Although this is a historical column, I believe history is made every day and another of God’s human beings is in need so I ask for you to open your hearts to this story about a fine man who could use our support.
Rev. Al Fernandez is currently the pastor for the Clyo Lutheran Parish. This includes Laurel Hill Lutheran Church near Clyo and Wingard Memorial Lutheran Church in Clyo, both members of Lutheran Churches in Mission for Christ. He has been serving in a part-time ministerial position there since January of 2011. Pastor Al is also dealing with debilitating kidney failure. Rev. Fernandez and his loving wife Tammy share seven children and live in southern Effingham County.
Prior to serving in his current capacity, in 2002 he became pastor for the Clyo-Silver Hill United Methodist Charge.
Pastor Al is an Illinois native who grew up to beat the odds in a housing project environment of gangs, domestic violence and drugs. One of the bright spots of his youth was attending a Lutheran grade school where he learned to memorize scripture. His first job was delivering papers in a very tough neighborhood.
He shared with me that his mother, the sole breadwinner, brought home a meager wage for a large family. Health care went lacking. His father, an illegal alien from Mexico, was not able to stay in America. A simple thing like iron tablets in a childhood of poverty and poor nutrition might have prevented the beginning of some of the health issues he and his siblings deal with today. One sibling had untreated rheumatic fever and now has a heart issue.
After high school, Rev. Fernandez went to Chicago, where he graduated from Hyles Anderson College with a pastoral degree. His work while there included ministering to Latin street youth.
Accepting a call from Grace Baptist in Muncie, Ind., as an associate pastor, he was able to obtain his masters degree in public administration from Ball State University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology during his time there. In 1989, Rev. Al received the Dr. Martin Luther King Scholarship at Christian Theological Seminary, where he completed his work for his Master of Divinity Degree. This led him to be called as pastor at Christus Victor Lutheran Church. He also answered calls to Sherwood Christian Church and Christ the Savior Lutheran Church.
In addition to all of his pastoral duties through the years, he taught courses at Indiana Institute of Technology, Washington State Department of Corrections, Armstrong Atlantic State University, Effingham County High School and South Effingham High School. He has been an honored guest speaker for the Effingham County Sunday School Association’s annual convention during his tenure with the Methodist churches in the county.
This gentleman does more than faithfully fill two pulpits and minister his two church families; he is a husband, father, grandfather and chaplain whenever called upon. His life on home dialysis causes him to be connected to a machine for long hours each night to rid his body of impurities his kidneys no longer filter to sustain his life. Rarely does he get good quality sleep due to machines alarming and many interruptions with this treatment. He is on numerous medications with many side effects and is constantly fatigued and very easily winded during what we deem easy daily tasks. Frequent medical appointments including trips to the transplant hospital for preparation are on his schedule.
His hope for a better life is to receive a kidney transplant. He is on the roster and so far, no family member tested is a match. He also seeks now a non-familial match or a cadaver match when someone dies and their organs are donated.
To be a live organ donor, you may be tested. Potential donors may flag your driver’s license indicating your desire to donate your organs if your life ends in an accident. Please let your next of kin know your wishes in case the unthinkable becomes reality. Not all persons are suitable as a donor match. Blood types must be alike and the donor cannot have high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney stones, to name just a few qualifiers. There are situations were there are donor swaps when consenting family members or friends do not match.
If you would consider being tested for becoming a donor call Rev. Fernandez or me, and one of us will get you in touch with an agency to begin the procedure.
When a transplant patient’s name comes up on the list for a new kidney, each potential transplant recipient needs to have funds set up in a special account to offset the high costs of the anti-rejection medications needed to sustain the new kidney. Some of these funds will then be matched by an organization for patient support for those receiving transplants. A fund has been set up through the Clyo Lutheran Parish to have funds on hand for Rev. Fernandez. Please send your check made out to Laurel Hill Lutheran Church clearly designated on the memo line for Rev. Fernandez’s Kidney Fund. Mail the check in care of Laurel Hill Lutheran Church to PO Box 185, Clyo, GA 31303.
Please join us with a monetary donation to help this humble servant of the people if you are able. I ask you to pray for him and his family as they wait for a transplant.
Perhaps a civic organization or your church is in a position to make a contribution. Our brother in Christ and his family will be most grateful.
This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org