In the third chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes, the writer states, "for everything ther e is a season, a time for everything under heaven"- work, play, family, friendsh ip, life and yes, death. "Yet God has made everyth ing beautiful for its own time," the w riter goes on to say. God graced our lives with the inimitable Linda Rodriguez Benge. Princess Linda, I called her. My dear friend. Beautiful in her own time. Now home with Jesus .
Linda Rodriguez Benge graced this life on Apri l10, 1943. She grew up in Bay Ridge, a bustling community in Brooklyn, New York. The oldest of six children, Linda grew up in the strong embrace of a loving f amily and recreated that environment w hen she had a family of her own. She stretched her heart even more, over time gaining an ever-expanding circle of friends she welcomed as family. I know I am not the only one who is honored and gra teful she accepted me into that special circle.
I met Linda in 1982 in t he "Fat Class" at Chapel Hill Harvester Church. I happened to sit by her, and we were asked to introduce ourselves to the person sitting closest to us. We discovered that we grew up in Brooklyn, lived near each other in the south Fulton community of Atlanta and hated the chairs in the class. "What kinds of cha irs a re thes e fo r a fat class? -they don't hold all our fat," she announced. She was right. She was right a lot of t imes about a lot of things .
Linda was as fiercely loyal as she was loving. She was braver and had more courage tha n she gave herself credit for. Imagine moving to Atlanta with her young sons, Ric and Chris, to forge a new life, a new beginning in the aftermath of the devastatin g loss of her husband , Nelson. It was a very hard thing, she told me. But it was the best thing, for through it she gained new opportunities, new friends and her most precious treasure, a deepe r relationship with God. In time, as her commitment to Christ deepened, Linda allowed God to re-arrange her plans and take her along paths that were often different than she'd imagined. But she enjoyed the ride. Doors opened to fruitful seasons of faithful service that allowed God to use Linda in the most incredible ways to draw people closer to Him. Along the way, she married again and shared her life with Matt Benge.
Linda had such an easy and relaxed way of relating to people. No airs, genuinely enthusiastic about life and its possibilities. She had that wonderful, welcoming smile. She had a hilarious sense of humor. I mean hilarious. When she was on roll, you could wet you rself from laughing. Linda was completely transparent and accepting, listened intently without judging. That's why so many of us felt comfortable spilling our guts, sharing our problems, concerns and needs with her. Linda never tried to change anyone. Yet, anchored in love and genuine concern, and guided by the Holy Spirit, an encounter with Linda transformed many hearts.
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