(Yes, I am in fact dressed as an eight ball. I was 7 months pregnant with Sadie and wanted to take full advantage of my bowling ball of a stomach at Halloween!)
Meet my friend Melissa Cheliras. I had always heard people talk about Melissa but never actually met her till the summer we moved back to Blacksburg to work at BCM. Then, not only did I meet her but I got to work with her, and in campus ministry this means you spend a lot of time together, especially during those first few weeks of school.
One thing you saw in Melissa from the moment you met her was her zeal for God and life. She found joy in both of those things, in everything she did. Whether it was cracking me up at a Zumba class, inviting me to hang out at the river and "rest", or watching a movie with me while Nic was at school so I wouldn't be lonely, her passion and enthusiasm were contagious. That gal lived life to the fullest and she challenged me to do the same. When she was dancing she saw the creativity of God at work, when she was in India celebrating the wedding of a friend she saw God in the faces of the people surrounding her, when she was meeting with a student, who was broken and felt hopeless, she brought hope and restoration right there in the middle of campus.
If I ever learned anything about loving people and bringing Jesus to the world, it was from her. I would always be amazed sitting across the booth from Melissa at staff meeting as her "notepad of names" continued to grow. She kept a running list of people she wanted to contact/hang out with and as we would mention someone at staff meeting she'd add them to her list. The funny thing was, she would actually contact them. It didn't matter how long it'd been since she last saw them or how "awkward" it might make her feel- she loved that person and more importantly Jesus did too and they needed to know it.
When Melissa started to get sick I talked to her a few times over the phone. I wasn't really sure what to ask her or even where to begin but she would always answer my questions with such grace and then say "I want you to know I've been praying for you and your family. Are there any ways in particular I can pray for y'all?" Talk about being humbled. Here she was in the middle of fighting cancer and she cared about me. Typical Melissa, she always was about caring for others above herself, it's almost as if somebody had told her to do that :). It didn't matter what she was doing, if someone needed something, she would stop the world to get to them. Thank you Melissa for showing me that. Thank you for teaching me what it means to love selflessly and to love well. So much of what I do in college ministry is wrapped up in how you did college ministry and for that I am eternally grateful. You are greatly missed friend.