Volume 18 Issue 10

 

We’ve got to swing by and get the kerosene; my father would mumble every Sunday morning as we worked our way across Indianapolis to our inner-city church. It was a messy job, unloading the cans we had brought along and dragging them to the smelly gasoline stations kerosene pumps not far from our small storefront church. The car always reeked with the odor of spilt fuel. Church started at 10 a.m. but we dutifully arrived extra early to stoke up the kerosene heater, after which we would straighten the chairs and clean things up, mostly to keep warm, while the smoky stove did its job pushing the temperature to tolerable. But warmness was only for those sitting close to the stove. Pity the people near the back, especially on a cold Indiana winter morning.

I am ashamed to say I don’t recall the man’s name, but I can still see his face and remember the Sunday morning he volunteered to be the kerosene man. What a help. What a difference it made for my folks who both worked secular jobs while giving at least three nights a week, plus all day Sunday, to what they called church work. The kerosene man is one of the first people I remember who jumped in to help my parents with the duties and chores that were necessary to keep the church operating. A small thing? A trivial thing? Perhaps, but it was a breakthrough, a beginning moment of delegation, the joy of emerging leadership. The kerosene man made a difference.

Now, after pastoring for more than forty years there are hundreds of other faces that come to mind. There are meetings, events, outreaches, revivals, and dinners put together and often inspired by the saints, by the membership of the church, by the church family, by laity. And who are they? Simply, they are all the people who are not preachers, the non-clergy, and thank God for the amazing things they have done and do every day around the world.

I love preachers. I appreciate the impact they have had on my life. I am to a great extent the product of the mentoring of preachers. I have benefited greatly from good and Godly ministers in my life, not the least of which are my own parents. I am grateful and blessed. However, the unsung heroes in my memories are the thousands of people who have assisted Micki and I throughout our lives in every aspect of our ministry. All things, anything, everything, we have ever accomplished has been possible because of the partnership of loving and faithful people who have walked with us, labored beside us, prayed with us, prayed for us, supported us, loved us, inspired us, encouraged us, stayed close to us in our own personal trials and setbacks, and helped us. They are people who made sure we had a good living and a nice home because they understood and appreciated that full-time ministry and living by faith predisposes the opportunities that secular work might provide.

My heroes are these Godly folks who volunteer to be a kerosene man, lock-up man, trash man, clean-up lady, flower lady or prayer partner. Holy people who cooked, worked, taught Sunday school classes, witnessed, prayed all night, worked at the altar, greeted at the door, watched over the nursery, sang in the choir, drove buses, taught Bible studies, and gave hard-earned money to causes both local and around the world. They are all heroes and they are more than wonderful.

Micki and I are grateful for the special touches, cards, notes, comforting words, flowers, pies, cakes, gifts, and all those amazing little things that were really huge blessings; because(and I will never understand it) they always come when we need strength and encouragement the most. They have kept us going. Funny how little things matter so much. Thanks.

I’m thinking of people like those who brought a can do spirit to our Indiana Bible College building when it was nearly hidden by weeds and the walls were literally covered with mold. They scrubbed and mopped it for days. It smelled like a bleach factory. Those folks killed every living germ, mite and mouse in that place. Not only that but those people, Gods people, ordinary people, some might say, but I say great people, extraordinary people, God-called people, they not only killed the mold they gave the money because they caught the vision. Poorly cast, I am sure, but they simply knew that Micki and I felt a burden to advance the kingdom through a Bible College, so they gave, so they prayed, so they built, so they cleaned, so they repaired, so they embraced young strangers into the church. It cost. It meant sacrifice. But then these were mostly the same Calvary Tabernacle folks who just a few years earlier had dug a hole and started construction on a 3,000-seat auditorium, by faith and their own muscle. Amazing.

I want to name names. There are so many people who have made a difference in our lives. When I left Muskegon, I brought a poster board with me and it had all the pictures of the children and young people from that church pasted on it. I taped it on the closet wall above the clothes rod so that every time I opened the closet I would see their faces. And I prayed for them. That has been twenty years now and I still see them with their child faces, and I still pray for them. I have a new photo collection now of the Calvary kids, some are 20 years old. I pray for all of them. I like to think that is alright since we are all still children before the Lord. I often fear that those good families in Muskegon and the Calvary families we now pastor will never know how much they mean to Micki and me. A ministry, if it is anything, must first be about the people. It’s not soaring rhetoric that matters so much as soaring hearts working together.

Micki and I are humbled when someone approaches us to say that they appreciate us or that they have been blessed and inspired by our ministry. Of course, that always makes us feel good and often they will remark about all the things we’ve been blessed to do and services we’ve been blessed to preach. We smile and try to give a proper thank you. But the truth is, to God be the glory and all the real thanks goes to those wonderful people – saints, members, non-members and even some sinners – who stepped up, did the job, lifted up the walls, and made it work. Micki and I just beat the drum and blew the whistle and shouted go, go! We are not the band, just the cheerleaders. Thank you. We love you all.

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