Over The Fence

Elvis Durrell retired from the pastorate after 36 years to care for his wife the last six years of her life. Heart problems, then an episode of cancer, meant round the clock care. Only months after his wife’s passing, Elvis’s twin brother also died and his son had a stroke requiring intensive care. On the heels of all the family health issues, Elvis found his savings depleted.

“I had just placed a package of hot dogs in the refrigerator when I read an article in the state paper about Mission:Dignity: Three Hot Dogs for Three Long Weeks. As I thought about the articles, the hot dogs and recent medical bills, I immediately reflected on the fourth chapter of Philippians,” Elvis said.

That’s when he decided to apply for assistance himself. Approved in short order, Elvis is grateful for God’s timing in helping him see the need to reach out to others about his situation.

“It’s hard to ask for help,” he confessed, “but God always takes care of me. I’ve always told the Lord that if he’d open the door, I’d walk through it. That was true for my ministry and it’s still true today.”

At almost 84 years old, Elvis has found a new ministry — right over his back fence. “Every year I plant a vegetable garden in my backyard. I use my crop as a tool to witness to my neighbor.”

It all started one summer as he was working in his garden. He noticed his next door neighbor was struggling with starting his lawn mower.

“I picked a basket of red-ripe tomatoes and went to the fence to share. God used the garden and me to plant some spiritual seeds,” he recalled.

The opportunity to share with the neighbors across the alley happened after an early morning fire. They lost all of their belongings except the clothes they were wearing and spent months rebuilding. Elvis did what he could, praying with them and taking vegetables, groceries and water.

Elvis saw his other next door neighbor walk a similar path to his own — caring for a wife struggling with cancer. His service as a hospice chaplain and his own journey gave him the experience to walk alongside the neighbors, praying with and encouraging them. Once again, the garden opened the door.

“I don’t know if the seeds will spout and grow, but the Lord does,” Elvis said.

“Every morning I pray, ‘Lord help me today to be all that you want me to be.’ The greatest blessing comes from knowing He is not through with me here on earth. There is no end to the opportunities to serve.”

Grateful to Mission:Dignity ministry for its part in helping to relieve his financial burdens, Elvis recently told us, “I cannot put into words what is in my heart. You have helped me through a very difficult time. God bless you!”

“If I had one request of the Lord, I would pray if it was His will that I meet, rejoice with and shake the hands of the people God is using in this ministry,” Elvis wrote.