I expect this to probably be the most heart-wrenching blog I have written. It will be for me, no doubt.
Yesterday, while traveling through Carteret County, navigating the get togethers and getting to some appointments, God birthed this blog in me while the song, “How Great is Our God” blasted through the speakers. And yes, the volume was elevated while the tears rained down my cheek.
This past Saturday, Fat Fellas Restaurant in Newport hosted a generous fund-raiser for Eli’s Allies – the name given to the love, compassion, and effort to help my son’s battle with cancer. So many people, families, businesses, and organizations are involved now – it is truly amazing and it has virtually rendered us speechless. Anyway, it has been our position to not personally advertise any of the benefits (and by “our” position I mean Angela and I). In fact, while the BBQ benefit was happening on Saturday, it was clearly God’s desire for us to support the restaurant and that is what we did. We went inside, sat down, and ordered regular items off the menu. I feel it is important to share that, but what I really want to share is what happened when we first arrived at Fat Fellas.
We had just come in from a game earlier that morning, in New Bern. Our second oldest son, Jacob, was playing an All Star Game against Morehead City. So the game ended, we departed New Bern, and it was nearly 12 noon before we arrived at Fat Fellas. We had no idea what to anticipate or expect as we drove into downtown Newport. But as we rounded the corner, made the turn, and drifted forward – there was a line down Chatham Street. Tears streamed from my eyes. I could hardly see, and what I did see in that moment was a community rallying to support my little boy. People I didn’t know, people from all walks of life, people from Newport, and Morehead, and Beaufort, and DownEast. All I could see, in that moment, was the heart of God poured out, filling others, and overflowing. Regardless of the # of boxes or the donations raised, I saw God’s amazing love for my 6 year old boy, who is in the midst of the greatest challenge of his life. And naturally, his greatest challenge has become our greatest challenge as well.
Somehow I managed to pull into the parking lot of Red & White as there was no parking at Fat Fellas or the BP Station next door. Angela was coming behind me in her vehicle, and within a few minutes, she pulled in right beside me. We parked, got out, and the tears returned suddenly. Even many of the bikers, who were there for a bike show that was simultaneously running, were ordering BBQ Plates for Eli’s Allies. I didn’t know one of them. So after getting ourselves back together, we journeyed down the railroad tracks and made our way into the restaurant.
Upon entering, I knew we had to go and thank Jeremy, the owner-operator of Fat Fellas. I have to confess: I had never met him officially. I had seen him around town and had met him a few months before, when we all went there for dinner one night. Of course, that was long before Eli’s diagnosis. So I wasn’t sure if he would even remember me – but that was not important. He and his staff had worked and were working extremely hard for this benefit, for Eli, and I was compelled to go to him no matter how emotional, or sentimental, or speechless I was.
We walked through the door, headed directly to the register, and informed a member of the Fat Fellas team that we wanted to see Jeremy, if he had a moment. They went to get him (he was working the Drive Thru Line, outside). A few minutes later he entered, rounded the corner of his kitchen (where we could just capture each other’s face), and he made eye contact with Eli and with us. A few steps later, without any “formal” verbage or greetings, all we could do was hug one another. He hugged me, he hugged Angela, he hugged Eli. Then it repeated a second time: He hugged me, he hugged Angela, he hugged Eli. And all through that process, the 3 of us (Jeremy, Angela & I) could only weep. Not in sadness; not in dismay; not in fear. It’s as if God sealed that moment in time and overshadowed it with unity and with love. I know I felt it. And then, all I could say was “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for the love shown toward Eli!” This daddy felt a love for his son that was perhaps as deep and far-reaching as I have ever felt. I try to capture it in the title of this blog: “Humility Redefined.”
So many are doing so much: Jody, Sam, Linda, the teachers and staff at NES, the teachers and staff at NMS, Melissa, Lenee’, Curt, our entire Bridgeway Church Family, St. James UMC, Fat Fellas BBQ & Jeremy, Pop Warner Football (the Black Family and everyone else), Newport Basketball Association, Newport Fire Station, Newport Pig Pickin’, Hair Factory, other church bodies here in Carteret County and all over the east coast, Carteret General Hospital, servants and volunteers from all over, family & friends, businesses, etc. Please know how grateful we truly are for the love that is the root of it all. Know how grateful we are for the prayers and for the way you are shining Christ to our family. You are loved much!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Porter (Eli’s daddy)