Sometimes it's hard to imagine the emotional roller coaster that is pastoral work. I posted last week about a rough day, and unfortunately, those days have been frequent here of late.
It seems like every time I turn around, another one of my congregation members is being stricken with something. Heart troubles, ATV accidents, cancer, weird medical stuff, you name it. The sheer number of things in proportion to the size of the congregation I serve is quite head scratching at times--borderline depressing at others.
Yet, I am heartened by the resilience of my congregation. They continually respond over and over again with generosity, prayer, and support. They really strive to make a difference in the lives of others. For instance, just a few highlights of what my congregation members are doing to support and help those stricken by illness and suffering (names are left out because most folks are practicing Matthew 6:1-4):
1. We've been praying for a young man who is stricken with cancer and has not long to live. He is not a member of this congregation, yet I know of at least $1000 which has been given to his family for him to do some enjoyable things in the midst of his cancer treatments. He has also received numerous cards from members of the church that have meant the world to him and his family.
2. A young girl in a neighboring town is fighting brain cancer. A couple of our members have worked diligently to offer support for her and her family--selling tickets to a fundraiser for her medical bills and keeping the congregation mindful of her need of prayer. Once again, folks in our congregation have responded and given lump sums of money in support.
3. Within our congregation a couple of folks have been experiencing some difficult medical situations. One had no insurance (but thankfully has some now) and the other has insurance but limited income. Anonymous donations were given to both of these families, and both were extremely thankful for what was received. (I wish I could actually go into more detail, but I have made promises of confidentiality.)
4. Yesterday when visiting a member who has been diagnosed with cancer and who was awaiting a procedure to stop a bleeding ulcer, who happened to be there in support of him and his family but another couple of the congregation members offering their support and prayers during this stressful time.
5. This Sunday, those who donate their Thrivent Choice Dollars to the congregation, without hesitation, donated $1000 to help defray the medical expenses of a young member of our church whose leg was crushed in an ATV accident. In addition to this, they fielded a request from the quilters who send much of their work to Lutheran World Relief and to the Krause Home in Katy (a home for abused children). The quilters asked for $50. The group gave $100.
6. Not only does my Women of the ELCA group send out cards to those who are ill and grieving, but many within the congregation do too. I found this out in the last couple of days as people were asking for the addresses of a couple of our hospitalized members. I even received a thanks for the church's sending out of the hospital names because people want to make a difference.
I'm not trying to brag by putting all this stuff out there. God knows, Jesus warned us against such things in Matthew 6, but there are two main reasons I write about this today:
First, no one tends to see this stuff happening. It's all behind the scenes. More than a few times I've heard comments about congregations failing to support needs in their community and even amongst their members. My congregation is doing it, and I am proud of them. Just about every Sunday, I preach and urge them to be a witness to Jesus Christ. I would be remiss if I didn't also let them know when they are doing a good job.
Second, I need to type this for myself as a reminder. When you are running from person to person, from family to family who are experiencing these trials and tribulations, you start getting a warped perspective of life. You start to think only these bad things are happening, but there is more to reality than just these troublesome events. There is God working through people to make a difference. My little church really, really does this. Sometimes I don't think I take the time to fully appreciate this when I'm running around. I'm doing that now.
And when I stop and see what they do, all I can say is, "Wow."