Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Call of Pain

Preparing for chapel at Ohio Northern University
This past Thursday I (Pastor John) drove to my alma mater, Ohio Northern University, where I had been invited to speak at the weekly chapel service and contribute to their current series, "The Call."   In doing so, i was invited to share a part of God's call on my own life and so, as much as I could in twelve minutes, I did.  If you are interested and haven't seen the link elsewhere, click here to read,

"The Call of Pain." 


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

To Mission (and Beyond)

    During the first week of this month, a team of seven from Trinity Church traveled to The Joy Center in Big Creek, Kentucky.  We went there expecting to stay in the dormitory there, but due to some unexpected plumbing problems, we stayed at the parsonage instead.  While we were there, Pastor Becky stayed in her husband’s (he is also a pastor) parsonage a half-hour away.

    We really didn’t know what to expect when we got there.  Most of us had never set foot on The Joy Center and even though Patti had been there before, she had never been with a group that had a work project like ours.

But every day was little short of amazing and miraculous.

    We were welcomed with open arms by Pastor Becky and Nancy (who volunteers there full-time in lives in a basement apartment in the parsonage) and everyone else we met.

    Our original plan was to renovate two rooms for Mitchell, an elderly blind man, who lived a short distance away but that plan changed even before we left.  Apparently, the person who originally estimated the cost of the project was inexperienced, and missed the mark by a considerable margin.  First, the cost of materials was much greater than estimated so we probably couldn’t afford to do both rooms, and second, the second room would require far more time than we had available.  And so, the next day we set to work tearing apart Mitchell’s bathroom.  At least some of us did.

    If you were here at Trinity when I was inviting folk to go with us, you might remember that I said the folks at The Joy Center would find something for everyone to do regardless of your age or skills. 

They did.

    While Jan and Wade Gash, Ernie Ball, Patti Partridge, Warren, Kevin and I went to Mitchell’s house to work, Sue Neddy-Scopelite, Marilyn Ball, Nancy, and Pastor Becky worked on something else back at The Joy Center.  While we hammered nails and ripped up floors, the others cut coupons, cleaned, painted, and helped with the free lunch that The Joy Center prepares and delivers every Tuesday.

    You might have noticed that Warren and Kevin were names that were unfamiliar to you, and you would be right.  These men were not from Trinity, but were on our team just the same.  Warren is a retired gentleman with some construction experience from Atlanta, Georgia who volunteers on projects like ours at Red Bird for several weeks every year and Kevin attends church at The Joy Center.

    Each day we worked until dinner time, and then returned to the parsonage for dinner and conversation about what everyone had seen and done that day.  After dinner, we often found other things that needed to be done or repaired at Pastor Becky’s parsonage or at The Joy Center.  Since the only “staff” there is Pastor Becky and Nancy, literally everything is their responsibility.  That meant that any little thing we could do for them saved them precious time to do other things.  We sorted beans for bean soup (sometimes sacks of beans have pebbles mixed in with them), mopped, dusted, vacuumed, mowed grass, weeded, put up shelves, installed lights, repaired things, installed a sliding board on the playground, moved boxes, replaces screens, and anything else that we could find to help out.

    We finished Mitchell’s bathroom Wednesday afternoon but still found things to do at the Joy Center for the rest of our time there.  On Thursday we travelled to the Red Bird Mission and toured the medical clinic, food pantry, clothing store, craft store, the Red Bird School, the Red Bird Conference offices, and several other things.

    It is impossible for me to describe all the things that happened that week in this short space, but Trinity should certainly be proud of our team and the work that was done in Big Creek, Kentucky.  You should be proud of the effort that it took by the entire congregation to send and support our team.  We saw much, learned much, blessed many, built new friendships, and were blessed beyond measure ourselves.

    I hope that you were able to come and hear Pastor Becky when she spoke at Trinity this month or have been able to see our pictures, or have been able to talk to some of our team members.  Everyone was so excited that they were all talking about going back before we had even started for home and we are already, tentatively, planning another trip next Spring.

    And just in case you were worried that going on a mission trip meant that you would have to preach or something, not one of us had to get in front of a group of people.  Our entire witness on this trip was all about being a servant and doing things for others as we were able.

There is a famous quote that sums up much of what “missions” really means.

“Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

                                         -  (possibly) St. Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Why We Go Out

    By the time you read this our mission team has already returned home but as I write it, we are still making preparations to leave.  We do not know exactly what we will find.  We do not know exactly what we will do.  We do not know if we will be successful.

But we know that we must go.

    But what is it that calls the people of God to go?  What is it that makes us leave the comforts of home to sleep in bunk beds or cots and work harder than many of us do at our regular jobs?  Why would retired people push themselves to go out when they have earned their rest?  Why do people from our church spend hours and hours raising money and organizing donations so that we can feed the hungry, pass out book bags, and give away bicycles?

And the answer is really the same as we often get in church.

Because we have been called to do it.

    In countless passages Jesus said things like ““Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)  Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and to visit those in prison.  From these commands, and many others, we know that the followers of Jesus Christ have a calling to help others but probably one of the most demanding of all is found in Luke 12:48 where Jesus says:

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

    As we live in nice houses with air conditioning, drive nice cars, have an abundance of food, and have more clothes than we will ever really need, we cannot deny that we are people who have been given much.  The only way that we can answer God is to do the things that he has asked, to do what he has called us to do and to go where he has called us to go.

    For some of us that means collecting food, clothing, backpacks and bicycles for those in our neighborhood who struggle to get by, and for others it means travelling to places so rural that cell phones don’t work well and electricity is not something that everyone has.  Some may choose to work hard and give generously while others may travel to other states or distant nations.

Each of us must answer the call of God, but how we answer it may be very different.

But God calls every one of us to do his work and each of us must listen to his call.

And when God calls us to go, we must go.


(Click here to read Part 2)