Emily’s Journey


She had a spark the first time I met her.

Emily Ristau was a young seventh grade girl when we first met. Our first encounter was in the church lobby. It was memorable mostly because I opened my mouth and out flew a Freudian Slip (and no, I won’t go into those details). So, I was introduced to Emily alongside her two older brothers and parents. Her family soon became a favorite. I heard somewhere that you’re not supposed to have favorites in the ministry. “Shh! Don’t tell.”

Emily’s dad would frequently say, “My girl is a walking miracle.” Indeed she was. Emily was born with half a heart, also known as HLHS. When I found out for the first time I thought of little Laura from Little House on the Prairie and modified it to fit Emily. From then, on I dubbed her “Half Tank.” She didn’t seem to mind.

If you did not know Emily, you would not know there was anything wrong with her inward parts for outwardly she appear to be a ordinary teenage girl with an extraordinary faith in God. Though she often struggled with her image and what others thought of her, she would wander back to the truth that she was crafted in God’s image.
What impressed me most about Emily was her spunky and everyone’s-a-friend-attitude. It was a huge asset to our youth ministry at BGBC. I wish I could have cloned a few Emily’s, although the awkwardness factor would have certainly multiplied exponentially. Just thinking about Emily now makes me laugh. I can hear her say, “Sup?” with that cheeky grin and that faint bob of her head.

When Sarah and I began our courtship, Sarah stayed with Emily’s family. Following Sarah’s first visit, I sought Emily’s approval of Sarah. She said, “She’s a keeper, Justin.” That was enough. A few weeks later Emily help me to assemble a sock monkey for Sarah named Patch. He’s still held together by the Emily’s threads and needlework.

The spark she had was ignited by the Spirit of God.

Emily, left a mark on me. Though I wasn’t her youth pastor for a very long time,  she was used by God to shepherd my life by her example. Emily preached a sermon with her life. Emily may have had half a heart, but she really had more heart than most because her real heart was possessed with the One who gave her life and ordained her days.

Emily went to be with Jesus on May 14, 2014. She was 21.

Emily’s Journey is not over, it’s just begun. Emily is a hero in the faith and now with the champion of her faith! Lucky!

“God as you used Emily in this life to be a ginormous blessing to many, may you use her testimony and ‘new life’ as a continual testimony of Your fame. Until we meet again. In Jesus name.”

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

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