Making Connections: The Rock of Our Faith

October 12, 2011

By Kat Teraji (with Lisa Alva)

As a 2011 lay ministry graduate, I had the opportunity to preach at the United Methodist Church of Hollister recently, when I filled in for the Rev. Ardyss Golden while she was away. Though a stranger, I felt warmly welcomed by everyone as I connected with our United Methodist neighbors to the southeast of Gilroy. I was inspired by one parishioner in particular, when she opened up and told a surprising story during the Joys and Concerns prayer time in the service. Later, I asked her permission to share it with others, and she wrote down the details that are shared here.
Like many, Lisa Alva has been facing a challenging time economically this year. Her husband, Mike, was told that his job would be coming to an end in July because the company he works for has been sold to a company back East, and they have no desire to retain a West Coast division. For more than six months, he has been searching for a new job. Lisa cares for their grandchild.
"I told my daughter Sarah that I too would have to find my way back to work soon, and that she'd have to find someone to care for the baby," Lisa Alva said. "This breaks my heart because he is my little bundle of joy, my little buddy – but it's time." 
Michael and Lisa just bought the very first home of their own in April. It's a nice little fixer-upper in a neighborhood known as Sunnyslope, and they absolutely love it. They worked through most of their savings before they even moved in. 
"What is left to do to make the home perfectly ours will cost a lot of time, hard work, and love, but someday we'll get there," Lisa said, smiling hopefully.  
To say that it has been a very stressful time would be an understatement. Getting more nervous by the day, Lisa has tried her best, for Michael's sake, to remain upbeat and optimistic. But he always knows when she's stressing, even when she doesn't tell him.  
"During times like that he tells me he has enough faith to carry us both through," she described. "Inside I silently answer, 'I hope so, because I'm not sure how much I have left to give.'"
A few weeks ago, they were out in the front yard doing some landscaping.
"It's become quite a family project," Lisa described. "The men were tearing out a bunch of gnarly rosebushes and removing a lot of rock and tanbark. Our son-in-law, Matt, had raked an area clear of tanbark and Sarah had noticed part of a buried rock sticking out of the ground that looked as if it had some writing on it. 
"She had mentioned it in passing, but being busy figuring out what to do about a dilapidated window shelf, no one paid much attention. I was telling my daughter how stressed I've been and how I sometimes sing a litany of 'God will provide.'  
"I say this over and over when I am really scared, but I'm not sure that I can really believe it," Lisa recounted with great emotion. "We were in the backyard watching the baby play, while the men worked on the house, when my daughter spoke up again. 
"Sarah said, 'There's writing on this rock. I really want to know what it says, don't you?' and her husband grabbed the shovel and began to dig. As everyone watched in fascination to see what it would be, the rock began to emerge. When it broke free from the ground, Matt handed it to Sarah, who quickly looked at what was written on it. 
"'Wow, I think it's for you, mom.'  
"I took a hold of this palm-sized stone," Lisa said, "And I could see these words written on it in red paint in a very beautiful calligraphy-style script...'God Loves You.'
"I don't know how long that rock was buried down there, or who put it there or why, but I still don't have words to describe how I felt at that moment, what that meant to me, and what that means to me.
"I'm still stressing, but I feel touched and blessed – and loved. And I am going to share this story with others. I think I am supposed to.
"It is sometimes difficult for me to open up and get to know new people. But with God's guidance, Rev. Ardyss Golden, the United Methodist Church of Hollister, and all of the wonderful folks I have met there, I am quickly learning that it only takes a smile and a handshake to make a new friend."
Lisa's story brought tears to my eyes with its beautiful example of how God answered her prayers just as she was in danger of losing her faith. One of the very first pieces of ornamentation that Lisa purchased for their new home was a plaque that reads, "Home is where your story begins." She placed it above a shelf that holds the family pictures that are very dear to her heart. 
Now the treasure of the rock rests there too, a reminder forever of how God renewed her faith.
May we, too, be ready to recognize those miracles and answers to prayer that God sends our way – in such tangible ways as a message painted on a rock, and through the tangible and intangible ways that we give care and support to each other. And may our faith be renewed by stories like Lisa's.