Feeding Our Neighbors

Beginning on October 11, 2013 Marshfield Christian Church is partnering with Ozarks Food Harvest to distribute “commodity food,” also known as TEFAP, or The Emergency Food Assistance Program.

Marshfield Christian Church (1061 State Highway A, in Marshfield)  will provide the food monthly, on every second Friday. Those needing assistance are required to show identification, proof of Webster County residency and income information.

For more information, contact the church office.

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Ask, Seek, Knock

Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find;

knock, and the door will be opened for you.

 (Matthew 7:7 NRSV)

 As I begin this edition of Pastor’s Ponderings, I must admit that I am uncomfortable writing what I am about to write. Before I begin any of these articles, I spend time in prayer, seeking God’s guidance as to the topic and how it should be addressed. During that time of preparation, I felt God is calling me to write about a subject that is difficult for me. So, my prayers shifted focus, from the subject to the wisdom needed to approach it with grace, humility and love. You will have to decide to what extent those prayers have been answered…

Over the last few years of meeting for prayer with other ministers in this community, and throughout the area, I have found one thing to be fairly consistent; ministry can be a lonely calling. The nature of what we do as clergy means that we have to be very careful about what we say and to whom. When we are hurt by others (and that does happen) the tension between our calling and our humanity becomes very real and can seem like it is tearing us apart. Add into that the administrative concerns of budget, staff and facilities and the stress just increases.

All-too-often I (and this also is true of most of my colleagues with whom I meet regularly) forget to apply this scripture from Matthew to the “mundane” items of my life. For some reason I’ve gotten it in my head that being a pastor means I don’t have to ask for help. That’s simply not true. I need help just as much as anyone else. Furthermore, I have to remind myself that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather can be a way to learn humility.

So, I’m going to ask you to help me in a little project. Don’t worry, this is something that I know each one of you is capable of doing. And, yes, I know that it will be more difficult for some than others. Still, I hope you’ll try.

During the month  of October, I’d like you to find a creative way to encourage someone in your life who is a spiritual leader. That could be a pastor, or a Sunday School teacher, or simply a friend whom you respect as a spiritual guide. You may not know that October is “Minister Appreciation Month.” But that seems a bit narrow to me. So, this year, I want each of us to expand our focus a bit and express our appreciation for all the spiritual leaders in our lives.

A brief phone call, a short note, an e-mail or even a text message… I don’t want to limit you in how you express appreciation for how God is using someone as a spiritual guide and leader in your life, that’s between you and God. And, please understand that this is not a plea for you to pat me on the back. That really is not my intent. I have a great community of support and am very thankful for that. But, I don’t express that gratitude often enough. This October I’m going to make a conscious effort to change that.

So, let me start right now, by saying “Thank you!” I truly love the opportunity to minister to, and with, you. Sharing tears and laughter, joys and concerns, my life is fuller and richer for knowing you. So many of you hold me in your prayers, are genuinely concerned about me, and my family… When someone asks me who ministers to the pastor, I simply tell them, “In my life it is the congregation, as well as my family and my colleagues.” Thank you for your prayers, your love, and your support.

You Feed Them

Toward evening the disciples approached him. “We’re out in the country and it’s getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to the villages and get some supper.”

 But Jesus said, “There is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper.”

  “All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish,” they said.

  Jesus said, “Bring them here.” Then he had the people sit on the grass. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples. The disciples then gave the food to the congregation. They all ate their fill. They gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. About five thousand were fed.

(Matthew 14:15-21 “The Message”)

 

Just over two weeks ago I was approached by a member of our congregation with the idea of becoming a distribution point for government-funded food commodities for the needy in Webster County. This opportunity seemed to fit perfectly with our mission statement, and the excitement of seeing a ministry opportunity grew quickly. But that excitement was not (is not) without its fair share of doubts, uncertainty and fear. Over these past days my emotions have run from one extreme to the other. In many ways I have felt as though I was one of those disciples to whom Jesus said, “You give them supper.”

“Jesus, we can’t possibly feed all these people!” My questions, our questions, were primarily about the logistics of it all. How would this work, do we have the room, the facilities, the volunteers, the finances to make this a reality? As I asked those questions, I remembered the truth of the passage a little later in Matthew’s gospel that reminds us all we need to move mountains is faith the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20).

So, with much prayer, several meetings and countless phone calls and text messages, the church board met to decide the issue Sunday evening (9/8/13). After presenting the project, including the 12-15 people who have volunteered to help on each distribution date over the next year, and having some very helpful discussion throughout the room, it came time for a vote. The decision was unanimous. We will be a distribution site for commodities through Ozarks Food Harvest.

I, for one, am very excited. But, I’m still a bit nervous as well. This is a big undertaking. I believe with all of my heart that we are being called by God to this ministry, but there is a step, if not a leap, of faith to try to serve 200+ needy families. To me it is a similar feeling to what I experienced when Jennie and I were married. Excited about the potential, and at the same time nervous about doing something new.

There have been moments in this journey, already, where I have felt overwhelmed, as though the waves of details would simply surround and drown me. I anticipate those feelings are not completely behind me. I have found, however, great comfort in those times when I feel overcome by the scope of this project. I try to take a moment and remember the story shortly after the feeding of the 5,000, where Jesus sends the disciples ahead in a boat. Then late in the night Jesus comes to them walking across the water. Then Peter joins him and walks on water as well, if only for a moment.

I find two things comforting in that story. First, Jesus is there to rescue Peter as he sinks under the surface of the waves. But, more importantly, Peter is not overwhelmed while he is focused on Jesus. As we fix our gaze on Christ and seek to follow God’s call to ministry, we can proceed with confidence, knowing that the One who spoke the world into being is the same One whose voice is calling us ever forward in ministry. Thanks be to God for this new ministry opportunity. May we fix our gaze on Christ and respond to his call, “You give them supper.”