Disclaimer: Your blogger apologizes for the length of this post, but it could not be helped. The urge to chronologically report our service was unavoidable – I needed to express my joy. If you choose to read the entire article, I hope you find it enjoyable and a blessing. Please leave a comment also. Special thanks to Bonnie and Mateo for their fine job of arranging a most memorable morning.Pastor Vince Giardino was not fooled. He knew what was coming this past Sunday morning at the 11 AM service. Or so he thought. He had no idea of the extent of what was coming. Had he known that it was the scheming mind of Bonnie Vazquez and her accomplice husband, Mateo Vazquez, that would be planning the occasion, he might not have bothered to prepare a sermon.
So much occurred and so much to write about. Sigh. The morning was simply wonderful; there is no other way to put it. Pastor Appreciation Day was just that, a day of appreciation, and so much more. It was a day imbibed with the Holy Spirit indwelling a congregation that was more than just a church. We truly came together as one body in spirit and in worship. Perhaps we had a taste of heaven.
Written words will do no justice to our Sunday morning service. This post will only attempt to list the events as best as can be remembered. Those who attended will understand:After the seating in front had been rearranged, Mateo asked Pastor, Lori, and their children to come forward and sit in front of the congregation. As the children’s choir was quietly shepherded on stage, Mateo honored Pastor Giardino with a short speech about his tireless, 7 days a week, dedication to his job as Pastor. He also praised the whole Giardino family for their sacrifices and contributions toward the church and the ministry. For six years they have served at Gospel Light.
Prior to leading the children’s choir in song, Bonnie pointed out the scripture passage high above the alter: Ps 144:15 “Happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.” For the Giardino family, the children sang, “Walking Up the King’s Highway”.
With Bonnie assuming the role of Master of Ceremonies, the Giardino kids were in for a surprise. Each was honored in order of their age:
- Michael – A letter of appreciation composed by many of Michael’s friends was read by Mateo. Michael was handed a card, as were all the Giardino kids in turn.
- Julia – Raquel and Analyse came forward to read a touching tribute to Julia.
- Ross – Ross’s close friends Joe C., Roberto, and Derek came up to read their tribute to him.
- Leah – Madison and Abigail were next to come forward, expressing their gratitude to Leah.
- Lydia – Samantha, Kiana, and a friend spoke highly of their sister in Christ, Lydia.
- Nathanael – Gail Reed then ushered in three children from the nursery, who presented Nathan with two wrapped presents. Gail said her nursery class was honored to have “The Little Prince”, his classroom nickname, as a classmate.
The five older kids opened their cards to find cash for shopping and Nathanael unwrapped his presents. Also, the family was told that they would be treated to a steak dinner.
After the kids stepped down, Lori Giardino was presented with a large, multicolor bunch of roses; the multiple colors were meant to symbolize the diversity within the congregation at Gospel Light. With Leah B. and Brenda by her side, Pearl gave Lori a heartfelt tribute and then handed her a card. Inside was a certificate for a day at a spa.
It was time to finally get around to paying tribute to Pastor Vince Giardino. Bonnie expressed how hard it was to find gifts “for a pastor who never asks for much”. Considering the difficulty, the results were truly inspired:
- Pastor’s “main gift” was to be a shelving unit with a cabinet to help organize his office. Anyone who has paid a visit to Pastor G.’s office understands the urgency in this.
- Pastor received a box filled with the “Thank You” cards filled out by members of his church. Also in the box were snacks to help tide him over while he read the notes.
- Our pastor was handed a decorative gift bag and inside was bags of coffee and a travel mug – a perfect fit for Pastor G.
- Another bag came his way. Inside it was 4 restaurant coupons: Cheeseburger/Cheeseburger, DiBella’s, Jim and Ralph’s, and of course … Nick Tahou’s. Pastor G., you have no secrets.
- The gift that made your blogger envious came last: a model sail boat. On the main sail was the words to a verse from the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul”. Once again, a very appropriate choice (e.g. just look at the walls in Pastor’s office)!
Mateo stepped forward to read 1 Tim 3:1-7, which prescribed the qualifications the Apostle Paul laid out for being a church pastor. No one doubted that our dear Pastor met them all. Mateo made special note of the last condition, that of having a good reputation with people outside of the church. If Pastor Giardino still had hopes of preaching that morning, they were soon to be dissolved, because …
Letters of Appreciation had arrived from pastors “outside of the church”! Three that were available were read by Mateo. They were from Pastor Bob Brado, Pastor Scott Strobel, and Pastor Vince Massa. Later, at the evening service, three more letters would be read: from Evangelist Dave Spurgeon, Evangelist Sam Gipp, and Pastor Ken MacDonald. The content of the letters can be found elsewhere on this blog.
Along came Grayson, and carrying his rhythm guitar, he stepped up to the microphone at the pulpit. What followed had to be seen and heard. Singing a composition of his own doing, Grayson crooned a bluegrass melody that had our pastor in stitches and the congregation captivated by laughter. The song hinged on Pastor G.’s propensity to collect “useless items”. With Mateo chiming in, a dozen or more silly items were mentioned. “Our preacher is a man, who does what he can, to find a use for everything”, Grayson warbled. However, Grayson had concealed a profound message in the song: Our pastor sees in each of us a useful and a valuable soul, despite the “useless” sinners we may have once been. For each of us, he looks “to find a use” for the glory of God! Amen.
Next, Gospel Light’s adult choir stepped up to fill the stage. Pastor’s son Michael took his place at the piano and Bonnie came forward to conduct. Three of the singers would take the lead: Leah B., Jaime, and Jesenia. The song they sang, “Pastor’s Song”, was so very appropriate, it was as if the writer of the song knew our pastor personally.
Bonnie and Mateo (Clyde) finally brought their program of appreciation to a close. Our pastor, full of humility and grace, came to the pulpit in sincere thankfulness. He expressed how “a church coming together is very powerful” and had us turn in our bibles to 1 Cor 14:23-25. Pastor Giardino saw in his congregation this morning a Spirit driven church, one that would convince “one that believeth not” to fall “down on his face … worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth”.
Pastor had intended on having Julia and Michael sing “Amazing Grace” as our morning music special … and so the two came forward to perform at last. And not only them, but as the Holy Spirit moved, many of us came forward to the alter to kneel and pray. Pastor Giardino asked us to pray that the Spirit put a fire in us and revive our hearts and minds. “Thank you for your kindness” he said, “but more importantly, if God is in us at Gospel Light, if we are doing it right”, then for those who visit, “they will see God in us … and will fall down and worship God … and will say ‘I want what they have’”. Our pastor promised that “the conviction of the Word of God will penetrate into the mind of an unbeliever.”