Browsing Tag

The Cross

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

The Best of Lads to Leaders

Avelynn Ferrie…just after third grade speech.

Colleyanna Giselbach leading her song for the ladies.

Sometimes people, even Christians, need something very encouraging to get them through adversity or times of discouragement. Needing this right now, my husband and I made the trek for our 29th year straight to Lads to Leaders, the largest youth event among churches of Christ. A tool that allows congregations to keep the autonomy of the New Testament church while joining together for fellowship and training programs, Lads to Leaders is coming out of the Covid months with about 2/3 of its participants now back at convention and fully engaged. There were several brand new congregations represented and lots of churches were back bigger and stronger than ever before. Best of all, nothing was missing in the zeal-and-anticipation category. Christians simply cannot be present at any of the conventions without being blessed.

Malachi (L) and Ali’i in 2013

In the year 2013, my husband and I traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii to talk to the Christians there about family. Our contact was Pisa Soli, a faithful woman of God, mother to Malachi (who at the time was 8 years old) and a skilled nurse. While there, we met Flori Barber, new Christian, wife to Rafe, and mother to four-year-old Ali’i. (You see the boys in the photo.) Both Pisa and the Barbers were transplants to Honolulu from American Samoa, where Pisa’s father was a gospel preacher and planted one of the first Samoan congregations. Pisa had been instrumental in converting Flori to the faith.

Through a series of events, both the Barbers and the Solis (and the extended Soli family) have moved to Huntsville, Alabama, where the West Huntsville family is blessed by their sweet fellowship and examples. We have 23 Samoans now who are faithfully in our midst every time the doors are open!

This year at Lads, I watched both Malachi and Ali’i give excellent speeches from the Joshua one admonition “Be strong and courageous.” in winner’s circle speech. That means both of these young men have already won their speech divisions in previous years. Also in winner’s circle was AJ Soli (Malachi’s cousin) and Gideon Soli (who won first place this year in winner’s circle!–wow!), Pisa’s little brother. All told, an approximate (…you always have to approximate with big Samoan families) 20 West Huntsville Samoans were involved in competing or judging events at Lads this year.

Best of all, Ali’i’s dad, Rafe Barber, is one of the newest Christians at convention this year. It’s what we were praying for when the decision was made for this good family to come to Huntsville. It has been a long time coming, but we are so very thankful this family is complete in Him. It was the lifetime dream of Flori and Ali’i and now it’s the best of blessings for two little Barber siblings born since the move to Huntsville. My heart is full. God’s providence is full for those who are strong and courageous.

When I say a series of events that brought these families here, I mean several things that have taken courage for these lads participants this year. I mean a very sick newborn who could not get proper care in Samoa, a desire to be in the West Huntsville family, the process of leaving Pentecostalism, a stint abroad in the Gulf war,  the death of a patriarch, the sibling care of younger siblings who are left behind by their Father’s death, the will to be part of the West Huntsville family, the loss of a job, the willingness to come and live–11 people–in a tiny little cabin for three months while finding employment, the desire to be a part of the West Huntsville family, etc…etc…

We are so beyond thankful that these Samoan kids and parents and siblings and cousins, and now even friends who are fellow Christians, are a part of our family. But, the amazing thing I have learned is that there are hundreds of stories like this one that bring people together in the church and, ultimately in this transforming program. Everyone brings a story to the cross. EVERYONE. All of our stories are sin-stained and adversity blotted. But that Joshua promise of a never-forsaking God when we find our  strength and courage is what motivates us to keep going when things are looking their bleakest in this lifetime. The garden of Gethsemane was pretty bleak. The devil thought, for sure, he’d won this time. The grave was impending for the Lord and our only hope was about to be placed in  Sheol. But there was the courage that said “Not my will, but Thine.” There was the strength that said “Father, forgive them.” And there was Sunday morning’s empty tomb.

On that Sunday morning, our stories were forever salvaged in Him. I love Lads to Leaders. But mostly, I love the Lord.

Malachi in Winner’s Circle Speech

Ali’i with Glenn after giving a speech in Winner’s Circle

Here are these two boys today:




Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Where Is Your Sting?–Part 4

The Sting of Death Is the Struggle.

Sometimes the last hours before death are intensely difficult. When death follows sickness, the struggle for the faithful— just before the angels come— is often obvious to everyone in the room. When a loved one, due to intubation or shortness of breath or other problems, loses the ability to fully communicate, but looks at caregivers with eyes that plead for some kind of relief, the inability to offer that relief is almost unbearable. Sometimes, as a son or daughter, you are looking at a parent— one who has relieved your own pain, borne your grief, on countless occasions. You would give anything now to ease the struggle as life ebbs away for your loved one, but there is absolutely nothing you can do but pray as the power of life and death does not rest in your hands. 

That’s when you are glad for passages of Holy Writ that are comforting beyond what any mortal can offer. You pray, in those moments, for the “peace that passes understanding”—the peace that can “guard your heart and mind” in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). You remember that neither life nor death (neither of the possibilities at the end of the struggle) can separate those in the room from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38). You remember that, whether this loved one lives or dies, you are still walking in the dark shadow cast by death and that you should fear no evil, for He is with you. There is great comfort in His rod and staff (Psalm 23:1-3). You remember that you may be  approaching a very precious moment because that’s how the death of His saints is characterized. It is “precious” to God (Psalm 116:15). The Word is truly the staff on which you lean in these moments of struggle. 

You also remember that there was One who struggled between life and death for six hours one dark day on a hillside outside of Jerusalem. Surely the desperate look was in His eyes as he bore excruciating pain and suffered unbearable mental anguish. Yet there was no one to come to His aid. His mother looked up into the suffering eyes of her son. The disciple whom he loved looked up and saw the struggle. The Father looked down and, because he knew that the cross was the only path to heaven for me, turned His face away, at least in some sense, from that situation that my sin demanded. He struggled more intensely than anyone in any hospital bed that I will ever know. He struggled so that my  struggle between life and death could be just that—a relatively short, albeit, perhaps painful fight against death; a struggle that ends with eternal victory over death. He, the just One, did the struggle —the suffering—for me, the unjust One. 

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.

And because of the empty tomb—the quickening of the Spirit of Christ—the sting of death for the faithful is extremely short and, in fact, is the doorway to victory.