More than a few times I have contemplated whether or not I should write a “pastoral memoir” once my vocational pastoral ministry concludes sometime in the very distant future. The fact that Fort Dodge, IA received 5, and counting, inches of snow today, May 2nd, has caused my mind to go into “memories” mode, recalling an April snowstorm in NW Pennsylvania which “gifted” us with 39″ of wet snow in 24 hours.
From there, my mind continued to other pastoral memories, some bringing a smile, others a tear. I remember Jess Lewis, my current head usher, telling the church that it was okay for him to be behind the pulpit because I had given him permission to be there.
I remember the joys of recognizing and seeing God’s leading to each of the four churches I have served so far during my ministry (First Evangelical Free, Grand Rapids, MI/New Life Christian Center, Muskegon, MI/Greenfield Baptist Church, North East, PA/First Baptist Church, Fort Dodge, IA).
I remember the joys of performing baptisms and weddings. I treasure all the lives I have encountered over 20+ years of ministry, many with whom I am still in contact.
I remember the births of our children and the joy each one of them has brought into my life. I remember and continue to experience the love of a wife who has and still does support me in the ministry to which God has called me, even to the point of encouraging me to go with God’s call, even if that meant moving away from family and away from the state in which she had lived much of her life.
I also, however, remember the sorrows and pain. I remember a cold, rainy September Saturday morning in 2009 when I received the phone call that a young lady, only 18 years young and who had just graduated high school the previous June and had been a part of the youth ministry at Greenfield, had been tragically killed in a car accident earlier that morning.
I remember the longest 2 mile run/walk of my life. That 2 mile stretch is in NE Oklahoma along Interstate 44. It was there that on a Saturday afternoon, July 12, 2008, as I and a large group of adult leaders and students were traveling to Oklahoma City on a mission trip, that a young man of that group, who would have been 16 that September, threw himself from one of our vehicles committing suicide. I remember screaming at God the whole way.
I remember coming home one morning in early May 17 years ago (I think it was the 3rd) and receiving the phone call that my mentor in ministry, Rev. Dr. Fred Moore, with whom I was still serving, had passed away. That day, and those following hit me hard, but it was events following that tragic day that really launched my path in ministry.
It has been my experience that God doesn’t waste a single joy or a single hurt as He shapes us and conforms us into the image of His Son. For this, I rejoice. I am the man, husband, father and pastor I am today because of this fact.
Father, I am grateful and thankful beyond what any words can truly express. Your presence in my life through which You fulfill Your purpose of making me like Your Son is what truly brings me joy. You have richly blessed me beyond description. Thank You. I look forward to seeing how You continue to make this a reality in my life in the days ahead. Amen.