When Lourene and I moved to Jackson, TN in the summer of 1997, one of the first people we met at the Skyline Church was a gentleman affectionately know as “Brother Charlie.” Charlie Womack was the 92 year old patriarch of the church, a charter member of the Skyline Church who served as an elder for many years before retiring when his wife passed away.
Charlie had the heart of a shepherd. He regularly visited the homebound, never showing up at their houses empty-handed, but always with a little bag of apples or oranges or grapes. Charlie loved greeting everyone on Sundays — old-timers and newcomers alike.
Whenever you conversed with Charlie, you left encouraged and refreshed. I have been in full-time ministry for nearly 30 years. The most affirming and encouraging words ever spoken to me about my ministry were made by Charlie. I have a feeling there are many other ministers who would say the same.
The Skyline elders and I loved hearing from Charlie. Even after his official retirement from serving as elder, the door was always open for Charlie to visit leadership meetings. When Charlie showed up, we knew we were going to be blessed with his words of encouragement and his prayers.
In the first week of October in 2000, Charlie was 95 years old. He had just arrived home from a trip to Seattle to visit his daughter where he played two rounds of golf. Upon returning he resumed his routine: practicing law, meeting a group of friends for coffee, encouraging people at church, and visiting with neighbors.
On Saturday morning Charlie went to a yard sale in his neighborhood. As he visited with neighbors, Charlie fell and hit his head. He was taken to the emergency room and his condition worsened throughout the day. The elders and I gathered around his ICU bed late that afternoon. The elders anointed him with oil. We all prayed for him. The last one to pray was an elder named Carl who concluded his prayer with the words, “God our Father, be gentle with ‘Brother Charlie.'” Charlie peacefully died a few hours later.
Charlie has been dead for 10 years, but he has not been forgotten; neither has Carl’s prayer. For the last 10 years I have been praying “The Brother Charlie Prayer” in various situations: “God, please be gentle with….” We saw the prayer answered with Charlie’s peaceful passing, but this is not a “prepare to die” prayer. I have seen it answered also as God’s peace that passes understanding and God’s healing touched the subjects of the prayer.
May I suggest that when you see someone who is hurting, suffering, dealing with a lot of pain, you pray for them, “The Brother Charlie Prayer.” In fact, maybe we all need to pray it right now.
Be gentle with us.
In Jesus’ name,