A Word of Gratitude from Elizabeth Rice Handford

Back in 2006, Joy Martin’s daughter, Marilou Lyons, asked me if she could reproduce on the JCM website the devotionals I write each week for Greenville SC Interim Health Care. So for the last 17 years I’ve been writing them with you dear Joyful Woman friends also in mind. This devotional, the thousandth I’ve written for Interim, gives the background for the years Walt and I worked with them after he retired from Southside Baptist Church in 1996. You may be interested in the wonderful way God let us serve Him when we had gotten old. Here ’tis:

“Honoring God through Enriching Lives” is our wonderful Interim mission statement. What better way could you spend the rest of your life? That’s the way Walt and I felt when Ray and Charyl Schroeder asked us to join the Interim family as “enrichment counselors.”

In 1996 Walt retired from the church he’d pastored for 31 years, the church the Schroeders attended. Walt had served God valiantly and passionately all his life. Now he was 73 years old, and it was time to lay his heavy burdens down. But he was absolutely bereft; he’d loved meeting the spiritual needs of people, especially those who were old or infirm, poor or ill.

Over a Sunday meal at Pizza Inn with Ray and Charyl that fall, Walt asked Ray what his business was. When Ray told him about Interim, Walt exclaimed, “Oh, what a wonderful opportunity to reach people for the Lord Jesus!” That week Ray called Walt. “You’ve set my heart on fire. Now come and help me make it happen.” So that’s what we did for many sweet and satisfying years.

In a little home clinging to the hillside an old man and woman, both bald because of chemo, oxygen tubes cluttering the floor, heard for the very first time that Jesus loved them and paid for their sins. They so gladly received His forgiveness and assurance of Heaven. In an assisted living home, a woman who’d been silenced by a stroke surprised her children when she began to sing with me all the words of “The Old Rugged Cross.” A young mother, her body broken by a fall through the ceiling listened to the Gospel story and exclaimed with tears, “This is a God thing—I’ve been begging Him to show me.” In a lighter vein, a woman had postponed major surgery because she had no one to care for her dog. She was delighted when we found someone to care for it. Scores of hearts were comforted and lives were transformed through those years. And it was all because you Interim people honored God.

I wrote the first Interim devotional in April of 2005, as we moved the offices from University Ridge to Butler Road. The theme was “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Psalm 127). Eighteen years later, this is the thousandth devotional—and the topic is still the same. Let’s keep honoring God as we serve our needy patients, all of us, no matter our job description.

As I’ve written, I haven’t always been sure of your particular heart needs. Thank God He knows and will give you what you need. I’ve been frank and honest with you, sometimes writing of a temptation I’ve struggled with. Someone asked, “Libby, aren’t you afraid people will lose respect for you when you share that stuff?” I say ruefully, “I think you all already know my faults.” Embarrassing? Yes, but if it helps you through a rough patch, it’s worth the embarrassment.

May God continue to meet your needs as we talk together each week.

One more word: this is my enthusiastic, unsolicited advertisement for your incomparable services in my own life. You were so very comforting and professional in helping me through the dark time of Walt’s long and final illness. You’ve taken care of me since, in all kinds of illnesses, falls, and surgery—the hazards of my old, my very old age. You’ve done it with grace and patience, wisdom and cheerfulness, professionally and competently. I thank all of you for your part in making this company all that it is. May God bless you and your families, each one.