On Sunday at 5:21 am, Paulina Shelton was welcomed into the immediate presence of Jesus. Paulina will always be a Renewanation Hall of Famer! I was privileged to meet Paulina 20 years ago when I became the pastor of her church in Roanoke, Virginia. During my 11 years as her pastor, she served as the church treasurer, and even though the church and financial workload exploded in growth, Paulina never wavered.
Sometime after I left the church and hired her to lead the finance office at Renewanation, she told me that things had been so intense in our closing years at the church that she would sometimes stay up all night just to get the work done. In 2012 Paulina came to work for Renewanation. To say things were tight during her first two to three years at Renewanation would be a huge understatement, but it was during those years that God used her in a powerful way. On days when we literally did not have enough money to pay the bills, she would look at me and say, “You know it is not going to be this way forever. God is going to come through!” I can’t tell you how much her quiet faith strengthened me and helped to keep me going.
Paulina was one of the most frugal individuals I have ever known. She did everything by the book and manuals, so everything she had lasted forever. Her mower was almost 40 years old. Her furnace was about the same age, so she thought it should probably be checked by a professional. I sent a friend of mine to her house to look at it, and he told her that she didn’t need a new furnace and that her current furnace didn’t have a speck of dust in it. I say all of this so that you will know how meaningful her actions were at Renewanation. On more than one occasion, in those early and most challenging years, I walked into the finance office, and she would gladly announce to me that she had paid a stack of bills. When I asked her where she had come up with the money to pay them, she would say with a sense of pride, “I paid them all with my credit card.” When I would tell her that I didn’t want her to do that and risk her financial well-being, she would simply respond, “The Lord will give Renewanation the money to pay me back.” And, He did!
What a joy it was over the last few years, before she retired, to see God do exactly what she had predicted so many times. No one was more excited to see God begin to bless Renewanation and move us from those most difficult days to days of greater financial strength and missional impact. Just a couple of weeks ago, I saw her for the last time. She had only known of her terminal cancer for about a month when I visited her, and I was not prepared for what I experienced. When I sat down by her bed, her eyes lit up, and she said, “Jeff, I am so excited. I am getting ready to go to heaven.” She talked like she was getting ready to go on a cruise with all of her children and grandchildren. She was beside herself with excitement to see Jesus. Today she’s in the presence of the One she loved so much, and today I am officially inducting her as the first member of the Renewanation Hall of Fame.