Over the last few months we have been dealing with a bivo pastors nightmare of circumstances (which is what has kept me from writing) including sickness and job transitions. In the middle of all of this mess my last paternal aunt was sick and dying in a hospital in a state quite far away. We had given our word to my father that we would take care of her no matter what, and so we did. As we journeyed to that distant place we learned several lessons.
First, don’t be afraid to lean on people. There is a very misguided sub-text to pastor’s lives that says, “I am here to minister, not to be ministered to.” This is a very self-destructive line of reasoning. I was ministered to by family members, friends and even my boss. Without the ministry of these people whom God had placed in my life neither my wife nor I would have survived.
Second, in the midst of tough times there is always opportunity to find ministry. God is incredibly creative n placing these ministry possibilities in front of us. My aunt had a roommate who was behind a curtain in her room. She was pretty quiet, but my aunts closet was on this lady’s side of the room. As I entered the room and went to the closet a few times I developed a cordial relationship with her. By the time we left she knew our names, knew that we were Christians and we had a short chat or two and we let her know that we were praying for her. Ministry.
Third, expect the unexpected. Roll with it and be confident that God is going to handle it all. We went to my aunt with the expectation of bringing her home with us, going so far as to buy a plane ticket and to furnish a room in our house for her. Two days before we were to return the doctor rescinded his ‘able to fly’ certification. We had to place her in hospice and return without her. On the trip back we realized that at least one of the legs of the trip my aunt would have never even been able to board the plane due to impediments on the flight. God had foreseen all of this, and prevented us from bringing her, only to be stranded at an airport.
Fourth, look for the blessings. We met a wonderful lady whom my aunt had become friends with. We had several opportunities to talk with her and though she is not a Christian (she is Buddhist) she blessed us in many ways. Our example to her of how Christians can (and should) interact with those of other faiths may yet see her drawn to Christ. In the meantime we take her friendship at face value, and count her as a big part of God’s plan. She visited with my aunt for literally hours every day until the day she died.
I believe compassion, both given ad received, is grossly underestimated in today’s Western culture. As a bivo pastor we should be looking for those opportunities and taking advantage of them.