This month's Men's Dinner speaker is a walking miracle. This past summer, life was humming along for George and Tracy Maxson. They were in a season that was filled with community - time with their kids, Shaun (wife, Amanda) and Kelly (husband, Rex), grandkids, Elijah and Avery, church family and ministry. On August 11, they had an especially fun evening with friends. The next day they planned to leave for Hawaii with Rex and Kelly. The Maxson's were really looking forward to their time away.
But, Friday morning, August 12, took a sudden and shocking turn. George woke up with what they thought was a migraine, and so began a journey that would test the faith that the Maxson's had been proclaiming for decades. After a long day of doctors and tests and waiting, text messages went out to friends and family. "Please pray for George. Brain bleed. On our way to Cottage." And just like that, George Maxson was in a coma, and his future was unknown. There would be no trip to Hawaii. Life as they knew it would hit pause. Tracy would take on the role of medical advocate for her husband, moving into their RV so she could be near George in Santa Barbara. Family members - biological and spiritual - stepped into other roles to meet the challenge. Shaun took on responsibilities in his father's business. One of the Maxson's small group members volunteered to cover some of Tracy's duties at work at VMC (Tracy is our Missions Director and Office and Bookstore Manager), putting in countless hours for free. It would take pages to tell all that the body of Christ contributed to this chapter in the Maxson's life, but most noticeable was the volume of prayer being lifted for this beloved couple and their family.
To say that this couple has been invested here at Ventura Missionary would be an understatement. They not only believe in Christ, they dedicate their lives to serving Him. George has been an Elder and has held many other leadership roles. But when most people think of George, they also think of Tracy. They are a team - a team that has poured into many, many lives over the years. Some of the ministries they have led together include God's Young Families, Foundations (a course for engaged and newly married young couples), Young Adults Ministry, The Ride (a monthly motorcycle ministry), and so much more. It has sometimes been almost comical to notice that many of the opportunities listed in our program on a given week have often noted, "For more information, contact..." one of the Maxson's.
But this was a new experience they would go through together, though one of them would be sleeping through most of it! For Tracy, it was extremely difficult not knowing what would happen - whether or not George would even survive, and if he did, what kinds of damage may have occurred in his brain. But she says that already knowing the character of God helped her tremendously as she began to navigate through this season. Faith just went into action. Also, knowing that her church family was praying during the moments when she couldn't articulate words was extremely comforting.
Things didn't look good for quite some time. The Maxson family was forced to fix their hope in the Lord. Several times, the doctors began the process of weaning George off the medication that kept him in a coma, but each time they had to return him to the coma for his safety. Waiting, and wondering what lie ahead, became a way of life for a while.
Finally the day came when George woke up. The last thing he remembered was hanging out with friends the night before their scheduled trip to Hawaii, and the next thing he knew he was waking up with tubes all over him - something that generally would have really agitated him. But he was at peace. He sees it as a wonderful answer to prayer that he just woke up, saw his family around him and felt peace. He was amazed as they began telling him what they had been going through, but he couldn't talk yet or interact as they shared all that had happened. This was an interesting phenomenon for a man who loves to communicate.
Months later, George is again fully engaged in communication. He says that God is not just a celestial wish granter. He is Lord, and He chooses what He will do. We can't demand anything of Him. He could have chosen to heal him by taking him home, but He chose to demonstrate His power by healing George on this side of eternity.
Waking up to life again, George feels so blessed by all that God has given him. He's also proud of how his wife, his kids and their spouses rose to the occasion. He says, "They crushed it!" They lived out their faith, and each of them in their own personalities, experiences and giftedness played a wonderful part. The same is true of the church family.
George acknowledges that he is only beginning to grasp some of the lessons to be learned from a sudden forced pause from life, but he has already gleaned some principles that he is eager to share. George says that it's really important to "Choose this day who you will serve" (Tracy adds, "And make sure you choose the LORD!"), because then you're equipped for the trials and tests.
George also sees this experience as a picture of the law of the harvest principle, sowing wholeheartedly and without expectation, and reaping unexpected blessings later and greater than he could imagine. "You really do reap more than you sow," he says. He is humbled by the sheer volume and passion of all those who have come alongside them. He says he didn't even know that many people knew he existed! People around the world were praying, many of them around the clock. "Pre-eulogies," as George calls them, were posted on Facebook, written in cards and shared with him personally once he woke up. One of the things he has noticed is that no one mentions the impact his administrative functions had had on them; it's been all about the relationships. It causes him to realize where the priorities need to be.
He also says it's so important not to neglect meeting together, as it tells us in Hebrews 10:25. He says that sometimes people don't feel connected, but that we all have to get in there and engage. When we invest in people's lives, it reverberates back to us when we least expect it.
When asked what he would like to communicate to the Ventura Missionary congregation, George says that he and his family can't express adequately how much they appreciate the prayers and support of their church family during this time. It's what The Church is all about. While he was sleeping, this church was praying, and this church was living out their faith to love on his family.
Physically, George is doing amazingly well. He does have a few lingering issues including fatigue. He is also experiencing pain in both hands and is hoping that his grip will be restored.
When asked how we could pray for him, George says, "Pray for clarity on how God wants me to serve in these extra innings I've been given." He's excited to move forward with a new vigor, more passionate than ever to live out a faith that works.
Guys won't want to miss the opportunity to hear more of George's story at this month's Men's Dinner, November 17 at 6:30 pm in the Family Room. Email Melissa to sign-up.