This year’s theme is “The Story/The Stories.” Each week our blog will focus on a story from a youth minister. We hope these stories help inspire you in the great work you are doing, as well as let you know you aren’t alone in the crazy, sweet, often hard to fathom world of youth ministry. This week we are hearing……
The Story…..to be continued…..
William serves as Minister of Youth and Young Adults at Derbyshire Baptist Church in Richmond, VA. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religion Degree from Samford University, and Master of Divinity at The McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University; but the greatest thing he did while at McAfee was to convince a wildly beautiful fellow seminarian to marry him and to journey with him as a partner in ministry and life. The Deals welcomed their twin daughters, Adeline and Dorothy, into the world on January 3, 2015.
Things William loves: Mary Kate; Adeline and Dorothy; their dogs, Boomer and Jasper; the Atlanta Braves and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide; cooking, eating, and laughing. He can solve a rubix cube in less than 90 seconds (not world-record speed, but still faster than you!) and is featured on a rap album under the pseudonym “Suga Free.”
January 3, 2016 started as a pretty normal Sunday morning. I woke up, ate a small breakfast, showered, and put on a suit and a bow tie. The first Sunday of the year is a pretty typical day for a youth minister to be asked to preach, and so on January 3 I was called out of the bullpen. I kissed Mary Kate goodbye and told her that I would call to check on her after the 8:30 service and before Sunday School. Mary Kate was 34 weeks pregnant, carrying our twin daughters, and she had not felt well all weekend.
I began my sermon by reading the New Testament Lesson from Revelation 21 and 22, but instead of reading from the standard “pew bible translation,” I read from the The Jesus Storybook Bible. I even showed the congregation the pictures. My sermon was titled “To Be Continued…” and we read those last words from John’s Revelation about a new heaven and a new earth – how God was going to make all things new. The Jesus Storybook Bible concludes Revelation and the canonical scriptures in this way:
“I’m on my way,” said Jesus. “I’ll be there soon!”
John came to the end of his book. He didn’t write “The End.” Because, of course, that’s how stories finish. (And this one’s not over yet.)
So instead, he wrote: “Come quickly, Jesus!”
Which, perhaps, is really just another way of saying…
To be continued…
I intended to remind our church that as we celebrate a new year, that we are all encouraged to find how our stories connect to God’s story – to realize that we are all called to the work of helping make all things new.
I must admit that I do not remember how well my intended message communicated to the congregation, because as I sat down during the offertory after preaching, and as I prepared to serve communion, my phone buzzed in my pocket. On a typical Sunday I wouldn’t dare check my phone right before preparing to serve at the Lord’s table, but I knew that Mary Kate was at home and was not feeling well – and, oh yeah, she was 34 weeks pregnant with twins. I quickly read her text – “we may need to go to the hospital when you get home. I am in a lot of pain and I cannot get comfortable no matter what. I don’t know what to do.”
I am never one to try to expedite Communion – one of the most sacred things we do as the Church, and I hope that I was still able to reverently present the bread and the cup, and to celebrate this holy meal. But, the rest of the service was a blur. After the singing “Blest Be the Tie” I raced down the long hallway from the Chapel to the office parking lot where my car was parked. I fumbled over my words to try to explain what was going on to those hustling down the hallway with me. Two of the Youth Sunday School teachers told me not to worry about Sunday School and that they would take care of everything. Our Minister of Missions grabbed my sermon manuscript and said, “I’ll go make a copy just in case you can’t make it back for the 11:00 o’clock service.”
I sped to our house, threw the gearshift into park, opened the car door, and sprinted to the front door. Mary Kate was in pretty serious pain and discomfort, and her contractions were intense and regular. I called her doctor’s weekend nurse line and communicated the situation. The nurse told us to head to St. Mary’s hospital as it was the closest to our house. Fortunately, we packed a hospital bag with the necessary items for both of us just the night before.
I pulled up to the Emergency Room door and helped Mary Kate out of the car and into a wheelchair. I went to park the car, and then sprinted back to the hospital entrance. Before I could make it back to the Emergency Room, my phone began to ring. It was the nurse again. “St. Mary’s Labor and Delivery is packed. You may not be able to get a room immediately. Since your wife is a high-risk pregnancy and all of her charts are already at St. Francis we need you to go there as quickly and safely as possible.”
St. Francis is a solid 25 minutes away from St. Mary’s. Mary Kate’s contractions were becoming more and more intense and she was less than excited about having to drive to across town.
I went back and retrieved the car from its parking spot and helped Mary Kate back into the car. We flew down the streets that led us to the toll road that was the quickest route to get us from one hospital to the next.
We arrived at St. Francis, and thankfully did not get pulled over for speeding on the way. The Labor and Delivery Admissions Desk was ready and waiting for us and we were immediately escorted to a room.
While two nurses checked Mary Kate’s vitals and got the rundown of what had been going on the past few days, the on-call doctor came into the room. Up to this point in the pregnancy, everything was going smoothly. The doctor asked a few questions, and performed a short litany of tests to see how everything was progressing. In the most matter-of-fact, nonchalant tone possible, the doctor said, “You are fully dilated. Looks like we are going to have some babies today.”
And then she left the room.
SHE LEFT THE ROOM! She had just told us that we were going to be having babies today – four weeks before the scheduled C-section date – and SHE LEFT THE ROOM!
As quickly as the doctor left the room she returned again, but this time she was accompanied by 4 nurses, an anesthesiologist, and the NICU Physician’s Assistant. One of the nurse threw a gown, cap, and a pair of those over-the-shoe-booties at me and said, “put this on. NOW!” The doctors and nurses surrounded Mary Kate each doing different things to get her prepped to be rushed to the operating room.
I quickly sent texts to our families…
“Holy smokes. Fully dilated. We’re having babies!!!”
They wheeled Mary Kate out of the room, down the hall, and straight into the Operating Room. I sat in the hallway just outside the OR and waited while they gave Mary Kate a spinal injection nerve-block. Before I could catch my breath from the whirlwind that had just happened, the OR door swung open. “Dad, we’re ready for you.”
Mary Kate was a champ. She was calm and strong. I was an emotional wreck.
Then, in the same nonchalant tone as before, we heard the doctor calmly say, “Baby A is out!”
Cry, Adeline, Cry! I just want to hear you cry, because if you cry that means you are breathing well!
She was crying! I could hear my baby crying!
“Baby B is out!”
Ok, Dorothy, now it’s your turn! Let me hear something!
Hearing both babies wail was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard!
The nurses quickly cleaned up the girls and brought them to us to see. I held both girls briefly and Mary Kate kissed both of their little heads, but then they had to be taken quickly to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to make sure everything was OK and that they were healthy.
January 3, 2016 started as a pretty normal Sunday morning. But, before my sermon about God doing new things was preached by another minister at the 11:00 o’clock service, our lives were changed, and a new chapter in God’s great big story had been penned by the masterful creator.
Adeline Charlotte and Dorothy Hope, you sweet girls, are a part of God’s amazing to be continued…
To be born into
A whole new life
To be who they really are
Who God always made them to be —
Their own true selves —
Because, you see, the most wonderful thing about this Story is — it’s your story, too!