“We promise to uphold you, walk alongside you, to pray for you, and to accept you into the family of God.”
With these words, Robert was ushered into the church after his baptism. The entire membership stood to affirm the young man. Our hearts were touched; our intentions good. There may have been a tear or two. It was a great service! Another soul won for the church and the kingdom.
Robert fit the description of borderline in the mental health field. For some years, he lived with his mother in a one-bedroom apartment. She was too sick to get out, so Robert came alone. I don’t know how he was introduced to our church, but there he was.
Years went by. Robert always sat alone in the front pew. He sang the songs and listened to God’s Word. On the way out, he looked for an outstretched hand. At first, there were many.
Each Sunday, there were fewer hands. Our friends, families, and guests required our attention. Word came that his mother was very ill. We prayed for her recovery. “We’re sorry about your mother,” we said when she died.
As the years went by, we forgot about Robert. He still sat there. He still smiled at us; but – conditioned by too many rejections – he no longer stretched out his hand for a greeting. It was not intentional. We just took him for granted. Who else would sit in the front pew? Some members helped Robert after his mother died; a few did much for him. But for 20 years he sat alone.
For a while, he tried another church. They gave him much attention for a time, and even gave him some responsibility. Then, he sat alone again.
One Sunday, I saw him again, just in front of me. As I looked around, I saw other people sitting alone. They come, they listen, then go home alone. So it is with Robert.
He is apologetic when he misses church. Only illness will keep him away. But he sits alone in the front pew in a church of God’s people.
–Rudy Siemens lives in St. Catharines, Ont., where he attends an MB church. He serves on the board of Bethesda Home Inc., a support agency for people with intellectual disabilities.