As I sit down today to write these words, my mind is going in a dozen different directions, and my emotions are running high. In a couple of minutes, you will know why.
I realize I must be careful in saying something is providential. Unless I have a divine interpreter, I really can’t be sure. But as a believer, I don’t just chalk things up to chance or happenstance. I look for the hand of God in things that happen.
Fourteen people lost their lives in the wild fires that ravaged the Gatlinburg, TN area just after Thanksgiving last year. Many others escaped with only the clothes on their backs. One of those families was Don, Denise, and Leanne Agricola.
This family moved to Seymour to stay in a condominium here, while they planned and prepared to rebuild their mountain home. One of our ladies at church had worked with Denise in a retail store in Pigeon Forge and told us about them.
We immediately contacted them and began to minister to them in whatever ways we could. Other congregations helped with funds for this purpose.
We soon learned that Don had been struggling with cancer for twelve years. He had a large mass in his chest which made it difficult for him to even breathe. He made frequent trips to Vanderbilt in Nashville for cutting-edge treatments, spending seven weeks there at one time.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Don and Denise were told there was nothing else that could be done. Don came home to hospice care. His condition worsened quickly.
But, as providence--I believe--would have it, I was able to talk with him about his soul. He stated his desire to be baptized. On Friday, April 7, we baptized him into Christ. I say “we,” because it took several of us, including some wonderful men from the Seymour Volunteer Fire Department, to get him into our baptistry and to lower him beneath the water.
You see, Don was not an ordinary sized man. He was 6’ 8” tall, weighed about 300 pounds, and was unable to even stand on his own. He was determined and valiant through the process which took more than an hour. When it was over, we sang, “What Can Wash Away My Sins,” and the answer is “nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
From noting the past tense verbs just used, you may already know how this story ends. Don passed away early this morning (Tuesday, April 11). He died peacefully at home and in a right relationship with the Lord. Will you pardon me if I say, “Praise the Lord!”?
When I went with Denise to make his funeral arrangements last Saturday, she said something to this effect, “Just think what good has come from something as bad as our losing everything in the fire. We met you folks, and you’ve been so good to us and we can never thank you enough, and Don was able to be baptized last night.” I said, “Yes, God is alive and well and working in His world, and we will continue to be here for you and Leanne.”
I ask those of you who read these words to pray for Denise and Leanne Agricola. I don’t believe God is done yet!