He Bit Precious On The Nose - In Memory of Leslie Prestal
I don’t remember when we first met exactly, but she turned up in my life, like she had always been there. Fourteen years old, full of questions and life, pony tales and an eager spirit, she soaked up the things of the Lord like a sponge.
For a brief shining second in time, I was part of something rare and beautiful, in small town Ohio, I saw roses grow from cornfields. I was witness to the spiritual growth and development of a group of kids that served and worshiped the Lord with abandon, dedication and boldness in a way I never had. It wasn’t until later that I realized what a tremendous responsibility and blessing it was to serve as a youth leader for Victory Temple Church in Fairborn, Ohio. Leslie was a part of this unusual group. Anointed, evangelistic, Holy Spirit filled, they preferred the things of God over the mall and hanging out. It was nothing to see these radical teenagers laid out before the alter crying out to the Lord for revival, for healing, for deliverance.
I got a chance to watch them all grow, some departed the faith and others became stronger and even more in love with Jesus. Leslie was one of those who fell in so deep, she couldn’t get out if she tried. Many people try to be good, but Leslie was good. And although she would be the first to admit she didn’t always feel good, that she battled her own flesh, I know what I saw. The glory of the Lord all over her, displaying the Him in her so brilliantly that sometimes she was blinding. His words in her mouth, His heart in her compassionate ways, His sacrifice in her kindnesses, His truth in her desire that no one would perish. And she grew into a mighty woman of God and went from being one of my kids to being one of my sweetest friends.
Once when she was around sixteen, the youth group was gathered at the Youth Pastor’s home for fellowship. Leann (the Pastor’s wife) had this funny little dog – named, D.O.G. who use to terrorize the kids. Leann was sitting in a chair with the little dog tucked away besides her barely visible. Someone said something hilarious, and Leslie who was sitting at Leann’s feet, popped up on her knees screaming in laughter and rocking forward. And as she came near to the chair, that dog popped out like a little viper and nipped her on the nose. It was one of the funniest things we had ever seen. It scared Leslie more than anything and D.O.G. got in major trouble, but my how we laughed about that incident for years.
For some reason, the Lord allowed me to play a part in her spiritual journey – which makes no sense to me as I often feel so weak and powerless, and Leslie was so faith filled and strong. I got to counsel her on those teenage issues, share with her from the word of the Lord, help teach her how to lead worship. Later, Leslie and I helped that same Pastor and his wife start a church and worked together in the church office, she was one of the first volunteers for my ministry. She traveled over five hours to serve at my wedding and we’d meet for breakfast and discuss her dreams, her goals, her desires. I was her big sister in the faith and she was my Les-er-lee.
And then one day I came into her office and she told me she had gotten some abnormal test results back from the doctor and had to see a specialist. We brushed it off, declared the victory over the situation and put it in the hands of the Lord.
She fought valiantly, and there were times of healing, refreshing and reprieve. Two times she conquered the beast of cancer by the power of the Lord. And when it returned the third time, she won the ultimate victory and went home to be with her Savior, the One whom her soul loved.
I don’t understand why a thirty-one-year-old would die. Especially one who went on mission trips, led worship, shared with the world how faithful God was. I don’t understand why the Lord didn’t allow her to be the wife and mother that she desired to be. My heart is broken and I am weak and crying at all hours of the day and night. I got a chance to talk with her before she died, to sing a song that we sang together when she was that fourteen-year-old rose turning her face to the light to grow in grace.
One of the last things Leslie said was, “I still believe God can heal me, and I am trusting Him to do so. What a marvelous testimony that would be. But if He doesn’t heal me, and He calls me home, that’s OK to, because then I’ll be with Jesus.”
We are a people always looking for miracles. We cry and question and when a loved one leaves this earth at a time we define as “to soon” we let our faith be shaken and say God didn’t answer our prayer. But isn’t the true miracle that Leslie faced the beginning of her eternal life anchored in His promises and speaking them over her own life to give us comfort?
And I comfort myself thinking about how D.O.G. nipped her on the nose and how she laughed until her face turned red after it happened. I am left with all the memories I wish I could pour out on this page to share with you about utterly lovely Leslie is. I say is – because she still lives, she lives in the presence of the Lord and she lives in my heart. And I am humbled and honored to know that in some small way, for one brief second in eternity, I got to share this earthly life with her and that for a time I got to be a gardener tending one of His most precious roses.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.