Thursday, April 28, 2011

Favorite surprise visit - EVER!!!
In the presence of greatness...

Last night Larry was absolutely SHOCKED out of his mind to see this couple walk in the doors of the church.  What a reunion they had!  He couldn't wait to run down to the sanctuary and tell me they were here!  He hasn't seen them since he went away to bible college as a teenager, however I have heard about them literally hundreds of times and our church has heard all the stories about them too.  When we told the church, "Bro. and Sis. B are here!!", they knew right away who we were talking about and welcomed them with open arms, applause and excitement.

The Bertoluzzi's are a couple from Pittsburgh who reached out and cared about my husband when he was just a very young man in junior high school.  My husband came to Jesus at 13 years old when his junior high school friend Darren Daugherty (Now Dr. Darren Daugherty, professor at Southwestern University of the AG) invited him to his youth group at Christian Life (AG) church in Trafford, PA.  My husband went to church with Darren and gave his life to Jesus and was changed forever.  At the time my husband's family didn't go to church.  He was a young man attending church alone.  He needed other adults in his life to care, to reach out.  He had a great youth pastor, Steve Ashworth, and great friends like Darren but he also needed older mothers and fathers in the faith who would reach out.  Three times a week, Keith Bertoluzzi would pick  Larry up for church.  If it wasn't for Bro. B., Larry would have had no way to get to church.  On those rides he learned significant things about the Christian life and faith, and family.

Keith and Mary Jean Bertoluzzi weren't at a loss for other things to do.  They were busy raising a family of seven children.  Keith was the music teacher at the local public junior high school and he also played as a professional musician with major acts including the Pittsburgh Symphony, Johnny Mathis and many other greats.  He was often a featured performer at the "Holiday House" in Pittsburgh.  He  wasn't a man who had nothing else to do but pick kids up for church but he always made time for it.   At one time he packed 17 kids in his van to bring them to church!!  The many "kids" that Keith and Mary Jean reached out to over all those years are now making significant impacts all across the world. Some are pastors, others missionaries, others marketplace ministers.  They have gone on to pay it forward and make a difference for someone else.  Mary Jean couldn't help but have eyes brimming with tears when she saw our children last night and how they are making an impact for the Lord.  When I told her Dustin is just a few classes away from getting his ministerial credentials with the AG, eyes glistening she said, "Second generation, Deanna!  There's nothing like it!!!"  Indeed.

Keith and Mary Jean were not just a couple who picked Larry up for church...they were an example for him of a Christian married couple, mature in the faith.  When he introduced them to me, I thanked them for my husband!  If it wasn't for them, he wouldn't have been able to attend Christian Life AG which was the first church where he received the initial spiritual training to be the man, husband, father, pastor that he is today.

The Bertoluzzi's are here on vacation and decided to drop in as a surprise and attend our service.  Many tears were shed.  We didn't want to part!  The fellowship was so sweet.  They attended our Fusion service and had so many nice things to say, and everyone surrounded them with appreciation.  Person after person said, "thank you for our pastor!!"  We went to dinner afterwards and they insisted on treating us when it should have been the other way around but they simply wouldn't hear of it. We reminisced and talked about stories "back in the day" and although I wasn't there back in the day , I already knew all the stories because Larry has shared them with me over and over throughout our 24 years of marriage and two years of dating!  It was nothing short of an amazing night of recalling all the wonderful things God did and the great people He is doing them through!!  Bro. B had tears stream down his face, humbled and amazed in realizing all of the young people they impacted over the years just by reaching out and picking them up for church, and how they are making a difference in the world today.  "This is our favorite part of this vacation!!" Sis B. smiled and shared several times..."we couldn't wait to get here and see you and the church and all God is doing here."  She then shared that one day she turned on her TV (they have SkyAngel) and saw me on the "Homekeepers with Arthlene Rippy" show on the Christian Television Network being interviewed and she said, "Oh my word, look Keith, that's Larry Shrodes wife...our Larry Shrodes!!!"  She said, "we were so proud, Deanna...we just couldn't wait to meet you."   

The feeling was mutual.  I have finally met the Bro. and Sis. B. that I have heard about time and time again, and they more than live up to their reputation.  Only eternity will reveal the full impact of their ministry.  

There really are no words to describe what took place last night but I will just close with what I told the church last night.  I said, "Celebrators, tonight we are in the presence of greatness."

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