Psalm 62:5--8 is a refrain in Charlene Lingo's life. It is a chorus that this pianist returns to time and again. "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress. I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times..." These are not just words quoted by someone without hardship. Charlene has been pounded by some overwhelming storms. Her trust has been tested, and circumstances have shaken her to the core. But these storms revealed where her true core is centered, where her foundation lies. Charlene has relied on God to be her rock and fortress through it all.
Charlene grew up in a Christian home in Kansas. Her family was very involved in church. She witnessed at a young age the value of memorizing Scripture, being involved at church and what it looked like to trust the Lord through difficulties.
When she attended Tabor College, a private Christian liberal arts college in Kansas, Charlene met her future husband, Lou Lingo. They married in 1969 and moved to Colombia, South America, for three years at a time when it was one of the most violent places in the world. They were teaching through a missions organization, and it wasn't unusual for the school to be shut down for weeks due to violent fighting between the factions, including many killings and kidnappings. Charlene is grateful for God's protection during that season. It was while they were there, that their first child, Kimberly, was born.
Eventually, the Lingo family moved to Santa Paula, California. When Matt was born, they became a family of four. They began attending Ventura Missionary Church on one of the first days the doors were open on our current site at 500 High Point Drive. Right around that time, they attended a concert at the church that featured quite an array of talent from VMC. Charlene and Lou wondered if they would be able to plug in at a place that already had so many gifted vocalists and musicians. It's funny to consider that thought now, as the Lingo family became very much a part of the worship at Ventura Missionary over the years. They participated in a group that facilitated worship in the 1980's called, "The New Life Singers." Lou, Charlene and Kim led worship during the 1990's at our then newly created "Contemporary" service at 11:00am. This is only a fraction of the ways they have served over the years. Charlene is such a gifted pianist that to this day, worship leaders and team members of all ages have an incredible respect for what she brings to our worship environment. She continues to play often in all three of our services.
One of the biggest storms in Charlene's life came suddenly in 2004. At the age of 59, Lou went into the hospital for a procedure on his heart. Charlene stayed with him until 10:00pm and then headed home, fully expecting to come to take him home the next day. But the following morning, Charlene discovered something was very wrong. Wet hair and all, she hurried to the hospital where Lou had been transferred to ICU. She made some phone calls, and before she knew it, 30-40 people filled the waiting room at the hospital to support her and pray. Scripture had become Charlene's default, and this scene that was rocking her world was no different. She recited Psalm 46 to Lou, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the seas..." Lou didn't survive, however, and Charlene's earth, her world as she knew it, gave way. She said it was like she'd been hit by a 2x4.
Was Charlene shaky as she began to move forward? Absolutely. But as images and thoughts entered her mind, she would turn to God's Word and turn to God Himself, her Rock, for comfort and strength. In the moments when she would cry out to God that she just couldn't do it, she would ask Him for help. One time she recalls that it was only 30 minutes later after such a feeling of despair that God helped her to pull out of that deep well. At night, when she couldn't sleep, she would take her grief to the Lord and pray through Scriptures like Psalm 23. She was also blessed by the VMC community during this season. She says, "This church gets an A+ for helping me through the loss of Lou." People she didn't even know well were reaching out in practical ways, inviting her to dinner and offering other expressions of love.
Through the years, other storms have come upon the Lingo family. Charlene's daughter, Kim, endured a severe pregnancy and stroke and gave birth to Conner, a precious child with Down syndrome and other serious medical issues. Conner is learning sounds and struggles with walking, but communicates through a beautiful smile and heart. Though now divorced, Kim is strong in the Lord and following Him.
One of Charlene's greatest joys is getting to pass on the legacy of worship to her grandkids. Matt was just mentioning to her how meaningful it is that when they're together, Charlene leads them in the Doxology and other worship songs, and often works with each grandchild on new duets at the piano. Matt says, "I couldn't be prouder of the way my mom is a living example to my children of a life of passionate faith in Jesus. Christ." Matt and Kim themselves are evidence of that legacy as they each lead worship at their churches.
Charlene is very close to her kids and is blessed by that deep connection. In spite of all the heartache, she says that she has a lot of joy in her life. She is thankful for her home, her church and the opportunity to serve on Sunday mornings. She says, "Sunday morning has always been important to me. As much as I can, I work even my vacations around being home for church." She once heard a vocalist from the Christian group, Delirious, say that he makes being home for church a priority. She figured, if he can make it home for church from concerts half-way across the world, she can make it home from her short trips.
Charlene sums up her experience through the storms of life like this, "I've told God, 'I'm not going anywhere; I'm sticking to it.' He's my Rock." Charlene is truly an example of someone who builds her "house on the Rock." Her life stands because she has declared not just by word, but by deed, the words of one of her favorite passages, "He alone is my Rock." (Psalm 62:6)