- Written by Andy Searles
I’ve always found it remarkable how God brings people together who probably never would’ve met if it weren’t for Him.
This week, my church is saying our goodbyes to one of the most courageous people I’ve ever met.
Her name is Maria Mills Greenfield.
There’s a really good chance Maria and I never would’ve met 10 years ago. She is a dyed in the wool southern woman, full of that spunk, heart, and charm where the words “bless your heart” coming from her mouth could have a bunch of different meanings, yet she’s also the first to give you a hug when she sees you. I’m not as big on the hugging thing...a Northerner through and through...grew up near Boston, thought Philadelphia was the deep south until I was about 20, and that grits were southern sausage patties until an experience in Nashville a few years later.
You don’t see a lot in common there, do you?
On the surface there isn’t, but Maria and I now share an eternal bond. God saw fit to cross our paths at a wonderful little church called Church Together. Our church is a group of people from all walks of life who have rallied around each other, laughed and cried with each other, and prayed for each other over the last few years. We've been the church that the Bible calls us to be. There’s a bond there between all of us that Maria is a huge part of and will always be a huge part of.
Maria has been a a big part of that, despite her struggles. She’s been battling cancer for the last several years. She’s had her ups and downs. I’ve looked forward to seeing Maria at church over the last few years. When she’s up, she’s at the front door handing out welcome pamphlets and those hugs. You knew you were in trouble when she whipped out her iPhone. Later that day you were going to be part of the joy of our services for all the world to see on Facebook. She could always be found at the front of the service, hands raised as high as possible in worship, despite her struggles and her pain. She has been praising Jesus in the darkest storms of the last few years.
She also took a picture that I’ll always treasure. My daughter made her first visit to church since I came to Christ at Church Together. Maria took a picture of Kayleigh, my wife Lisa and I. I’m going to frame that picture now.
Recently, Lisa and I visited Maria to say our goodbyes. The conversation covered a wide variety of topics from her life, our lives, her struggles, and where she’s going. I’ve been around my share of folks who were in the last stages of their earthly lives, and from prior experience expected more tears and sorrow than laughter and joy.
But the Holy Spirit was in the room with us. Maria is ready to go home, to be with Jesus. Maria’s earthly legs are no longer working, but she was excited that her very next steps will be steps into eternal life. The joy of knowing she’s on the cusp of what all Christians believe and pray they’ll get to had her smiling and praising Him in the last days of her storm.
The three of us talked about the song “I Can Only Imagine” and how that was the first song Lisa had heard when Jesus called her mom home after a long battle with cancer. Maria was speculating on what she was going to do when she meets Jesus. I'm not a gambling man, but I'm willing to push all my chips to the center of the table that she'll be dancing.
Maria was excited about meeting Him. She was courageously looking forward to her next steps, the way she courageously has fought her battle right here in front of us on Earth. Even in the darkest moments when Maria was fighting, she knew that God is on her side and is about to take away her pain, to trade her bad legs for angel’s wings.
We said our goodbyes and our “I love yous”, and we thanked her for being such an inspiration. Maria’s heart is as big as her body. Her courage is an inspiration to Lisa and I, as well as anyone she’s ever come in contact with. Her love of the Lord and joy filled anticipation of what’s next should be an inspiration to all.
Maria, we really do love you, and look forward to our eternal reunion.
Thank you for being an example of courage and how to praise Him in the storm.
God bless you, Maria.
By Doug Prusak,
Church Together Board Member