By Fran Patterson
I love the people in my CBF Peer Learning Group. We are a rowdy group of veteran youth ministers, all with 15-plus years of ministry experience. We are scattered about in Austin, Fort Worth, Richmond, and Wimberley, Texas, and in Bristol, Tennessee. These people were my friends long before we formed our group, and they have been very important in my personal and professional life.
A year ago my husband Allen was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. My husband of 29 years, who was never sick, was given 18 months to live. What was I supposed to do with that news?
All my life I have been taking care of other people: sitting with families who are dealing with illness, family breakups, job losses, trouble at school, parent conflicts. Now my family was in trouble, in need, in despair. I was not accustomed to asking for or accepting help. But this, this was too much for me alone.
Before I could get myself together enough to tell everyone what was going on, I started hearing from my Peer Learning Group friends. They offered prayers and sent cards, text messages and flowers. They offered to travel to Fort Worth to help with Allen. As it became clear that I would not be able to travel during the summer, they quickly covered my responsibilities at youth camp and children’s camp. Our daughter Mary, who is at Texas A&M, has known most of these ministers since she was in elementary school. These wonderful friends reached out to Mary and helped her in ways I was not able.
Allen left us peacefully on October 1, 2015. He lived only 6 months from the day he was diagnosed. At his memorial service I was overwhelmed by the presence of almost all of the members of my Peer Learning Group, as well as members of CBF PLGs from many states. Their support and care for me and for Mary continues to be a gift that we can never repay.
There are many good reasons to become a member of a CBF Peer Learning Group. There are many benefits of being connected with a CBF Peer Learning Group. I, for one, am grateful to have a group that I can laugh with, learn with and commiserate with, and with whom I can share my deepest sorrows. Thanks be to God for Elias, Ben, Kevin, Cheryl, and Billy.
Fran Patterson is Minister to Youth at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. She is also a Regional Director of peer learning groups for CBF, resourcing PLGs in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.