However, there’s a bit of sadness setting in. Today is our last day before returning home. While it’s always good to get home, this trip has been special. It has been a week of firsts. Our first trip to Niagara Falls. My first meeting with a church in Canada. The first time we’ve spent the week in a 5th wheel RV. And the first time we’ve eaten French Fries with gravy!
But more importantly it has been an opportunity to share the gospel and enjoy fellowship with the Wellandport brethren. They’ve been gracious. Giving. And Generous. In their encouragement. Kindness. And support. And none more so than our hosts for the week, Michael and Sherry Stephens.
We first became acquainted with the Stephens through their lovely daughter Tabitha, who’s a talented artist, when she was a student at Florida College. She and her two brothers, Elijah, who’s graduating from High School next week and Caleb, who’s in a summer preacher training program with Steve Wolfgang, are a wonderful reflection of their parents’ nurture and training in the Lord.
Michael, a native Kentuckian, preaches for the Wellandport church. But never intended to become a preacher. When he and Sherry met at Florida College, he had his sights on other occupational interests. After graduating from Western Kentucky University, they returned to Sherry’s home in Ontario, Canada.
Mike got a job as a long haul truck driver across Canada. He began preaching part-time, while Wellandport was looking for another preacher. Within a year Mike felt compelled to quit his job and begin preaching full-time. The brethren decided Mike was their man! And he has been here ever since. For 25 years!
The Stephens are the epitome of warmth. Kindness. And gracious hospitality. Their home is constantly open to the brethren. Area-wide youth gatherings every month. And currently to two foster children they are keeping.
They are naturally frugal in their personal lifestyle, but generous with their time and resources in helping other people. Whether it is mowing a neighbor’s yard, encouraging someone who is struggling, or hosting a potluck in their home for the whole church, Mike and Sherry are constantly serving the needs of others. It’s evident that the Stephens are loved and respected by the brethren and those in the community.
Michael was telling me about the wood mantel above his fireplace. It was a beam from his grandfather’s barn in Lincoln County, Kentucky. When I went to look at the beam, sitting on it with other pictures was a stone plaque that caught my eye. It simply said:
“The measure of love is to love without measure.”
“Love” is a word difficult to define. Poems have been written. Songs sung. And lectures given. But the nature of love is beyond human measure. Yet it’s always obvious in the action, attitudes and lives of others who embody it. Folks like the Stephens.
Michael Stephen is a man in whom there is no guile. Sherry is a virtuous, godly woman who supports Mikes’ work. But also is an accomplished speaker, writer, and teacher in her own right.
Norma Jean and have I have enjoyed our time with them. They have demonstrated love to us without measure. But it’s not because we’re anything special. That’s just who they are!
They are lights in the world! They are reflector’s of God’s love. They are living examples of Paul’s beautiful love treatise.
This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.
Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails.
Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Thank you, Stephens’ family, for your fellowship in the gospel. Your loyal friendship. And your unconditional love. A love without measure.
It’s been a great week in Canada! Eh?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
Note: The above graphic is painted by Tabitha Stephens, and used with her permission. You can see more of her work at http://www.artbytabitha.com/gallery/painting/