Monday, April 23, 2012

Carmen would

This past week I lost a dear, long time Friend. Her name was Carmen B. Algarin. I believe the "B" stood for Brunilda but most of her family called her "Bruni", many called her "Mama and I generally called her Carmen Jr.

You see, I was her Pastor for the majority of nine years and in the time before her, I was her Mother's Pastor and her name was Carmen Milagros. (please excuse if mis-spelled) Carmen Sr. was in the Church when I arrived and shortly after or at about the same time that I arrived, Carmen Jr. started coming to Church. I watched amazed as I witnessed her faith in Christ grow. It wasn't long until she was telling everyone that would listen and even those who wouldn't about the Narragansett Church of God and it wasn't long before the rest of her family, (including her husband Sammy who became one of my closets Friends as well), started coming to Church. it was one of those families that Pastor's love to see walk through the door because they just kept coming in.

If the doors to the Church were open, Carmen was usually there. Prayer meetings on a Thursday morning, she was there. Revival services during the week, she was there and if she didn't get a ride, she would walk. SHE LOVED HER CHURCH and fortunately for me, she loved her Pastor as well. When the Church needed cleaning, she would show up each week and faithfully clean "God's house." She never expected anything in return, never wanted it announced or broadcast in any way. She simply served and in serving She served the Lord.

I was at her side on the day her Mother died. Sammy, myself and a few more volunteers had just finished a hard days work in the Church basement where we were remodeling and laying new ceramic tile on the floor. Sammy headed home while we finished some clean up and it was just a few moments that the phone rang and Sammy said, "Pastor, Carmen's Mom has died and we need you to be here. It's bad!" In the background I could here Carmen crying out in grief in a way that I have seldom heard it. Sammy was a Vietnam vet. He had been there and done that in many scenario's but seeing his Wife in such grief was tearing away at him. I walked in the door of their beautiful home just a few moments later and Carmen was still losing it in a bad way. I walked up to her and said, "Carmen, I know you are sad but you need to remember that this is what Mom lived for and what she worked for! She is home with Jesus." While the grief would naturally continue, those words seemed to bring comfort and as Sammy would later say, "She came back to her senses!"

I was there the day that Sammy would breathe his last breath just a year or so later. Victoriously finishing a long bout with Cancer. I held his hand as he saw the face of God for the first time. This time I think that Carmen held up better than I did but I put on a brave face for the family and would wait and cry like a baby over the loss of my Friend at another time. I even did well through Carmen's Memorial service until they put a a picture of Sammy and the floods came again. We had all spent many wonderful days together in many scenarios and we walked through the valley of the Shadow together drawing strength from one another.

I received the news that Carmen had come down with Cancer just a few months back. While the prognosis did not sound to good, I knew I had time to go see her and had planned to do just that. But the Lord in his ways that we don't often understand decided that this precious Saint of God needed to come home. Home to God the Father, Home to Christ the Son, Home to the Holy Ghost, Home to Mama and home to Sammy and we lost her just last week.

I cried when I received the news. I had one of those moments where I foolishly wanted to be mad at God. After all that she had been through, after all the service and dedication, after all of the grief and loss, surely God, she would be one that you would heal. It was at that moment that the Father replayed in my memory that day that Carmen's Mom died and I heard my own words saying. "this is what she lived for, this is what she worked for!" And I was comforted by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Her memorial was this past Saturday and it marked the first time that I would return to the Church that I had Shepherded for nearly a decade. The current Pastor and my Friend, Rev. Gerron Ayento did a superbly marvelous job of conducting the Service and giving honor to my lost Friend and her family. As I was sitting there, even in the grief, I felt good. Good that the Building looked as wonderful as it did. Good that along with the many familiar faces that it was so good to see, there were many new faces. Good that a Church that I love is still going strong! But then again, why not? With people like Carmen there, it is no surprise.

Then my heart shifted toward the fact that she will no longer be there. Who will be as faithful? Who will be as serving? Who will be the Mentor that she was? Who will be the peace maker that she was so many times described as? Then the bigger question arose. Why did she do it? Actually, that one is easy. She loved her God. She loved her Church. She loved her family and she loved serving the Lord.

What about you and your Church and your service to God? Are you one that can be counted on? Are you one that people will call when they need a prayer warrior? Are you one that will be a peacemaker and show the love of Christ at all times. Are you one that will say "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord?" Are you one that even on your worst day, people will see your joy that simply cannot be hidden? Carmen would!