In 1995, Violet and I were preparing for life as missionaries overseas but living in a church system that was bound by legalism and very little love. There was little true love for the brethren, for the true church of the Lord outside of each local churches own doors, and even what often appeared as a true lack of love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Worship was perfunctory and traditions were the order of the day.
That year, having only heard of Shannon Hills Bible Chapel, I encouraged my brother, John, to visit. It was a sovereignly ordained plan as John never looked back. He would call us and tell us how wonderful the brothers and sisters were, how accepted he was for who he was, and most importantly, the wonder of the worship, especially around the Lord’s Table, which was celebrated every Sunday morning.
We planned a trip back to Greensboro to visit the assembly, and oh, the refreshing of our souls that Sunday morning in May 1995. Walking with our boys into the room where the Remembrance Feast was preparing to start. The first person to greet us was actually an older man with a round smiling face and a firm handshake. It was a man we quickly grew to love and respect, a true brother in Christ by the name of Harvey Shelley. In his introduction, he simply welcomed us and with no pretentions asked us if we had a personal relationship with the Lord. Assuring Bro. Harvey that we did, he told us that we were more than welcome to not only attend but to partake of the bread and the wine when the elements were passed.
It was at Shannon Hills that we learned what it meant to truly love others. Our hearts were encouraged, and our lives were changed through the ministry of the word from each brother who brought the Word each week. Celebrating communion each week was the highlight of our week and is still remembered to this day with great fondness.
Later that year, in November, my brother, John, had a massive heart attack at 22 years of age and went to be with the Lord. Through that difficult time, the Shelley family was a great encouragement to us. I remember one Sunday being overcome with grief and we had to leave as we did not want to disturb the others who were worshipping. For whatever reason, Bro. Harvey was walking through the hall back to the meeting room. I could not bring myself to speak and he simply wrapped his arms around us and let us know that they would be praying for us and to know again that we were loved by the Shannon Hills family.
We moved the next year, but have had several opportunities to go back and visit North Carolina. Without a doubt, each visit required us to go and worship with our Shannon Hills family. Every visit included opportunities to speak with those we loved and cherished. Shannon Hills has always sought to encourage us through the passing years and the staples of that encouragement were the elders, including Harvey Shelley. Each time we returned, it was as if we had never left.
This last week, we saw the news that Bro. Harvey went to be with the Lord that he loved. He had served as an elder at Shannon Hills for over 50 years. Yesterday, on Sunday after the worship services had concluded, a memorial service was held for a man who will be greatly missed. His smile, his graciousness, his willingness to just listen when you needed an ear to hear you, a warm friendly hug, his words spoken at the Communion Table, and much more will long be remembered.
Yesterday morning, with no knowledge of what had happened, one of the music selections at our little mission included what is one of my two favorite hymns, “How Great Thou Art.” My heart was stirred again as I remembered all the Lord had done for us and included a prayer in my heart for the Shelley family that they would be encouraged in the Lord.
Last evening, I saw an obituary page had been posted for Bro. Harvey. I clicked on the link and the music for “How Great Thou Art” came flooding out the speakers of my computer. It has been a blessing reading the tributes to a man who loved the Lord so much.
Today is Monday and many have the “Monday blues.” I go to work today celebrating that my brother and friend no longer has to worry about Mondays or any other day of the week. The Remembrance Feast that he loved so much to remember our risen Lord at is now the entire focus of Bro. Harvey’s attention. My brother no longer worries about sin or any distractions from the Lord of glory.
Though we are many miles away, our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with the Shelley family as well as the Shannon Hills family. May the Lord grant them peace in their hearts. We do not grieve as those who have no hope for we will see him again.