender dysphoria. Transitioning to female, I am once again healthy. I now identify as a male who is a transgender woman."
I have returned to living as a male. As you read my posts, always check the date the piece was posted. Items from August 19, 2015, to July 5, 2018, were posted as my being Gina.
I am a former Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod minister, retiring in 2014 in order to deal with my condition. I have a wonderfully loyal wife, Julie, four children, and seven grandchildren. I am conservative and traditional in every facet of my life. Add all of these together, along with my love of writing, and you arrive at my having this blog, where I discuss all things pertinent, and enjoy tossing in some humorous memoirs.
Everything I post here, I also post on Facebook, where the conversation often is lively. If you want to be part of that, please friend me: Greg Eilers, Indianapolis. So that I know you are not spam, send a short message that you know me through my blog. Thanks.
If you want to contact me via email, write to me at email@example.com. I answer all correspondence and am happy to answer questions, provide helpful information, or whatever way I might be of service.
My father-in-law, Larry Leckband, has a passion for
old tractors and farm equipment,
classic cars and trucks,
negotiating himself into a good deal,
and collecting stuff.
Though he blew past age eighty some years ago, don’t think achieving what most call “old age” has gotten to The World’s Oldest Juvenile Delinquent, as my wife Julie and her siblings like to call their dad. Old age? Pffft. The man still rises seven days a week before the local roosters have crowing on their minds, is busy with ten times more things in a day than I get to in a month, and doesn’t come home to roost for the evening until dinnertime … and his schedule determines when he eats, not when supper comes out of the oven.
I’d seen some of Dad’s collection, but never knew it surpassed one hundred in number. I only saw various tractors at the house and across the road scattered around the perimeter of Julie’s sister’s place. Turns out, most things were at the old family farm, stored in Ocheyedan, and disbursed about wherever Dad could get his foot, er, tire in the door.
I’m holding the proof copy of my book in front of the cover artwork, the creation of my daughter Erin, which hangs above my computer. Using the proof, I photographed the title page of each chapter. Here we go!
Pastor Jon Klein perfectly sets the table for the book. He never imagined having a transgender person in his congregation … until he did. Desiring to minister to that person, he found me. A friendship was formed. He graciously agreed to my request to get the book off to a good start.
I use my daughter’s struggle with depression to open the topic of gender dysphoria—both being daunting, mysterious challenges.
This book is the culmination of my life. Everything about me led to my desire and need to write this.
I love provocative openings. This chapter is filled with them. My aim? To lay things on the table. In the first two chapters, I make clear where I’m going and seek to accomplish.
This is a book about Christians and for Christians. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is our foundation. Sadly, the Gospel so easily gets messed up, and never more than in how trans folks are treated.
Deadname. Bottom surgery. HRT. Cisgender. Genderqueer. Lots of words and terms are unique to this discussion. Here they are, up front and handy.
Well, that says it!
That says it, too, but now things are not so straightforward. I dig deep to penetrate what might be behind this vexing condition.
One of my favorite chapters, perhaps because it arose from an aha moment. Working on the previous chapter, I dropped the “dysphoria,” and began pondering. Soon, I was staring at a list of intriguing, important ideas.
Trans persons transition socially, legally, medically, and surgically. There’s no one way to do it. Describing every aspect, I keep separate how adults and youngsters transition.
Gender dysphoric and trans persons attempt suicide more than TEN TIMES the rest of the population. This chapter lays out why.
This discussion is about real people. I profile several folks I’ve gotten to know, who are in various situations.
A number of biblical passages are used to stop and stifle all discussion that being transgender is anything but sinful. I address each of the passages typically cited against trans persons.
With the topic of transgender, so many misconceptions are held—and those that hold them think their thinking is correct.
We’ve never done it that way before. How often we hear this in the church to stop whatever change someone has suggested! Well, how about this: We never believed it that way before. You know, as in mixed race marriage. Or suicide. Or the role of women in the church. Now, let’s add transgender.
In a sense, everything up to this chapter was table-setting. Here, the book becomes a how-to text. Step by step, information to know and questions to ask will equip a person to provide compassionate spiritual care to gender dysphoric and transgender Christians.
More how-to, a miscellany of information so that no topic is left unaddressed and the reader is thoroughly informed.
My favorite chapter, because this gets to the heart of the work of ministering to Christ’s people. This is a keep the main thing the main thing chapter. It’s all about Jesus Christ. It’s all about the Gospel.
Justin is one of the persons I profile in Chapter 10. As I was nearing the completion of the final draft, things were developing with his addressing his gender dysphoria. Our conversation in February made for a fitting conclusion.
Anyone interested in learning about gender dysphoria, how it affects a person, what it means to be transgender, and how those who have trans relatives and friends might show them compassion, will benefit from this book.
While the book is geared toward how transgender Christians are widely viewed in congregations, with an eye toward better seeing them as genuine brothers and sisters in Christ who experience a unique, challenging, and often difficult condition, with the aim toward providing them with compassionate, spiritual care, every chapter contains insights that transcend the Christian faith.
When I began writing, I thought I was talking specifically to pastors. I had been a pastor, and when I was a trans woman it was primarily with pastors I interacted. Over the eighteen months since beginning to write, I found that it was important to speak to a wide audience.
Pastors might be the prime readers, as they lead congregations and minister to the entire flock, but pastors are not the only ones who are lacking in transgender education. Not only are pastors not the only church leaders who provide spiritual care, the topic of transgender affects everyone.
Christian counselors will find themselves sitting across from those who have made the difficult declaration that they experience gender conflict.
Teachers in Christian schools will have children whose gender identity does not match how everyone knows them, and those with siblings and friends who have socially transitioned.
Those who attend to the business of congregations need to be informed so that they can support their pastors, assist their members, and address for the good of all matters regarding transgender members.
Lay people need to be no less knowledgeable. If a member transitions, they deserve to be informed. How is this person being treated? This might be their friend, or someone with whom they serve on a committee, or the person who always sits in the pew in front of them. Regardless, all trans church members are their fellow believers. For the sake of all, every church member deserves to have a good education in a challenging subject.
Let’s not forget those who serve the greater church body. Decisions about transgender persons are coming down from the top. Those at the top should make decisions based on sound information and good theology, or else the congregations they serve and their members will not be properly served.
In my next post, I’ll provide a synopsis of each of the book’s seventeen chapters.
Too many church bodies, and individual pastors, church workers, and Christians, have done and continue to do a disservice to transgender Christians. Knowledge is lacking in what it means to suffer gender dysphoria and all that can result from it, especially transitioning sexes. In the reports, articles, and suggestions for pastoral care I’ve read, I’ve wondered if any of the writers have ever talked with a transgender person or done any thorough study of the topic.
In these pages, I endeavor to provide helpful information and sound doctrine as I explain about gender dysphoria, discuss God’s Word, and provide a path toward compassionate spiritual care for transgender Christians.
I am in a unique position. Because I’ve been there and done that both as a minister and a transgender person, my experience is vital in key areas. As a transgender woman, I received the long arm of the Law when I craved the sweetness of the Gospel. Only the faithfulness of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, can take credit for my not ditching Christ and the purity of His Word.
Having been a minister, my heart is with pastors and all in positions of service in the Church. With gender dysphoria and transgender persons, you’ve been presented with new, unusual things which, on the surface, according to your education and experience might seem cut and dried. You want to do right by the Lord, and you want to do right by the persons you serve. It is my desire to help you, to provide the assist you need so that you might, indeed, do right by the Lord and His people.
The book’s title and subtitle declare my motivation. I’ve written in equal measure for the sake of transgender Christians and for the sake of the Church.
My prayer is that you find me faithful to the Word of God in all I write. My hope is that the Church would have a compassionate heart for a group of people who want to love the Lord, but whom, too often, are rejected by Christians.
The six paragraphs, above, conclude the first chapter of my new book, Ministering to Transgender Christians.
Where my first book, A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane, is the story of my life, this book is its culmination. Contained in these 128 pages explains how the book came to be:
from a young age, a strong sense of justice and truth were formed in me, both which I have found lacking in how trans persons are treated
summarizing the story I detailed in my memoir, from my suffering gender dysphoria, to my transitioning, to how I was treated by my fellow Christians when I was transgender
what I learned along the way about the suffering of trans persons and the misunderstanding of them, both of which are especially acute for transgender Christians.
Since 2013, when I began telling pastors about my gender dysphoria, and especially during the three years (2015-18) I lived as a trans woman, I recognized my fellow Christians needed two things so that they might treat fairly their brothers and sisters in Christ who are transgender.
1. A proper understanding of gender issues
Too many Christians believe trans persons are mentally ill or have given in to a sinful desire. I detail what gender dysphoria is and what might cause it, keeping separate sexuality and how we experience gender.
The profiles of a number of gender dysphoric and trans Christians shows that members of churches large and small, in cities and rural counties, are affected. These Christians long to be faithful to the Lord. They didn’t choose this vexing situation, and they have to find a way to live with it.
2. A way forward
Understanding is vital, but more is needed. I lay out a thorough, step-by-step guide to providing spiritual care to gender dysphoric Christians, along with insights for helping family members and congregations.
I am especially excited about the how to section of the book. I am not familiar with a resource to guide Christian leaders, lay persons, and congregations in specific ways to compassionately minister to their members who suffer gender dysphoria or have transitioned.
When and where will the book be available?
All that’s left of the publishing process is for me to receive and review the proof copy, which should happen in a few days.
The book, in print and ebook versions, will then be available on Amazon, just as is my memoir, A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane.
On July 15, I was tested for COVID-19. Typically, results are provided in two to three days. An hour after my test, I received a text that heavy demand would mean I would not hear for four to six days.
I decided I needed a test as I had been around a number of folks for Independence Day, and two days after getting home came down with a sore throat, sinus drainage, and an occasional cough. I could have waited it out, but I want to go to Iowa for the burial of Julie’s mother.
Mostly, I’ve been hoping to learn that I don’t have COVID-19. Yet, a quiet voice inside kept saying, “If you have it, you have a mild case, and that’s great. Because you have heart disease, you’re in a potentially high risk group. A mild case could be you dodging a bullet.”
Yet, if I were to get a positive result, that would mean trying to figure out where I got it. Contact tracing is important with this virus. A lot of people would become involved, would need to be tested or, at least, to isolate for a prescribed period. And I’d have to be tested again. And I wouldn’t be going to Iowa anytime soon.
My sore throat cleared up a couple of days ago. So, on that front, I’m good to go.
In the end, ninety-nine percent of me hoped for a negative result. The semi-quarantine since mid-March was hard enough, but I’ve been even more isolated since Julie needed to be in Iowa when her mother had a stroke and then died.
This is the most alone I’ve ever been in my life. The daytime alone, I’m used to. The evenings? They stink.
As I dressed for my morning run on July 20, I received the awaited text: “Results are in.” I logged onto the website, anxiously signing in and clicking to reach the fateful page.
I heaved a sigh of relief, put on my running shoes, and headed out.
On July 15, I was tested for COVID-19. A number of factors led me to recognize I needed to do it. I’m writing about it to answer questions people have about it—especially what the swabbing process feels like.
Julie and I have been diligent about following all of the advice for remaining safe. Our county in Indiana has been hit pretty hard. As of today (July 15), we are one death shy of 700.
In May, Julie’s mother had a stroke. We immediately knew we wanted to go to be with the family, but were concerned to travel to Northwest Iowa because they’ve had ZERO deaths in their county. We took care as we traveled.
I’m back in Indianapolis. Julie returned to Iowa. Sadly, her mom suffered another stroke and lost her life on July 3.
I want to return for Mom’s burial—immediate family for now, with a regular service whenever it’s safe to do so—but have new concerns.
Over the 4th of July, I went home to Michigan. It had been seven years since we’d been able to get all four of my kids and their families together. When states reopened, we decided to proceed with the gathering we’d been planning for months. We had a few days together—sadly, without Julie and one grandchild—and it was wonderful.
All those gathered have been taking the virus seriously, and none have been ill or known anyone close to them who have been ill. Still, with other relatives and friends in attendance, there were a lot of folks, and this virus is so confounding because a person can pass it on without ever experiencing symptoms.
Looking into getting tested
When I returned to Indy, I contemplated getting a test, which any Indiana resident can get. I called the information line. The woman told me for best results it is best to wait eight days since contact before getting tested.
The next day, I got a sore throat, with the typical accompanying sinus drainage and occasional cough. Any other year, I would have assumed it was a slight cold or allergy, or caused by the extreme heat/humidity/being in air conditioning. But, these can be symptoms of COVID-19.
I waited for it to worsen. For other symptoms to occur. For the one that seems most common with COVID-19: overwhelming fatigue.
Nothing else happened. The sore throat has persisted—nagging but minor. I’ve felt healthy enough to maintain my nearly-every-day jogging.
The curious thing is the timing. The sore throat began soon after I got home. I can’t recall my last upper-respiratory trouble—it could be two or more years since I’ve had a cold or sore throat.
I knew that I had to get tested.
Scheduling the test
On July 13, I went online to schedule a test.
Providing all of the info about myself that one would expect, I was directed to select my location. I would not be able to get in for three to five days at the nearest locations. There was a church, not too far away, with only a two day wait.
In under ten minutes after logging onto the website, I had my test scheduled.
Arriving for the test
I assumed it would be a drive-through test. As I drove to the church, I wondered if I would see a line of cars.
Nope and nope.
Indeed, so few were the cars that if there had not been large signs directing me where to go, I would have thought I was at the wrong place.
Reaching the top of the church steps, I was greeted by doors and windows plastered with information. I read it all. I was thankful for it all. It all told me exactly what to do and to expect.
When the one other person who was there for the test moved from the check-in to the testing area, I entered the building. I had my text open with my ID number, which I’d been given when I signed up. The woman asked for that and my birth date.
She now called me Gregory, so I knew she had the right person. She handed me the information sheet I’m holding in the photo above, along with the testing kit, and directed me the fifteen feet to the testing area.
The woman could not have been more friendly or helpful. While the test is very simple, she explained each step. It went pretty close to this:
“I’m going to place this swab deep into your nose. I will turn it about a bit on the insides of your nose and then remove it. It will take less than thirty seconds. You might react with a cough or sneeze. You will need to keep your head still. Are you ready?”
I told her I was ready, and that I expected to cough.
She inserted the swab what felt like a few inches deep. She twirled it around, rubbing the inner walls of my right nostril, and slid it out. It took no more than ten seconds.
I didn’t cough. Or sneeze.
What it felt like
Those who’ve been tested have used a variety of words to describe the swabbing. Some have found it uncomfortable. Some have described it as unpleasant. Others, weird. A small number, painful.
For me, it was neither uncomfortable nor painful. It’s an odd sensation, simply because I’ve never had a swab rubbed around deep inside my nose, but it was in no way unpleasant. And it was completed so quickly that there wasn’t time to start wishing she would remove it.
Waiting for the results
Soon after arriving home, I received a text. Because of the large number of tests being done, I probably won’t get my results in the desired two to three days. The text told me to expect four to six days.
And so I wait. Keeping myself isolated. Longing to go to Iowa.
Extraordinary: Vonna Leckband, Julie’s mom, my mother-in-law.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I only called her Mom, so I won’t part from that now. Mom’s obituary, lovingly composed by her oldest daughter, Laurie, displays a resume replete with accomplishments, filled with variety, spanning jobs, to joys, to volunteer work, to dedication to her family: http://www.waltonrostefuneralhome.com/obituary/vona-leckband
Leaving no proof untold, I offer my favorite in bolstering my claim that Mom was extraordinary. Over the nineteen years I knew her, Mom and I enjoyed many long conversations. Loving to learn family histories, I often asked about hers.
I knew from the start that Mom was Dad’s second wife. Sadly, his first wife, Patty, died of Multiple Sclerosis while in her twenties, leaving him with two young children. He was around thirty, and Mom twenty, when they met and soon married.
“Mom, you were so young,” I began. “Here was this man, with two young children. Did you hesitate at all to date him? And marry him? You took on so much.”
She thought for a moment. Her face told me she was pondering those days. “No,” she replied. “I loved Larry. I wanted to marry him. I loved Laurie and Mark.” She laughed. “I was young. I probably had no idea what I was getting into.”
Now, we both laughed. And, I thought, “She knew exactly what she was getting into. That’s who she is.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Mom died on July 3. On May 17, she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. After four weeks in ICU and a week in acute care, she was in her second week at a rehab center when another stroke on July 2 was too much for her.
When Mom suffered the initial stroke, that her family rallied to her showed the fruit from the family vine she cultivated.
Julie’s immediate reaction was that we had to go, despite the pandemic. That their county in Northwest Iowa has yet to suffer a COVID-19 death, we were more concerned that we might take it there than that we might pick it up. We had been taking great care since March, and would continue to do so as we made the 675-mile drive.
That Julie had been doing her job from home since March meant she could do it at her folks’ place, a blessing in the midst of the virus curse. We stayed a week, then returned to Indianapolis. On May 30, Julie returned to Iowa. Her sisters have been there, too: her two older sisters, Laurie and Sheri, who live near the Twin Cities, and the youngest, Amber, who lives across the road from the folks. As Mom and Dad always hunkered down for their kids, now the kids hunkered down for their parents.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I spoke to Mom before I ever spoke with Julie.
Julie and I met in 2000 when she sent me a letter in response to my magazine article. Snail mail turned to email. When, in 2001, we both were divorcing, our occasional emails turned to commiserating with each other, which resulted in our really getting to know each other, from which deep affection sprouted.
These were the days before social media, so we couldn’t easily connect online. When I told Julie I wanted to talk, she hesitated. Finally, I could wait no more. I knew she’d told her folks about me, so I found their phone number.
Mom answered. I said, “If I told you my name is Greg Eilers, from Port Hope, Michigan, would you know who I was talking about?” She reacted with laughter. “Yes, I know who you are. Julie’s told me all about you.” We were off and running.
When I whisked Julie from Iowa to Michigan, the plume in my cap was that I was a Lutheran minister. These folks are generations-deep Lutherans, with a number of pastors in the family tree. Even so, Mom loved to poke me that I stole her daughter far away to Michigan.
I had posted my sermons on my congregation’s website, and she loved reading them. In 2014, when my health forced me into an early retirement, Mom encouraged me to get back into the ministry, even if I had to start my own congregation.
My health issue was as unique as it was severe. Over the five years I dealt with it, Mom’s love for Julie and me shone bright and constant.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When I was young, I saw this poster at work: Your influence is either positive or negative. It’s never neutral. Since Mom died, I noticed something that was always before me, but had not yet landed: her four daughters are just like her. Her influence is reflected in them … and it’s all positive.
Mom was hard-working. So is each daughter.
Mom was dedicated to family. So is each daughter.
Mom was faithful to people who mattered and to things that were important. So is each daughter.
Mom was smart, wise, and savvy. So is each daughter.
Mom laughed easily, rolled with the punches, and dug in when things got serious. So does each daughter.
That’s how we continue to live on in this world, after we’ve passed. Our deceased loved ones live on far more than in our hearts and memories. They live on in how we live on.
For her eternal life, we are thankful that Mom lives on with the Lord Jesus, who called her by name and kept her safe in His love.
Because Mom lived the way the Lord created us to live—love others as you want them to love you—her presence in this world will continue to be unmistakable. Mom lives on in her children and grandchildren.
Her life has been planted in them. Fed and nurtured in them. Has blossomed and bears fruit in them.
As all her seventy-seven years Vonna Leckband was a blessing to many—to family, to friends, to community, to church … to keeping the always-on-the-go Larry Leckband in line—she will be a blessing for generations to come.
The fruits of Mom’s labors will continue to taste sweet, because of the extraordinary life she lived.
During the phone call with Julie and my older son and daughter-in-law, there was growing momentum toward trying an intervention, that the only way for my younger son to admit his dependance on alcohol was to approach him as a unified group.
Time was more than up. There were too many signs that Alex was drinking heavily. He had deflected my question two months earlier. With his answer, he didn’t convince me. But, I am not one to confront people, to call them liars, to push them to the point it might place an irrevocable wedge between us.
I let his less-than-half-truth response stand.
And I kept seeing the signs, such as how he stayed up all night every weekend and then slept all day. Not a sound of movement coming from his room. The way people sleep who are not tired, but passed out.
When I made my mental list of all of the signs, it was half a dozen items long. And, even as it was a convincing list, I was able to provide another reason for each item. Even for how each weekend played out: He’s always liked saying up late. That’s all it is.
My mind returning to the phone call, as I weighed each idea for how to approach Alex I feared the intervention. Knowing his personality, I was growing in my conviction that he would lash out at us. That, in fact, the opposite of recognizing this was the turning point of his life, he would feel cornered. And, to defend himself—to keep himself from having to admit the truth and face the mountain of a climb which is sobriety—he would fight back.
Deny. Deflect. And depart.
And not only would nothing have been gained, everything would have been lost. Alex would have been lost to us.
Reaching the apex of the debate, I heard the garage door. Alex, who had lived with Julie and me for over a year, had arrived. I said, “He’s home,” opened the bedroom door and closed it behind me. I met Alex in the hall.
I didn’t have a plan. I knew I had to confront him, but how could I do so without erecting a wall instead of building a bridge?
My stomach already knotted, as he approached it twisted more tightly. The knot was tied to my face. Tears welled in my eyes. Alex asked, “What’s the matter? Did someone die?”
I choked out a weak “No.”
My mind spun as the intensity of the moment caused my grief to deepen. I believed this was it. The moment. If I could not achieve a breakthrough now, I might never. Later, Alex agreed. He recognized his drinking had grown so deep, and had gone on so long, that he feared his death was imminent. He was sick, constantly. Hangovers had deepened. Recovery took longer.
Alex: “Are you okay?”
Me, finally, gently, voice quavering: “I hate to call anyone a liar, but I don’t think you’ve been telling me the truth about how much you are drinking.”
Finally, the question found my voice: “Are you an alcoholic?”
He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t flinch. He looked me straight in the eye as tears welled up in his.
That yes felt as good as the moment I watched him arrive in the world. There would be no need to continue my questioning. To question his response. To respond with accusations.
That yes meant the healing could begin.
We had a lot to talk about. I told Alex of the family phone call that was in progress. He wanted to talk one on one right then. He said, “Let’s go out to the porch.”
I ducked into the bedroom. I gave them the good news. I joined him on the porch.
Alex came clean. That yes meant he no longer had anything to hide. He knew his father’s attitude—he could trust that I would not judge him. I would not condemn him. Admitting the truth puts the past where it belongs, gives power to the present, allows the future to begin.
We sat on our porch couch. Alex told me everything. I asked loads of questions. He provided honest answers.
As soon as we took our spots on the porch, Alex said, “I feel a weight has been removed.” He repeated that several times over the next hour.
We talked about whether he needed to detox. About rehab. About Alcoholics Anonymous. About how to get him onto a path of successful sobriety.
The next day, he reported what he learned about AA in Indianapolis. Meetings take place every day, in every neighborhood.
And the next day, he attended his first meeting.
And the next day, he attended his second meeting.
And almost every day, until the pandemic created the lockdown, he attended meetings. He made friends, who know the struggle. He got a sponsor. He’s now become a sponsor.
While the event I recall here occurred on June 10, it is not Alex’s anniversary. That is June 4. I’d forgotten that he told me he had not consumed any alcohol for six days before our talk.
He easily admits that he would not have succeeded at sobriety on his own. He told me of previous tries—once, he succeeded for three months—and how situations led him back to drinking.
He needed support. He needed AA. He needed his family. He needed accountability.
Alex’s first year of success story is an important one. Too many people are stuck where he once was. Addicted. Harming their bodies. Straining relationships. Wasting money.
This past year, Alex learned much about himself. About what works. And what doesn’t work. About the importance of being held accountable. About his faith in God.
I hope soon to post his own words on these vital topics.
Indianapolis has lost one of its valuable citizens, though her death will be noted only by those who personally knew her—all who cherished her.
Memorial Day weekend, Gina Drey died in her home. She was recently diagnosed with cancer in her vital organs. In her early seventies and already coping with a variety of health issues, it is easy to imagine her heart simply gave out.
And what a heart it was—always giving out to others in her community, her church, her family, and her friends.
Julie and I met Gina the second Sunday in July 2015. We had just moved into the house we bought and were looking for a new church home. As I used my daily run to get to know the neighborhood, I jogged by First Trinity Lutheran Church, a convenient half mile from us.
We checked their website. We found them a small group and mostly older than us. Multi-cultural, just like our new neighborhood. We got the sense this could be the place for us.
Entering, we were greeted by a gregarious woman handing out bulletins. “Welcome! I’m Gina!” Her smile was as large as her friendliness. Before we went to a pew, we felt like old friends.
In these days since her death, I have realized this: Gina was the best friend I’ve made in my six years in Indianapolis.
In “retirement,” Gina was the church secretary. (Her previous occupation had been, of all things, a debt collector. I could only imagine that no one could say “no” to her.) As secretary, she was paid for six hours a day, three days a week. She was in the office way more than that.
You know the type. Every congregation has at least one of them. That woman who serves on boards and committees and the altar guild. That woman who teaches Sunday School. That woman who prepares an abundance of food for church dinners. That woman who attends every congregational event. That woman who’s always first to arrive and last to depart.
At First Trinity, that woman was Gina Drey.
You know the type. Every congregation needs at least one of them. That woman who calls the sick to see how they are. That woman who mails birthday cards—homemade ones, at that. That woman who provides snacks for meetings. That woman who bubbles over with her greetings, who laughs with ease. That woman who is so reliable that you never think about her not being there, doing that.
At First Trinity, that woman was Gina Drey.
You know the type. The way she is in her congregation, so she is in her community. That woman who frequents many local diners, making friends at every one. That woman who belongs to all the social groups. That woman who gladly picks up whoever can use a ride to dinner or a meeting. That woman who always calls to see if she can give you a lift—especially of your spirits.
On the northeast side of Indy, that woman was Gina Drey.
Gina never married. She had no children. She had two brothers, with whom she was close. Despite her small physical family, she had many brothers, a host of sisters, and loads of kids. If a person did not feel a kinship with Gina, it wasn’t because Gina didn’t have a caring heart for that person.
The Lord Jesus instructs all to “let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) This, Gina did. As her Lord faithfully shined His love upon her, Gina faithfully reflected it wherever she was and in whatever she did.
Even after Julie and I left First Trinity, Gina remained faithful in her friendship. The calls and cards and invites to lunch kept coming.
The last time I spoke with Gina was a few days before her death. She had learned that her first chemotherapy was to be on Friday. Her prognosis was not good, but you never would have known it by her voice.
I recited the Twenty-third Psalm. Arriving at key phrases, I slowed down. Stressed the faith heard and promises made.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I concluded, “Gina, you belong to the Lord. Whatever happens, you will dwell in His house forever, with your Jesus.”
Now, I heard a tear. “Yes. I know I will.”
I closed with “I love you, kid. Talk to you, soon.”
Since learning of her death, I’ve been experiencing the thing that’s common at the loss of a loved one. I can’t grasp that I won’t be talking with Gina again in this life. I’ve been daydreaming about the many ways she and I spent time together, especially at church. In worship. At Bible class. Having lunch after church.
Though I look forward to the great reunion in heaven, I mourn the temporary loss. All of us, her extended family, mourn a deep loss.
Gina Drey made the world better. She left our hearts fuller.
Truly, Indianapolis has lost one of its valuable citizens. An unsung star.
Taking no more than 120 seconds to read, Two Minute Warming is an uplifting devotion to strengthen you in Jesus Christ.
How important is Easter? It’s this significant: a dead Jesus accomplishes nothing, helps no one, can fulfill zero promises.
“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith (1 Corinthians 15:14).”
History is littered with people, whose accomplishments benefit our generation—from enemies defeated, to laws enacted, to cures found. The actions and words of long gone people continue to inform us, to motivate us, to strengthen us in our causes.
But, Jesus’ actions and words surpass inspiration, go beyond this generation, transcend this life.
Indeed, if He had only died on a cross, Jesus’ death would count for nothing. Everyone dies.
Jesus’ resurrection informs His death, that He accomplished what He set out to do. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (Romans 4:25).”
Through His righteous death, Christ won the forgiveness of our sins. Through His victorious resurrection, by grace through faith in Him we are declared not guilty before the Father.
On this Easter, we cry Alleluia! because “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20).”
Now alive, the Lord Jesus is able to fulfill His promises. Having ascended to heaven, He has power to help us.
Most important of all He promised is our own resurrection from the dead. While we love everything the Lord does for us, death is the one enemy none of us can keep away.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die (John 11:25-26).”
Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24).”
Jesus said, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day (John 6:40).”
Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).”