Ministry and Laughter - Benita Williams
Wherever Ron went, you could count on two things: ministry and laughter. He ministered to people at the hospital up until the time he was intubated and sedated. He told one of the physical therapists, “Next time I want to hear your story.” During the next session, she told Ron her story of abuse, and when he teared up, she reached to him. Long story short, the man with a huge father’s heart, who never knew his own father because his parents separated when he was six months old, somehow helped this woman get beyond a betrayal barrier. She said she was going to go to church the next Sunday, though she hadn’t been there in years.
Now for the laughter. We had a saying at our house with a story behind it. It started when Dick Garver had us over for some finger-lickin’ good ribs and regaled us with stories. When his Japanese wife was about to give birth, the Doctor said, “Dick, now you know that baby will look just like your wife,” but lo and behold, out popped a baby with slanted eyes, red hair, and freckles. The doctor apologized to Dick. Then he shook his head saying, “Those Garver genes are rather strong!”
So we had a saying at our house: “Those Williams genes are rather strong. If you don’t get them as progeny, you’ll get them by proximity!”
If you would analyze Ron’s humor, it consisted of pushing things to their illogical extreme and painting a scenario. Different times I would say something and Ron would laugh, “Where’d you get that from? You’re becoming more like me when I should be more like you!”
The evening of Ron’s passing, I was trying to send his brother Jim a contact card for Cleveland Clinic and accidentally dialed my friend Glenda Hartzler. I told her the call was an accident. We began to talk: “Remember how Ron was reading and watching stories about Jesus walking into people’s rooms at 3:00 a.m. and healing them of cancer? Imagine: 3:00 a.m. in the morgue.” That’s all it took, and we were off and running with Ron’s humor, feeding off of each other.
Jesus raises Ron who gets up and taps the others. Soon it’s like a potato sack race in body bags: Some are hopping and some are doing the shuffle, saying, “We’ve gotta find us some clothes!”
“No, Joe! Not hospital gowns. I’m not wearing another one of those. I’d rather wear the bag. We need real clothing!”
Meanwhile, one of the transit guys is rolling another body into the morgue. He runs out of the room screaming, “The body snatchers have come! The body snatchers have come!”
By this time Glenda and I were laughing uncontrollably, and Glenda giggled, “I don’t think it was a mistake that you called me.”
And that was Ron’s humor–full of extremes and full of good, clean fun.
[Turning to Ron] Thanks, Bro, you said I was anal retentive, but your ministry and laughter lightened my load on more than one occasion.
The Deep Stuff - Roberta (Williams) Myers
I’ve been thinking about Dad’s voice; it’s warmth and ease.
My dad affected many people with his voice. He had a manner of speaking that could strangely irritate and infiltrate and cause change. Sometimes I think his voice broke open ground. It peeled back layers. It could get to the core, where small seeds live.
The day before Father’s day, dad was intubated and sedated and put on a ventilator. And although I stood beside his physical body, his heart still beating, his tissues alive, I desperately wanted to hear his voice.
The last time I heard Dad’s voice, on June 15 (when I still thought that we had much more time and many more talks ahead of us) Dad must have sensed the urgency of our conversation.
“I’m giving you the deep stuff,” he said, after stating how much he dislikes small talk. Most of our visit, he talked about love. “Love takes the hits for someone else,” he said. “Love is sacrifice.”
When Dad got sick, he told me over again that he loved me. He was worried about my personal happiness in life. Perhaps when you grow very sick, a filtering begins. He wanted to express his love openly and freely, without stumbling over anything that might get in the way. He began to ask for forgiveness when people visited. He shared parts of himself more vulnerably than I have ever seen before. He talked about mistakes he made. He played songs that I didn’t know he loved, anticipating and pointing out his favorite parts—self-consciously saying, “But maybe you don’t want to listen to this.”
Within his giving and yielding, my dad seemed to see, so clearly, that love matters most. He wanted the best for me: simple happiness and love.
The last time we talked, Dad said, “The soul of love is vulnerability.”
“Who needs to be vulnerable?” I asked. “The one who gives love or the one who receives love?”
“Both!” Dad said, with his usual intensity.
The emotional ups and downs in the last few months felt like whiplash. I felt afraid (and still feel some fear) about the darkness that can cloud my mind.
Vulnerability, though, is like light. It cuts and it cleans. It can be harsh in its truth. In that new space—where someone can join us, suffer with us, be with us—we are not alone.
Sometime after Dad’s first hospital stay, I felt and fostered a shift in me. I began to tell my friends and family that I love them, even when I felt a bit awkward saying so. I am, by nature, rather private, so at times I felt out of my element. And love poured into me.
I am tremendously grateful for those who listened to me without judgment, gave me phone calls and texts, visited me, shared food and art and money, personal wisdom and grief.
It’s scary to need support, but I’m wanting all of the deep stuff.
As a pivot, I’d like to share one memory that keeps jostling around my head and heart. Dad loved to play, and during my childhood, Dad developed absurd and intense games that often ended in some sort of damage to household objects. One such game involved a musical teddy bear that played a song when we squeezed its stomach. As the music played, my brother John, my dad and I would throw the bear at one another. The last person who touched the bear before the music ended lost the round.
I can remember my chest swelling with excitement and anticipation during the pause before the music began. And as the game started, John and I would shriek with laughter as Dad matched our energy, exactly, with a ferocity of gameplay that verged on dangerous. I will never forget how much I adored Mom’s beautiful sculpture of hands she made in a college ceramics class—and how those very hands crashed to the floor as Dad whipped the musical teddy bear at someone’s head.
This, of course, put a stop to our game as Dad bandaged mom’s ceramic hands with band-aids instead of something less conspicuous, like glue. I remember that mom didn’t seem so keen on this band-aid fix.
And I suppose, what I’m saying, is that Dad’s essence was play. He had a joyful and childlike spirit that I can imagine is living on in me, in John, in Mom, in my husband—and in some of us here that knew him deeply. I want to honor his playfulness today.
Closing - Benita Williams
I want to thank you all for your love, prayers, kind words, and support. I don’t know how I would have made it through without you.
So many people helped me in so many ways that I can’t name everyone, but I’ll name a few:
Neighbor Renee Hershman checked in with me every day via text or in person. Her husband Ross has mowed my lawn all summer.
My Superintendent Nate Holton constantly assured me that he was praying for me each and every day.
Keith and Glenda Hartzler have long been my partners in prayer.
Realizing my countless nights of almost no sleep because of Ron’s pain when Ron was still home, Irene Lint offered to stay with him a night so I could sleep. She came in the mornings so I could run errands. She also checked in daily, and gave us the framed picture of our family that Brooks took on the roof of Cleveland Clinic.
The people of Journey brought us several meals.
I drove to Cleveland most every day, but the Hartzlers and the Rakiches gave me a blessed reprieve when they took me.
John, Robbi, Brooks and Nancy and Steve Myers made my birthday in the midst of heartache super special. It would have been perfect if Ron could have shared it with us.
My sister Shari, and brother-in-law Curt Bechler came in from Michigan and were at the bedside holding my children when Ron passed. My sister Danette was there holding me.
Curt has lost both parents and a 24-year-old daughter-in-law in the last thirteen months. He went to bat for me. He called the funeral home and got printed information, and even called our H & R Block accountant to find out how I should proceed with Ron’s business for taxes. They went with us to the funeral home after Curt had clued me in prior as to the choices I’d need to make and the ones he’d recommend. Then they went with me to pick out burial plots.
Irene, Robbi, and Brooks helped with the photo boards, video pictures, and music, and Robbi did the watercolor tree for the program.
John has been my personal techie in this most trying of times.
Last and most, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, walked with me and walks with me daily.
I am so loved. I am so blessed.
Our final Song, “Ancient of Days” was a favorite of Ron’s,
Daniel 7:21-22 says:
“As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.”
Good, good Father; my Beloved Jesus; sweet Holy Spirit; Ancient of Days, I come thanking You for the gracious gift of Ron, and asking for a judgment in favor of Journey’s saints. I come boldly to Your throne of grace, reminding You of your written words–your logos and Your spoken words–your rhemas through your prophets.
The doctors said mantle cell lymphoma is not genetic; it’s not in every cell. It’s epigenetic. It comes when environmental factors lead to gene mutations. Jesus, You said, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means harm you.” Toxins, sickness, pain, and cancer are not part of Your plan. Your Word says that “No weapon formed against us will prosper.” Your Word says that “The thief when he is caught must pay back seven-fold, though it cost him the wealth of all his house!”
Lord, as You know, the saints of Journey Church of Northeast Ohio came together for a prayer meeting on Tuesday. On one thing we agreed: Ron’s passing is premature. Ron has not finished the work You gave him to do. In 1995, a prophet named Tom told him, “Son, I’m going to take you in, and I’m going to take you out. I’m going to bring you in, and I’m going to bring you out. Not only are you going to go, but you’re going to bring so many people into the Kingdom of God that the house of the Lord is going to be filled. This place, and many places, and even in this area, I see about a three hour radius span and a new realm of authority opening up.” In 2005 Susan Watson prophesied, Ron, “you will carry His healing anointing to broken congregations, and out of your belly many shall be birthed.” In 2010 Henry Gruver, the prayer walker, told Ron he would be healing those with autism and schizophrenia. These things haven’t happened yet. We were told we were to be a hub: Tim Cole said in1999 “The well you are digging is a real, true, well, and God doesn’t just want you to have a little bit of water. He wants to water that entire region.” Tom, back in 1995 prophesied, “You both want to see the house of God filled. You’ve got such–what a vision these people have got. My goodness! It’s larger than I can prophesy right now. God’s gonna send you forth into the earth because he wants other people to catch what you’ve got. Wow! I’m getting blessed. More, more, more, Lord. That’s one of the side benefits of hitting a live wire. Oh Lord, give me more. Now they’re ministering to me. . . .”
Our wedding announcement declared, “Let this be our destiny, to share our lives together that we may with one voice glorify God.” We used the passage, “Two are better than one, for they have a good reward for their labor.”
In 2002 Denise Esh said to me, “I see an Esther in you–that you have come to the Kingdom for such a time as this. God’s handing you the scepter today–so take the golden scepter–to set your people free.” Ray Miller added, “Esther’s appropriate because there was six months soaking in oils and spices and preparing. And when others rushed, when the King called someone, and they said, I don’t think so–not right now–Esther understood the bidding of the King. You understand the bidding of the King. And because she was faithful, and because she didn’t haughtily hold herself, she was beautiful and radiant–caught not only His eye with her beauty, but she was able to speak and save a nation.
“There’s some things that are in you that need to be spoken, but you’re willing to wait, and God will show you when to release them. But you’re going, you’re going to speak things that are not just for [your church]–it’s for the region.”
On October 23rd of 2005, Susan Watson who ministers to leaders around the world told me, “You are a bride who has great authority with your beloved. And He has placed this region in your belly, and He has given you authority to lead the midwives in birthing it.”
I didn’t have a clue what she was saying. Was she talking in riddles? Some time later I attended a prayer meeting, and out of my mouth came what I can only describe as a primal scream. You could have put a sock in it and not shut me up! I knew it was coming through me but was not from me. It scared the living daylights out of me. It also scared Ian, a sweet, loving young man with Down’s Syndrome, who clung to his mother in terror. I crawled across to Pam Wilkinson on my knees, wide-eyed, whispering, “What was THAT?”
In that Texan drawl, she said, “Honey, that was travailin’ intercession!”
I giggled and Mary asked, “What’s the Lord saying?”
“He asked if I were willing to get even more undignified than this,” and I said yes.
Later, Lord, I wondered what I had gotten myself into!
Eventually, I felt led to call the community together to pray for revival at Central Christian, the school where I teach. We prayed together for a number of months running in Central’s PAC, and I led a series of chapels. There seemed to be little result on the revival end. In my disappointment, I wondered, “Lord, did I miss You? I sooo felt Your manifest presence and anointing. Did I miss Your timing?” You assured me that You were well pleased, that I would not be disappointed, but was indeed appointed, and as a group, we had accomplished in the heavenlies what needed to happen through identificational and other repentance, through prayers for the right leadership, and through multiple and sundry requests. You told me the vision awaited the appointed time.
Susan’s word about both Ron and I birthing ended with this, “For when the man or woman of God in the house has great anointing, the body needs great anointing to stand.” Lord, as a church body we’ve never needed more anointing to stand than we do right now. Having done all to stand, help us stand.
No one believed it was Ron’s time. Early on in this journey I asked Ron, “If you slip away, and we call you back, are you willing to come back?” He said yes. Not knowing about my conversation, Sam later had that same conversation with Ron, and Ron said, “Absolutely!” And we know that “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”
There’s no use calling someone back if they’re not willing. Heaven is a wonderful place. But Ron’s servant heart is willing. The next unspoken question we discussed was, “Lord, are You willing?”
Every communication this body had been sensing from the Lord suggested that was so. Sara saw Ron emerging as a butterfly out of a cocoon and becoming unstoppable by the blood of Jesus. In the hospital Ron had a dream about coming out of two cocoons and the church unwrapping him from the grave clothes. Grace saw two hospital stays and then an event. Eleanor saw an egg over Cleveland Clinic. It was filled with the glory of God. She saw it begin to crack and break pouring out over Northeast Ohio. Ron called Sam from the hospital and said, “Where are you, Sammy?”
“I’m at the airport. I’m having a vision of people from Journey in planes flying to other places to minister. And other people are flying in planes to visit us.”
Multiple congregants didn’t feel released from praying for Ron’s resurrection after his passing.
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. What would hold us back from calling Ron forth? Second guessing ourselves? Fear of failure? Fear of looking foolish? My own risk-benefit assessment turned up this: I’ll be a fool for Christ! I ruined my reputation years ago! I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Lord, You know this story, but not everyone does. The summer I turned thirty, after being triggered by a skit on childhood sexual abuse, in a manic state, I danced down the center aisle at a funeral singing when the officiating minister asked for commentary on the deceased. We know how well that went over in a rather conservative Mennonite church, particularly when the offending member was the pastor’s wife. In the words of Francis Frangipane, “God baptized me in the criticisms of man until I died to living for man.” Forgive me, Lord, for all that time I spent shrinking back in the pit named “fear of man.” “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but she who trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” As Paul said, “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Jesus Christ.”
As a church body, we have nothing to lose by walking in faith, but inactivity could put our prophesied destiny at risk. And reputation? We’ve already been told we’re a bunch of flakes, to which Ron replied, “When a bunch of flakes stick together, they can stop traffic.” And Jesus, You never ever scolded anyone for having too much faith, only too little, and You love to use the nobodies of this world, we who have nothing to boast about except that Jesus saved us from our sins freeing us to live for Him.
On Tuesday evening, we spoke to each other three times saying, “We will delight in the fear of the Lord.” On Wednesday morning, Lord, You took me to Malachi 3:16: “Then the people who feared the LORD spoke to one another and the LORD listened and heard what they said.” [Thanks for eavesdropping, LORD!]. “In His presence, there was written down in a book a record of those who feared the LORD and respected Him.” Saints who participated, take note: Even in your grief, you blessed the Lord with Your resolution to stand, and He took note. We’ll never be satisfied with playing church. Ron spoiled us for that. We won’t settle for having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof. Those who know the name of their God will do exploits! Those who look to You, Lord, are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. We will rattle the gates of Heaven until the Tree of Life drops us some fruit.
Is it possible, Lord, that in our grief, we are misinterpreting the hints You dropped and the glory egg You laid? I can believe You want to gather Northeast Ohio under Your wings as a hen gathers her chicks. I want to see Your glory cover the whole Earth as the waters cover the seas.
Ron always taught us that the will of God and the will of man are intertwined. That makes sense. That’s true partnership! St. Augustine said, “Without God, we cannot; without us, God will not.” You want Your bride to get a revelation of Christ in You the hope of Glory! You want us to know who we are in You and who You are in us. In Acts 9 Dorcas was raised from the dead because of the outcry of the widows whose needs she had met. That was the early church, but I believe we are on the cusp of the Third Great Awakening, and the Glory of this latter House will be greater than the Glory of the former! Moreover, Lord, You need all hands on deck.
Lord, as a church body, we don’t want to see one jot, one tittle, pass from Your good plans for our region or our destiny. You will always be the Great Shepherd of our souls. We’re asking that you once again allow the man we love and trust to be our undershepherd. We are not about to have not just because we ask not. And we know that You are able to do exceedingly above and beyond all that we can ask or even imagine.
When I came down off the manic interlude after the triggering skit on sexual abuse, Ron told me how he had prayed, “Lord, I don’t know if she’ll ever be right again, but I’m laying her on Your altar. I’ve promised to love her in sickness and health.” Long story short, Lord, Ron loved me back to life. Ron has loved many in this room back to life.
Father, now it’s my turn. I’ve laid Ron on the altar privately, but today I do so publicly. If You choose to keep him, he is the richer, and I’ll give You the glory. Your ways and thoughts are higher than mine. But if You choose to restore him, I’ll give You the glory, and the three of us, a triple-braided cord not quickly broken, will be having us a party that goes on and on and on and on and on. This region needs Ron. This region needs his Father’s heart. This region needs the things that You’ve put into him.
Father, I’ve brought Your Words before You and before Your people. Make good on Your Words. We know Your Words do not return void, but accomplish that for which You purpose them. You are not a man that You should lie, nor a son of man that You should change Your mind. All the promises of God are yes and amen in Christ Jesus! Psalm 138:2 tells us “You have exalted Your Name and Your Word above all else.” Lord, Your Name and Your Word are at stake here today at Journey Church of Northeast Ohio. Little did we know that in our name we were defining the region that had been prophesied so often.
We’re asking God that You show us Your Glory, that You show up and show off. Raise Ron up for the sake of Your Word. Raise Ron up for the sake of this region. Raise Ron up for the sake of Your Name. Ancient of Days, the enemy has been warring against Your Saints. Make a judgment in favor of the Saints of the Most High to possess the Kingdom. Do it for the sake of Your great Name! Don’t let Your Word or Your Name be maligned.
In the name of the Resurrection and the Life,
The Faithful and True,
At the beginning of this journey after Ron was diagnosed, I came to the church on a Saturday evening to pray as usual. As I was getting out of my car, I happened to glance at the dash. It was 5:55 and 55 degrees. Five is the number of grace, so five fives is a gracious amount of grace. The morning after Ron’s passing, I was lying in bed and looked at my watch. It read 5:55:55. Lord, we’re asking for a gracious amount of grace in this, our time of need. Note that these two sets of fives span p.m. and a.m. Weeping remains for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
I’d like the members of Journey Church and Conrad to come up here and join hands. On the count of five, we’re asking all who have a mustard seed of faith to join us in shouting, “In Jesus’ name, Ron, come forth!” One, two, three, four, five, “In Jesus name, Ron, come forth!”
(Music of “Ancient of Days” starts . . .)