Twenty years ago, our little family of four moved from Richmond, VA to Jackson, MI to begin training as missionaries. Eventually, Todd began teaching at the same small Bible college where we began our training, and I worked to coordinate academic policy and practice there. We wanted to be active in the work of ministry, and so we ministered to students in the classroom and in our home, hosting droves of students as often as possible, and we loved guiding them through life’s trials and watching them flourish. We did the act of ministry routinely, and our hearts were full.
About ten years ago, circumstances led us away from that little Bible school and my husband into the traditional work force. A few years in, we had a happy tragedy when our one-room school house burned to the ground, and we lost a library of over 3,000 books. We had no idea that the building was even covered by our insurance and then found that the contents were as well, so began my husband’s version of a midlife crisis, courtesy of a generous insurance policy.
This now father of four, in the middle of the most demanding financial responsibilities life normally brings, took a sabbatical from the every day routine of work to attend grad school, furthering his ministry education, but he continued to do the work of ministry day in and day out for our little family and for those students around him. It had become the action of his daily life.
Todd recently received ordination from the United Brethren Church in a beautiful ceremony shared by our church family, denomination leadership, and close friends and family. This ordination, a public recognition of the private scrutiny of other ministers in leadership, qualifies him to pastor, to shepherd, to minister. While this event did label him minister (noun), it did not change the act of ministering (verb) that he’s responsible for.
Currently unassigned to a church, he ministers to our family by driving a tractor-trailer every day to supply our needs. He ministers to the employees at the truck stop in Port Huron, where the folks who fax his paperwork and build his Subway sandwich have come to look forward to his visits and ask for his prayer and advice. In a sense, he has become the pastor of that little truck stop because he has pastored the people there. I like to tease him about being the truck stop pastor because the folks there have his phone number and call him for counsel and to ask for prayer.
He spends about fifteen minutes tops at that truck stop each day, but the workers there have become a little family. They make his Subway sandwich without any instruction and look forward to his asking about their needs and reminding them that he’s praying for them…
…and then he does.
The people in that little truck stop would probably never seek out a minister to bare their souls to by sharing their problems, but when someone genuinely ministers to their hearts by caring consistently and praying for them faithfully, they warm up. One young lady was not particularly warm and ready to share, but her co-workers knew of her life situation and that she needed help through good counsel. They had encouraged her to talk to Todd. She resisted until a day recently when she made a point to announce in his presence that she was eating her lunch now. He didn’t pick up on the hint that she wanted him to sit with her and talk, so the next day, she tried a more direct approach, telling him, “Okay, I’m ready to talk now.”
He listened and encouraged her heart; in other words, he took responsibility to act out his faith, to change his noun, minister, to a verb, and minister to her.
While my husband has the label, minister, every Christian has the responsibility to minister in his/her walk on this earth.
People everywhere hurt. The clerk at the grocery store does not need our judgment on how slow she moves as much as she needs our encouragement. The waitress does not need the rude note on our receipts, but she does need a good financial tip and a quick thank you scribbled on that paper. Little acts of kindness establish us as caring people, willing to make a difference for others.
…and it is not until people see our care for them that they will listen to our message. Why should they want what we have if it does not make us different?
Too often we miss these chances to show God’s grace because of our busyness or irritation at not getting what we want or need when we want or need it. If we cultivate a spirit sensitive to those around us, our acts of ministry will turn us all into ministers of His grace.
…and that’s the view from My Front Porch.
Photography from Gidy.com