July 7, 2019 sermon

Posted by on Jul 8, 2019 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

A Faith Story – Part One

It was Easter Sunday, 2018, when Tamara watched her sister being killed. At least that’s what the records showed. But Samantha had died many times long before that fateful day.

Tamara and Samantha were born in the early 1960’s in London, England to parents from a multi-racial lineage. Tamara was two years older than Samantha and had a dark complexion with an oval face framed by dark, curly hair. Samantha had a narrower face with high cheekbones and straight, blonde hair that was of a fine texture. In the mid 1960’s, the family immigrated to Canada and settled in the city of London, Ontario, hoping that the identical names of the two cities would bring them good fortune.

Two years later, when Tamara was eight years old and Samantha had just turned six, their parents were killed in a horrific traffic accident and the girls were left parentless. Fortunately, the younger sister of their mother had also immigrated to London, Canada and she took the two young girls into her home, becoming their legal guardian. For the next few years, the girls missed their parents terribly, but were managing to adapt to their new lives. Eventually, their aunt married and the girls now had a new father figure as well. Samantha was twelve years old when their aunt’s husband began abusing her. For some reason, Tamara escaped his abuse and never realized what was happening to her sister. Their aunt also seemed to be oblivious to what was taking place. Samantha was fifteen when she left home and began living on the streets. Tamara sought out her sister but was rebuffed by her. Samantha decided to leave London and moved away, losing all contact with her family.

Tamara was an excellent student and graduated at the top of her class. She was accepted into London’s Western University school of medicine and was licenced as a medical doctor in the 1990’s. Her aunt had divorced her husband several years earlier and attended Tamara’s graduation ceremony. She was the only family member Tamara had left to celebrate with her. How Tamara missed her sister and wished she knew where she was and how she was doing. Tamara asked her aunt about Samantha and was shocked when she was told by her aunt why she had divorced her husband. Apparently, the truth about his abuse of Samantha had finally become known and was now in the hands of the police. However, as nobody knew where Samantha was, there was not much that could be done.

It was on September 11, 2001 when Tamara was working at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and the twin Towers in New York City were hit in a terrorist attack, that Tamara began to question her career and the meaning of life. She had made the choice a few years into her medical career to specialize in pediatric medicine and was now a respected doctor in the field of children’s medicine. However, after several years of working with children who suffered from so many diseases and died at such a young age Tamara had felt uncertain about many things. She began to seek out people who might help her answer some of her questions. One of her colleagues suggested she join her for a worship service at her local church. At first, Tamara rejected the offer, having never been part of a worshipping community, but eventually relented and accompanied her colleague to a Sunday morning service.

For some reason, the message and music that morning spoke to Tamara’s questioning mind and needy spirit and she began to attend regularly. The pastor spoke often of God’s plan for all people and all that people needed to do to experience a life of meaning and joy was to believe in Jesus. Something in the message didn’t sit right with Tamara but other parts of it spoke to her in a powerful way so she set her concerns aside and plunged headlong into this new faith community she was now part of.

It was at her church home that Tamara met her husband. A well-educated man with a successful business who was a life-long member of the church, he could have married long ago but never did. In Tamara he seemed to have met his equal in many ways and the two of them were married within a year of their first date. Together they became well-liked leaders in the faith community and well-known people in the larger community they were part of. This particular church’s message was that God wanted only the best for all people and if one believed in Christ fully and supported the church’s mission generously, they would experience lives filled with success, joy, and prosperity.

Again, something within the message irked Tamara but she couldn’t put her finger on what it was so she decided to embrace the message and see what happened. For the next ten years or so, Tamara and her husband pursued their careers with gusto and both of them advanced in their respective fields. Tamara’s husband made some wise business moves and his business grew at a rapid pace, soon worth many millions of dollars. Tamara was promoted at the hospital and took on more and more responsibility. Trying to be true to their church’s teachings, both Tamara and her husband contributed generously to their church’s financial programs as well as to various charitable causes throughout the city. So generous were they that they even had a program at the hospital named after them.

Life was good for Tamara and her husband and they were satisfied with their family with just the two of them. Tamara had little desire to have children and had told her husband why when he had asked her about it. She explained her childhood experiences as best she could to him and how her sister’s devastating experience had affected her family. She also told him how she wished she knew what had happened to Samantha and how much she missed her. Her husband listened carefully and supported her with whatever her wishes for a family were. He never pressed Tamara about it but was always available to listen whenever she was feeling overwhelmed by what she experienced at work. Knowing her background helped him to understand her need to work with children and do her best to help them.

It was Christmas Day, 2016 when Tamara met the young girl who would change her life forever. Because many of the doctors wanted to be with their families on Christmas, Tamara always volunteered to take their shifts throughout the holiday season. Something about the young girl tugged at Tamara’s heart from the first instant she saw her. This was not unusual as Tamara had a genuinely caring heart for all of the children she looked after, but there was something different this time. Tamara wasn’t able to identify what it was, but she felt drawn to this child in a way she hadn’t with any other children in her care. Maybe it was because of the multiple symptoms the young girl was dealing with or it might have been the trust the young girl seemed to have in Tamara when she was examining her. The young girl’s name was, Faith, and she was accompanied by her mother, whose name was, Sahara. Faith’s information sheet listed the name of her father and his history of medical issues along with the information that he was deceased so Tamara did not ask about him. If information was needed later to help with Faith’s care, she could ask then.

Faith was four years old when she was admitted to the Hospital for Sick Children, facing an uphill battle if she was to survive. Tamara threw herself into her young patient’s case, spending many hours late into the night doing research and looking for the latest medicines and procedures know to the medical community that might help to heal Faith. Tamara’s husband noticed the extra hours Tamara was putting in and the almost obsessive compulsion she seemed to have to find a cure for this newest patient in her care. When he asked her gently about it, Tamara became defensive in her response, which surprised him because this was out of character for his wife. As the days and weeks went by, he became worried as he saw Tamara developing an anxiety about her that he had not seen before. He wondered what was driving it but was wise and loving enough to not ask Tamara anymore questions but made sure he was always able to offer a listening ear when she needed to express her frustrations.

Tamara and her husband continued to participate in their faith community regularly and contributed ever-more generously to their church and many other organizations as their wealth and influence grew. However there was something in the message that Tamara had always felt a bit uncomfortable about that was beginning to bother her more and more. Her church claimed that if a person believed fully, God would bless them with only good things and that no matter what life threw at them, God would help them through it. What bothered Tamara was that while this seemed to be true in her own life, she wasn’t convinced it was true for so many other people she knew. Sure, some of the people who came to the hospital had sketchy backgrounds and certainly did not profess any belief in God, let alone in Jesus. But others who came through the hospital doors had a faith in God and the Christian message that she knew was greater than her own faith. Tamara could see it in the words they spoke, the prayers they offered, and in the way they faced the uncertainty that lay before them. Tamara often wondered how these parents could sit with their sick or injured children, some with life-threatening illnesses or life-long disabilities, and still remain positive and hopeful. She wondered even more how they went on with life with any sort of joy when their child died. Tamara would sometimes go to a quiet room by herself and cry softly when a patient died. Occasionally she would go for a drive to a remote park, sit on a park bench with nobody around, and scream loudly, letting her frustration, anger, and pain out as best she could.

When Faith’s health deteriorated in the spring of 2017, Tamara met with Faith’s mother, Sahara, and asked her more about Faith’s father. She needed to know if there was something in his medical history besides what she already knew that would help her to care for Faith. Sahara hesitated and then began to tell Tamara her own story. It all began with her mother and Faith’s grandmother, who was now very ill as well. She came from a very troubled and difficult background. Slowly, Sahara began to tell the tale of a young girl, molested by a family member who felt forced to live on the streets. This young woman eventually gave birth to a baby girl, who she named after herself and her only sister. Her own name, Sahara, was a combination of her mother’s name, Samantha, and her aunt’s name, which was Tamara.

Tamara gasped and leaned back in her chair as Sahara commented on how unusual the name Tamara was, and yet her aunt and Faith’s doctor both had that same name.