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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Incalculable Value of a Good Pastor

Sorry, this post isn’t writing related.

It’s awe related.

I’m in awe of how God puts people in your path to grow you.

I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Over the years, my mom took me to VBS and church when I’d go, but it wasn’t till I was about 17 that I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior at a tiny white Wesleyan church across from the railroad tracks. I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the pastor of that church except that they had a pet white rabbit that followed them around the yard. And that wasn’t the church my mom went to.

After I was saved I started going to her church—which wasn’t a church at all but a rented community center with wooden pews and arms of wrought iron. If you’re getting images of one room schoolhouses ala Laura Ingles Wilder style, you’re not far off. I cannot remember that pastor’s name either. He ultimately was called to another location.

Then the Pastor came who would lay the foundation for my life. Pastor and his wife Barbara came as a lay pastorate. They lived on the western shore but when the Lord called him, Pastor not only worked for hours at the day job, on Thursday afternoon, he and Barbara loaded up the car and fought the traffic to drive to the eastern shore where they led our “church” from Thursday through Sunday evening. Then they’d make the long drive back Sunday night and start all over again.

That was the first time I experienced a palpable sense of a Pastor with a vision. This is no disrespect to the pastors that came before – it is just that God began to teach me and reveal things to me in a big way once Pastor & Barbara became the earthly shepherd of our flock.

Not long after, through God’s provision and Pastor’s fortitude, we purchased a lot of land and soon had an official church building. Located next to it was a tiny, and I do mean tiny little house that served as their parsonage three and a half days a week.

Pastor had a great sense of humor and a great love of God. His favorite hymn was To God Be The Glory. I cannot hear that song without thinking of him, and it has become one of my favorites too. Because that is the greatest thing that Pastor taught me—to keep my eyes on Jesus. And to give Him all the glory.

Pastor was always high energy, and he needed it. He worked tirelessly at each service, in assisting with building, visiting the sick and shut in, and the myriad other duties a pastor fulfills. He had a heart for reaching out to all age groups including young people, and worked very, very hard to disciple the flock. He had a signature bubbling laughter that could make the grumpiest person smile.

He loved puppet ministry and always took time to visit with the youth while they did play practice or held some study or special event.

I had a lot of spiritual growth during those five years he was my pastor (I moved from Maryland when I was 22) because of his guidance.

At that time in my life, I’d never heard of a Pastor being paid to be a pastor full time. All I ever knew were pastors who held their day job and ministered in their spare time. Consequently, when I moved to larger, more populated areas, I found it hard to adjust to and even had a bias against pastors who only worked within the church.

I’m sure Pastor and others who do both would be the first to outline the merits of a shepherd who can lead the flock full time—and I can see those merits now myself. But it took some getting used to.

The Bible—God’s perfect, unblemished word—is the foundation upon which we build our lives. Through Pastor’s teaching of His word, I gained a deep, solid foundation that I have been building on ever since.

Even after I moved from Maryland, I would pray daily for Pastor & Barbara. Still do 20 years later. They mean that much to me. Though in the years since, our contact has been limited to exchange of Christmas cards (though joyfully, I did get to see them again briefly about 4 years ago.), I still think of them every bit as fondly and gratefully as when I was learning and growing under his tutelage at that little church on the Eastern Shore.

And I’ve since learned that not everyone is so fortunate to have a God-fearing, caring pastoral couple to guide the steps of their early lives. Pastor & Barbara had a huge impact on me—deeper then I could ever put into words. And while I’m no pastor, I think of Pastor & Barbara and their deep commitment to reaching people for Christ and growing His children. It reminds me of my responsibility to the youth whose lives I impact at the church teaching Bible study. A good biblical grounding at this young age is crucial to the rest of their lives. Growing up without knowing the Lord, without knowing His word, is like growing up handicapped. Where it is within my power to do so and God directs me, I must do my part to see that doesn’t happen to the young people who are a part of my life.

What brings these fond memories on now? Christmas, in part, and the fact that they beat me in getting me their Christmas card out first. DRAT! Don’t worry, my card’s on the way soon! 8-) That and the fact that, when people have as big an impact as they have had on me, you frequently are reminded of them, even if you haven’t had in person contact for many years.

I didn’t give Pastor’s name in this blog on purpose. Maybe he wouldn’t want his name plastered all over the internet. Besides, it fits with the theme of his life and service to the Lord --- to God be the glory.

Thank you, God, for the simply magnificent people you put in my path to teach me and lead me. And I pray, as always that your guiding hand would be upon them and that you would bless and keep them. I regret that so many miles separate us now, but rest confident that they are in your care.

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