Valentine’s Day is special for many who chose that day to pop the “Will you marry me?” question. It is also the birthday of television and radio evangelist Lonnie Melashenko—and this past February he decided to celebrate his 75th birthday a bit differently.
“An idea emerged a few weeks before my Valentine’s Day 75th birthday,” said Elder Melashenko. “’Hey, Jeannie!’ I said. ‘What would you think about a different birthday celebration?’”
Jeannie Melashenko excitedly agreed to focus the birthday celebration on members of their church. The last year had been difficult for many in the Clearview church in Surprise, Arizona—nearly a dozen members of the church had lost a spouse. So, instead of a birthday bash, Elder Melashenko thought it would be a better gesture to show love to those in their church who had lost their spouses over the past year.
“These grieving valentines did not have their valentines with them for the first time this year,” said Melashenko. “So, I told my wife, ‘Why don’t we take them out to a nice Italian restaurant, get a huge cake, some ice cream, and get a special gift for each one?’”
A few ladies had just lost their spouse a few weeks prior to Valentine’s Day and were deeply grieving.
The Melashenkos set out to plan the luncheon to be held at a local restaurant—each person would order their favorite pasta and then they would be presented with valentine cards, a Melashenko musical CD, a bookmark, and a decorated cake. As the participants arrived at the restaurant, they were greeted at the door by Robert and Linda Carr, who provided each with a floral bouquet of red roses and white baby’s breath tied with a ribbon lined with hearts.
“A few ladies had just lost their spouse a few weeks prior to Valentine’s Day and were deeply grieving,” remembered Melashenko.
Although retired, the Melashenkos keep a busy schedule packed with church events and preaching engagements all over the United States. They also recognize the Lord’s admonition to minister to widows, orphans, and the disenfranchised, which during this time of the pandemic was received as a generous act of God’s love.
One of the attendees said, “Having friends like these is a direct expression of God showing me His warmth and love.”
Another attendee said she felt so strongly the love shown to her at the luncheon.
“It was a win-win for everyone,” said Melashenko. “Jeannie and I were moved to tears of joy to celebrate with these dear friends. The ladies and one gentleman couldn’t say enough about how much it meant to them.”
The luncheon serves as a reminder that sharing love to those who are grieving can be as simple as a hug, a greeting card, or a flower to let them know that they are not forgotten or alone.
By Robert Carr and Jeff Rogers