When her pastor (and husband) died of AIDS, God showed the way

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1956

By Zachary Catalano —

Tamara Bennett didn’t believe the doctor when he said her husband had AIDS and was dying.

“Tell him,” Tamara told her husband, “tell him that’s not right, that he’s got the wrong guy.

Her husband was silent in the face of the news.

The doctor said he would give the couple a few minutes to talk in private and discuss things.

Tamara’s husband was a dynamic pastor of a burgeoning church. How could he have AIDS?

After the doctor left the room, her husband spoke quietly but firmly. “I never had an affair on you,” he said. “This was something that happened before I met you.”

Tamara went to the bathroom and stuffed all the toilet paper into her face as she cried.

The last five years of her 13-year marriage would be taking care of her dying husband at a time when you didn’t openly discuss AIDS in the church, she says in a Journey Faith Film video.

Her family now

As she sought the Lord, He spoke to spoke to her heart and encouraged her that He wasn’t abandoning her in the crisis.

Her husband refused to take any medication because of the amount of drugs he would have to ingest and the horrible side effects.

Tamara knew that her husband could no longer function in ministry when the AIDS progressed and caused dementia. Three times in one morning, he asked, “What day is it today?

“It’s Sunday,” she responded.

“Oh, we have to go to church,” he replied. Then he repeated the same question.

From then on, Tamara would dress him up, make him as presentable as possible and take him to church. But he no longer ministered.

Within seven months, her husband passed.

“We cared for him until the day he died.”

The chef who won her heart.

After that, she didn’t know what to do. In pain and grieving, she didn’t know how to move forward with her life. Should she return to Detroit? Should she return to corporate America? Should she try to lead the church herself?

When she prayed, God responded with a booming voice: “Humble yourself. I am never wrong. I will be your Shepard and we will build this church.”

It has been 18 years since then, and God has been faithful to build This is Pentecost Fellowship Ministries Church in South Sacramento, she says.

Moving on in her life, Tamara took up bike riding, sometimes riding her bike for miles.

“I didn’t want depression to make me go into a form of obesity, or something,” she says.

In one of those bike rides, she rode past a restaurant called Rio City Cafe. She decided to get something to eat. Because of her bike clothes, she thought it best to sit on the patio outside. She ordered and enjoyed the fish.

As she was leaving, she saw a black chef there checking her out.

A few weeks later, she went back to the restaurant, not because she was “stalking” the chef but because she really enjoyed the fish.

Again, she noticed that the chef was pacing around awkwardly. When she didn’t find the fish she had ordered before, she asked the chef, who explained that it was not on the menu but was his specialty and that he would make it for her.

He brought it to her and sat down next to her. The spoke about 9/11, which had just happened.

“He was so easy to talk to because I could breathe with him,” she says. “I wasn’t a pastor; I could just be me.”

Over the course of time, she would take other people with her to her new spot, not wanting to go alone so he wouldn’t think she was hitting on him.

One time, he waited until the person she was with had left the table. He came over and said, “Listen, everything about you might be out of my league for now, but you’re my wife.”

She was taken aback, at once very flattered, but also troubled because she had ruled out marriage. After all, she was getting tested twice a year to see if she had AIDS.

“If you believe I’m your wife, then you need to go to God and find out from Him what it’s gonna take to get me.”

“‘Oh that’s all I gotta do?” he asked.

He joined the church, and after some time passed, Tamara saw that he was serious about his faith and his pursuits.

Finally, she brought up the last and greatest hurdle: “My last husband died of AIDS. I don’t know if I have AIDS or not, so I need you to move on. I need you to let this go.”

Tears came down his eyes, but he said, “You do not have AIDS. You will be my wife and you will have my children.”

It was as if this chef were a prophet.

They married after that. Together with her husband, she now pastors This is Pentecost.

Tamara still got tested for AIDS periodically.

“One particular time, we went to get my tests done and her face was red,” Tamara recalls. “I thought this is it. I have AIDS. I’ve had a good life. I’m going to die and go Heaven.”

The doctor said, “Tamara, you do not have AIDS. But you are pregnant.”

Tamara is married with 4 kids, two from her prior husband and two with her current husband.

“If you ever think God is not fair, God is fair. I preach every Sunday with the optimism that if He did it form, He’ll do it for every person because He’s a God who’s not a respecter of persons. There is no rock that is so heavy of sin that He cannot lift. There is no shame that can blanket us that He cannot take off. There is no sin that is so heinous that He could never forgive them. Not so. He is a good, good Father.”

Zachary Catalano studied at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Los Angeles.

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