Lessons in Hope: Oscar L. Garza
By Sherri Gragg
While serving as a lay delegate at the 2012 General Conference, Oscar L. Garza, Cypress Trails UMC, Spring, received word that his wife’s ovarian cancer had returned. “If it comes back within five years, survivability drops to 15 percent,” Garza said, “So in the middle of General Conference, I jumped on an airplane and flew back home.”
For the next four years, Garza watched his wife gradually deteriorate until her death in 2016. The lessons of faith he learned during that season have empowered him to serve as a lay delegate at the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference with peace, and an unshakeable hope in the promise of resurrection. Today, we were honored to spend some time talking with him about how United Methodists can walk in the assurance of God’s promises during the Special Session of General Conference.
Q: Oscar, begin by sharing with us just a bit about how the loss of your wife refined your faith?
A: I visibly watched my wife deteriorate until her body passed away. She took her last breath in our house. From a human perspective, it was not a pretty sight. But from a faith perspective, it was a beautiful sight. I have come to equate it with being present at my daughter’s birth, seeing God in the action of giving life. I will say it this way, during that season I watched as God gave my wife eternal life. I had always had faith, but now I know for a fact that when it is God’s hands and we allow him to control where we go, it will end well. So, I come to this Conference knowing that it will end well. I don’t know what is going to happen, but I do know spiritually that it will be fine.
Q: How does faith have the power to transform suffering and loss?
A: If you don’t have faith, you think God took her away. That is natural reaction to think, this isn’t good. this is the end. But the reality is was God was present, he was there to heal her. The angels descended, scooped up her spirit and the gave her eternal life.
Q: How can we live in joy during seasons of upheaval and loss?
A: God’s joy has the power to overcome the angst and sadness of humanity. I am troubled over the loss of my wife, the loss of my daughters’ mother, my grandchildren’s grandmother. I am sad because I am human. But I am filled with joy by the fulfillment of the promise of salvation and of resurrection. I tell people this is not hocus pocus. I was there. We were at the altar of God. He was present with us during that time. It was so powerful. It overcomes what we as humans feel during loss- the anxiety, depression, and sadness.
Q: Your wife’s passing has given you an interesting perspective on the first two days of the Conference as a time of preparation. Talk to us a bit about that.
A: When my wife was bedridden. We would stand around her and pray. We were preparing. One time she opened her eyes and said, “Am I in heaven?” We all laughed and said, “No, not yet.” And I said, “She is ready. She knows where she is going. God is calling her. She heard the call!” Just as we went through that time of preparation for my wife to receive her eternal life, I see us doing something similar here at Conference yesterday and this morning. We are praying and worshipping. We are preparing for the life God has for us on the other side.
I knew that my wife was going to leave this earth, but I knew on the other side of that there would be healing and joy. I look at this Conference and say, on the other side of this there will be healing and joy. It will be resurrection.
Q: During unsure times, we are tempted to control, and that control leaves us with such fear. What would you say to those who are struggling with control in this moment?
A: If you haven’t given yourself fully to Christ, now is the best time to do it. Give yourself and when you give yourself in completion, you will know that whatever happens, all will be well.
Whatever we as the United Methodist Church decide to do, we all have a seat at God’s table, and we all have the promise of resurrection and salvation. That is not going to change. Find peace, comfort and calmness in the guarantee of the promise God has given us.