So I want to tell about a woman whose quiet ministry of prayer and service has had such abundant fruit in the Kingdom of God.
Cheryl Quintero was one of the first persons I met when I was called as rector of St. Mary's. I remember her greeting me with a loaf of homemade bread and a smile and kind word.
Cheryl has many gifts, but I consider her greatest is her gift of prayer. In the tradition of the Jerusalem women whose lives were considered a prayer, much of what she does is prayer in action.
Cheryl moved from Texas over ten years ago and has been living in Montana. In her Christmas letter, she told me that she would be visiting Cypress in February, so I wasn't expecting her when I heard her voice speaking down the hall from my office the last week of January. I jumped from my chair and ran to greet her. She had only recently arrived in Texas, and she and her husband had stopped in for a quick visit to St. Mary's.
Are you like me that sometimes you don't realize how much you miss someone until you see them again after a period of absence? Cheryl is in town for a month to visit family, and since she's been here, she's made St. Mary's her church home. It is as a see her once again in worship, at meetings, and Bible studies that I am reminded how very, very much I've missed her prayer-filled presence and support.
Last Sunday, Cheryl came with cake to visit the Junior Daughters of the King, our ministry of prayer and service for the girls of our parish. Our Junior Daughters chapter is not named for one of the more well known Saints of the Church but the Cheryl Quintero Jr. DOK in honor of her ministry at St. Mary's (she was one of the first Daughters of the King when it began at St. Mary's over fifteen years ago). The girls had never met Cheryl, and meeting her was a reminder that saints of God are ordinary people, too. She had brought bookmarks for each girl with the Aaronic blessing written on the back:.
"The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look turn his face toward you and give you peace."
As God would have it, the Junior Daughters had also signed a special card for Cheryl with these very same words on the front!
I told the over twenty girls gathered how Cheryl's ministry of prayer and her own servant leadership had been foundational in creating this very active group of girls who study Scripture, pray, and serve, and are themselves leaders at St. Mary's. When I spoke these words, Cheryl did a true cherylism--raising her arms in the orans position and quietly saying, Thanks be to God.
Yesterday Cheryl was back at St. Mary's for the Wednesday Morning Bible Study. Week after week, a group of more than two dozen men and women gather for prayer, study, and fellowship. They have become a koina community who serve the parish in a variety of ways and have several active outreach ministries. As I saw Cheryl joining the group of over thirty yesterday, I remembered that she had been part of our original daytime Bible study fifteen years ago. In the first days, we met on Tuesdays, and week after week I would pray that at least two people would show up. Cheryl was front and center praying for this study to grow.
When I shared with the group yesterday that this lively, active group of Christians were enjoying the fruit of Cheryl's faithful prayers, she did her cherylism, hands raised in orans, a gentle, Thanks be to God.
Cheryl is not perfect, of course, but she is faithful. I have been grateful that she has been able to return and see some of the fruit of her ministry in her years at St. Mary's. This is a rare and precious gift.
I write these words because they are encouragement for us all of us. I pray that each of us will get a glimpse into the difference that we are making right here right now in God's kingdom.
As we all raise our arms in thanks and say, Thanks be to God.